Whether he’s at work, as the newest cast member of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, or at play, cruising on his BMW road bike, Laurence Fishburne is riding high.
The biker is dressed all in black, his helmet’s dark visor down. He revs his engine and speeds into the parking lot of a bar where an undercover cop bit the dust a few days before. The biker pulls right up to an investigator working the crime scene, stops, and sits on his motorcycle, silent.
“You lost?” the investigator asks the mystery rider.
“I don’t think so,” replies Laurence Fishburne, in character as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’s Dr. Raymond Langston, as he takes off his helmet and smiles. Fishburne certainly isn’t lost; in fact, he’s right at home -- in “Hog Heaven,” one might say, which just so happens to be the title of the penultimate episode of the show’s ninth season. There are few things that Laurence Fishburne loves more than motorcycling.
After the Emmy- and Tony Award–winning actor joined the cast of CSI last December as a replacement for former series star William Petersen, the show’s writers were eager to incorporate Fishburne’s passion for riding into his character’s story line . Dr. Langston’s professional pedigree had been established early on: The doctor-turned-college-professor was invited by Gil Grissom himself (Petersen) to join the investigation team as an entry-level technician, a CSI-1 in show lingo, after he helped them catch a serial killer. But Dr. Langston’s personal interests had yet to be divulged.
Initially, Fishburne demurred , preferring not to mix business with pleasure. “I said, ‘You guys don’t want to mess around with my hobbies,’ “ he recalls. “But they decided to put the character on the motorcycle anyway. Because, after all, I love motorcycles. So it wasn’t hard to say yes to.”
Whether commuting from his home to the CSI set or traveling the world on two wheels with fellow celebrity members of the Guggenheim Motorcycle Club, Fishburne relishes his time astride his bike. It’s not just the speed that he loves, although that’s what hooked him when he first learned to ride in 1995 for the fugitive film Fled. (“I hit the back straightaway at Road Atlanta at 105 miles per hour, and I thought, ‘Whoo! This is fun!’ “ he remembers.) No, there’s an exhilaration that goes beyond horsepower. As Fishburne explains on his website, “[A motorcycle] allows you to be part of your environment and experience it in a very intimate way. They can be extremely dangerous, so you’re required to use all your focus and concentration. You must be in the here and now, because that’s all you have on a motorcycle -- that’s really intensified when you’re balancing on two wheels and an engine. It keeps me in the here and now.”