Bankrate: I know you worked in your father's meat packing plant, but what was your first paying job?
Helgenberger: Oh gosh, that was just grueling work. But besides baby-sitting, my first paying job was working in the bean fields; then I went on to work in the corn fields. I made a little bit of money in agriculture (laughs). Not much though. When I was doing corn, I made about $1.75 an hour.
Bankrate: What was your first big splurge when you made it in acting?
Helgenberger: Well, out of college, I got the job on the soap opera. I still wasn't very extravagant when I lived in New York. I guess I would buy certain articles of clothing that I wouldn't have purchased had I not had that job. I had a nice enough apartment and that's a splurge in itself. Nothing that I would call nice now. It was your first apartment type of place. Most 23-year-olds now in New York couldn't afford it unless you had three other roommates.
Bankrate: And your last big splurge?
Helgenberger: It's something for the house. It's insane when you go through these renovations. It's going to be an awesome house, if I say so myself, but everything is expensive. We'll be living in it in our retirement. Just the decision to actually go ahead with the renovation was expensive.
Bankrate: You were raised in Nebraska. Any Midwestern values you still use in your everyday life?
Helgenberger: Besides the work ethic, it's the practicality that the Midwest has. No matter how much money you make, I think there's a real practical quality many people have back there and I still do.
Bankrate: Do you ever worry about the tenuous nature of your business -- and your husband's -- and your family's financial security?
Helgenberger: I think when you get into this business you take that risk anyway, knowing that a job can be over at any time. This television series, "CSI," is one of the few that has had an incredibly long life. Usually you make a pilot and nothing much happens with it, or you get a show that doesn't last that long. So this is one of those rare instances. I never forget how fortunate I am, though.
Photo courtesy Retna Ltd.