Though James Van Der Beek has been trying out sitcoms recently, with "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 21" and "Friends with Better Lives," his lates project takes a more serious turn. He's playing an FBI agent on "CSI: Cyber" alongside Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette. The show follows a cybercrime squad assisted by a cyber-psychologist (Arquette). Van Der Beek tells us why you should follow him into the shadier corners of the online world.
Because he's trying something new:
I love to shake it up. I can’t do just one thing for too long. I had a great time doing comedy. I did it for three years, I had two shows picked up and when I got this offer I thought maybe it is time to come full circle and come back to my dramatic roots and solve some crime.
Because come on, it's more 'CSI':
Three letters motivated me, “CSI.” It’s one of the biggest television franchises in the world, so to play a lead on something like that is a huge honor. I don’t know what possessed CBS after my comedy work to think, 'Hey, we need somebody to kick some ass in the show, why don't we offer it to that guy?' But I’m really glad they did.
Because it's not just going to be cops with laptops:
I mean, a show about four people staring at a screen for an hour is generally not the most engaging television. This is a blend of cybercrime-fighting technology and old-school techniques, because the computer stuff is really fascinating, but it all eventually manifests in the real world. Behind all the cybercrime is a real human being who lives in a real location and has a real door that may or may not need to be kicked down."
Because it's a frighteningly big subject matter:
I thought I was pretty savvy about cybercrime, but after speaking to the experts who were advising the show, I realized I was completely in the dark — both fortunately and unfortunately. The well of cybercrime is bottomless, which for a storyteller is great because you never run out of storylines, but for people it can be very scary. I hope this show does enlighten people as to just how, how much this kind of crime can happen to you and what steps you might want to do to just be careful and be aware and hopefully prevent it.
Because he's finally FBI age-appropriate:
I think, like, 10 years ago I wanted to play an FBI agent, but I just wasn’t old enough. I didn’t look old enough, certainly, and it was a blessing. And then just when I least expected it, I got offered the FBI agent. So I was very happy to take it.
Because he's gotten out of his own way:
There’s a moment in my career where I was so … I guess I will say precious about what I would say yes to, and I passed on everything and really got out of relevance for a minute there. And so then I came to a point where I thought, well screw that. If something sounds fun and I haven’t done it before, I’m going to say yes.
Because he's done his cyber-research:
The worst thing you could do is be spouting technical dialogue and have no attachment to it. That's been the fun challenge of this job, to really wrap your mind around what it is you’re saying. I attended college for two years as an English major, why would I ever get to learn battlefield forensics? But now I get to.
Because he's not Dawson anymore:
In the last 10 years, I've grown up a lot. I’ve gotten married, I’ve had kids and just really gained a lot of perspective and a lot of appreciation for being able to work in this industry and being able to provide for my family by doing it. I just have a lot bigger suitcase to reach into for my bag of tricks, I think, emotionally and, and just you know, as a man.
'CSI: Cyber' premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. on CBS
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick