sela ward summer press tour 2010 gi 'CSI: NY's' Sela Ward: 'The dialogue alone makes your head spin.'Sela Ward didn’t have much to go on when she was offered “CSI: NY,” but one factor made all the difference: Gary Sinise.

The Emmy winner for both “Sisters” and “Once and Again” returns to series work when she joins the CBS crime drama in its seventh-season premiere Friday, Sept. 24. Replacing Melina Kanakaredes — who opted out of the show — Ward is creating a fresh character as forensics detective Jo Danville, giving her lots of interaction with Sinise’s alter ego Mac Taylor.

And that’s something Ward couldn’t resist.

The actress has fond memories of the time she and Sinise shared on the award circuit in the mid-’90s when they were winning honors for cable-movie biographies, she for Lifetime’s “Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story” and he for HBO’s “Truman.”

“We were seated next to each other several times,” Ward tells Zap2it, “and I kept thinking, ‘This is the neatest guy. I’d love to work with him one day.’ In the back of my mind, my experience of him was that he was so gracious. He’s such an accessible, down-to-earth guy, I never forgot how taken I was with who he was as a person.'”

The same could be said of the “CSI: NY” producers’ view of Ward, since they allow her a unique entrance in the season premiere. Jo steps off an elevator into the crime lab that is otherwise empty … except for the slain young woman who has somehow ended up there.

“It actually wasn’t written that way,” Ward reports. “It was originally written so that you see Jo walking down a New York street with her rolling bag and stopping to hail a cab, then this guy tries to pick her up as she’s getting in the cab.

“When she blows him off, he starts to take the cab — and she smashes his foot with her rolling bag. Then our producer Pam [Veasey] said, ‘Why are my guys not the first people she meets?’ So they decided to change that up.”

Ward was cast so quickly after Kanakaredes’ decision to leave, she had no time for research, but she’s looking forward to visiting an actual CSI lab. “I’m still trying to find my way,” she admits several episodes into filming. “It’s not an easy thing to walk into this kind of world if you’ve never done anything like this before. The dialogue alone makes your head spin.”

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Photo credit: Getty Images

Posted by:Jay Bobbin