Crimes Seen CSI: Crime Scene Investigation CBS, Thursdays, 9 to 10 p.m. ET By Jenny Higgons

Co-starring as forensic detective Warrick Brown in the top-rated CBS drama CSI has brought Gary Dourdan many things, but an inflated ego is not one of them. When asked about having been recently named one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, he quips, "They obviously haven't asked my makeup artist what I look like when I get to work in the morning."

The handsome, green-eyed actor is yakking to Gist over his cell phone while driving around his Venice Beach, CA, neighborhood.

"But I'm really flattered," adds Dourdan, who stars alongside William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, George Eads and Jorja Fox. "I guess if you work long and hard enough you get some cheese to go on top of your bread."

Dourdan's cheese has been a long time coming. Gary Robert Durdin (he changed his surname when he started acting) grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from a local performing-arts high school and then hit a rough period that included drug and alcohol abuse. He drifted around Miami, New Jersey and New York City before cleaning up his act and shifting his attention to acting in his mid-20s.

Dourdan's big break came in the guise of a guest stint on the sitcom A Different World. That segued into parts in a number of features, including 1997's Playing God and Alien: Resurrection. More recently, he had recurring roles on the Showtime series Soul Food and Beggars and Choosers.

Now that his days of piecemeal acting jobs are over, Dourdan is now undoubtedly relishing his steady role as Warrick, a guy he considers to be much like himself.

"Warrick has a big bulls--t detector," says Dourdan, 34. "He can catch things before they happen because his antennae are always up. His insight makes him a shoo-in for the job." On the other hand, Dourdan doubts that he himself could make a career out of being a crime-scene investigator. "It would definitely be interesting," he says of the job, "but I'm not sure if I could take it long-term."

Dourdan's professional history also includes work in the music industry producing jazz musicians for a European label and playing the guitar, piano, bass, drum and sax. Music obviously runs in Dourdan's family. His uncle and brother were musicians, his dad repped jazz musicians, and Nyla, his 2-year-old daughter with a former longtime girlfriend, plays the piano. (His past love life also includes a short marriage to model and VH1 on-air personality Roshumba Williams.)

"She sits on my lap whenever I'm playing," Dourdan proudly says of Nyla. "She starts hitting the keys, and then after a while it's like osmosis. That's how I got involved with it being around people who play."

Dourdan calls fatherhood "better than anything else in the world. I love my daughter more than air. You really start to understand what unconditional love means. You want to give your whole soul to that person's development."

In addition to his daughter and the success of CSI, Dourdan is also enjoying his new truck, which he splurged on after the show was declared a hit.

"I was driving my '67 Chevy to work, and she was, like, 'I don't think so, I'm a classic '67 Chevy! I'm not a touring car, so get real!' She broke down on me a few times, and people were like, 'Gary, you're on a TV show now, you can get another car, OK?' "

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