One of Regan Burns’ best gigs was a job he nearly turned down: playing a corpse on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
It was 2005, and his agent called with good news and bad news. Burns recalls the phone conversation going something like this:
Burns: “Give me the good news.”
Agent: “The good news is I have you an audition on CSI. You have a really good death scene.”
Burns: “That would be great. I’d love to get killed on CSI.”
Agent: “Yeah, you’re going to have a heart attack. You’re going to try to call your wife for help. And you’re going to pass out and die in a parking lot.”
Burns: “Great! What’s the bad news?”
Agent: “Well, for the rest of the episode, your buddies steal your body and take it to Vegas. So you’re going to be in a lot of scenes where you’re dead at a poker table, dead at a strip bar….”
Burns said his initial thought to reject the offer was because he thought it would be ridiculous and not require much acting. However, he quickly recognized a fantastic opportunity.
“So I went and had my heart attack, spent a week on the set not saying anything, not doing anything, just sitting there rigid as, well, as a corpse,” Burns said. “That’s just one of those prices you have to pay when you’re starting to make it in the business. At one point you’ve got to suck up your humility and say, ‘All right, I’m the dead guy.’”
In Hollywood, accepting a role as a corpse is part of paying your dues, said Chuck Hayes, a retired Radford University theatre professor.
“I don’t see how anyone can pay their dues any more than Rob has,” Hayes said of his friend and former student. “He’s worked his butt off. He’s done it the right way.”