Chris Helcermanas-Benge/CBS

From CSI: Crime Scene Investigation to Intelligence, MARG HELGENBERGER is taking over television while taking down the bad guys.

She kept Las Vegas safe for more than a decade on CSI, and now Marg Helgenberger has set her sights on protecting the entire nation. On her much-buzzed-about CBS series Intelligence, Helgenberger, along with co-star Josh Holloway, take on cybercriminals — all with the help of a microchip placed in Holloway’s brain. Helgenberger gives American Way the scoop.

AMERICAN WAY: After so many years on the small screen, you had earned a well-deserved break. What about this show drew you back?
MARG HELGENBERGER: I was looking for a project, though not diligently. And this was just such a page-turner: It has action, adventure, espionage — and the writing is very smart. It’s ambitious, but you want that, right? You don’t want to feel like you’re doing something that’s already on television. And the subject matter of hacking is very “of the moment.”

AW: Also, Josh Holloway runs around shirtless from time to time.
MH: Yes, there are a lot of ladies watching! Josh’s microchip can interface with the Internet and an information grid. I play the head of the federal agency, Cyber Command, which is a real agency.

AW: Did you meet with agents as part of your research?
MH: Yes, though it was part research, part vacation. My son had just turned 23, and we hadn’t taken a mother-son trip in a while, if ever. So we went to D.C. While I was there, I met with a few people from the agency, but it was the week after the [Edward] Snowden leaks, so they had their hands full with the NSA [National Security Agency]. It’s all pretty fascinating though — our nation’s security and our banking system, for example, and how people can infiltrate the system. Cyberdefense is a very real issue.

AW: Has playing this part and knowing what you now know changed how you use the Internet?
MH: It’s something that you can easily get paranoid about if you allow yourself, and it weighs heavily on me when I play this role. I think about the people who are actually in charge of these situations. How do they sleep at night? But it hasn’t completely curtailed the way I use the Internet: I’m on Twitter, and I do Instagram for fun. I do think about credit card use and all of those numbers out there. Obviously, the Internet has made our lives a lot easier, but it’s also complicated things.

AW: The CSI cast was known to be tight-knit. How has it been diving into new territory?
MH: This whole cast is wonderful. I feel really lucky. To be able to have that experience again — and Josh, he’s sexy and handsome and funny and cool. He has it going on. It makes the job a lot easier.