British actress Mandeep Dhillon won hearts across the pond in BBC sitcom Some Girls and, more recently, U.K. comedy Avoidance. You may have also seen her on Netflix’s After Life opposite Ricky Gervais. She now takes the lead as Allie Rajan on CSI: Vegas, which recently premiered season 2. As CBS rolls out new episodes, Dhillon spoke with LA Confidential about being inspired by Allie, bringing the party to set and what it’s like to play a crime scene investigator.
What can we look forward to from the new season of CSI: Vegas?
We can look forward to a bunch of new characters. Marg Helgenberger is coming back— Catherine Willows is back in the house. We keep up with the normal week to week cases, but actually this series is doing an overriding arc as well, which I think the audience will really love.
And what about Allie’s storyline— what exciting things does she have going on during season 2?
When you meet her at the top of this season, she is single. She's broken up with her ex. She's been in L.A. for the last 10 or nine months and she is focusing her energies on work at the moment. She’s in a bit of a triangle when she gets back from L.A… But she's good. She's good, she deals with it. So yeah, she’s getting her Beyoncé on.
During season 1, you weren’t able to go out into the field with a real crime scene investigator because of COVID-19. Were you able to going into season 2?
No, I wasn't. And to be honest, I just don't think I would want to anyway. I'm the worst person when it comes to anything like that. I really am. Our morgue on set is so realistic that I'm like, “No, I'm good.” I’d get nightmares.
What’s it like then for you being around the TV set version of it?
As soon as I say action, and I'm Allie, it’s fine. As soon as they say cut and I go back to me, most of the time, I'm nearly sick looking at the dead bodies and stuff. I've never been good at that stuff. I'm just not that way, me as a human. I don't watch horror. I’m just not built for this, which is quite hilarious I got the job.
How has Allie had an impact on you?
The thing that's sort of similar with me and her is we're both in this foreign country alone. She doesn't have family in America; neither do I. And so it's been quite nice taking inspiration from her and her strength because I think she's f****** amazing to go to another country and get on with it. I'm like, “Oh, OK, cool. If Allie can do it, I can do it.”
What's your favorite part about playing a crime scene investigator?
All the different cases and working out why these people do it and, mainly, getting justice. Getting justice for the victims and people that have been killed and their families— it's amazing. How wonderful is it to be able to give someone peace of mind or give someone closure?
The original CSI ran for 15 seasons. When you first joined CSI: Vegas, did you feel confident in the show given its loyal fanbase or did you feel a sense of pressure to live up to its success?
If I'm honest with you, I didn't really feel either way because I never watched the show in the U.K. I wasn't really aware of how big of a machine it is. So I walked into it blindly really, which is great because it took all the pressure off. And I just had fun. I tend not to think about it in the world or or how things are perceived by people and just go by my experience and my joy on set and my day-to-day life.
What is a typical day like on set?
Every eight days, we're churning out a new episode. A day for me on set is I walk up to set, drop off my stuff in my trailer, get my speakers, take them into makeup and just start the day. If people are tired, I'll be like, “OK, I'll put slow music on,” and then I'll go into hair. And the hair truck is always a party. Basically if you see me on set, you'll see that I'll have my speakers in my hand and I'm always just bringing a vibe because why not? Then you get through it and you're on set for 12 hours and then wrap, go home, make sure you know your stuff for the morning, go to bed. It really is go, go, go. Amazingly.
What music have you been playing lately through your speakers?
I like a lot of Afrobeats. Beyoncé’s album, we've all been playing that and it’s been real fun. And Also, I play a lot of Bollywood for the crew. They sort of don't really get an option. Or it’s Celine Dion! My music tastes really vary. It's whatever I'm feeling in that moment.
Do you choose your music to get hyped up for the day or does it help you get into character?
I've got other things and I do other things for Allie. She’s in me… I’d say my music is for me, and also for everyone. It's a really big vibe. I think if you can enjoy every single day of your life and the crew can enjoy every day of their life, then we’re all winning. It's really important to me: the job itself and what you see on camera, sure. But I think it's equally as important as soon as they cut, the atmosphere on set. And obviously being one of the leads, it’s my responsibility to make sure that everyone's having a wonderful day.
What else are you working on this year?
We just got good news on another show. I don't know if I can say anything about that yet, but there are other things. I'm developing shows at the moment, as well.
[I like] that it’s my creation, that I can tell a story and that I can use my experiences and my art to heal and inspire and change the world, which is my purpose. And obviously when I'm acting, I'm bringing someone else's creation to life and that's wonderful and I enjoy that too. But there's something so wonderful about creating art yourself and creating stories. And I've got so many stories to tell. There's so much healing that the world needs and I can do that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Robb Klassen