Unless you are an avid CSI viewer, you might not know both the quirky coroner Dr. Albert Robbins and the actor who portrays him, Robert David Hall, walk with the aid of two prosthetic limbs as the result of a double amputation.
As the 15th season begins on Sept. 28, Hall feels incredibly fortunate to be a working actor.
“For an actor to have such a long run on a hit show is, to put it mildly, a blessing,” Hall says. “Our future always depends upon our loyal fans and I thank them for keeping us a hit show and on the air.”
Hall says less than 1% of those disabled, are working actors, so he’s doubly lucky.
His character, Robbins walks with a limp and uses crutches but his backstory doesn’t always come out in the episodes because he is like his alter-ego Hall, who clearly does not allow his 1978 accident to define him.
No doubt it changed him, though. It made him a fighter — for himself and others. Hall spends time addressing a variety of organizations and corporate entities including WalMart, Bank of America, the Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities, the Amputee Coalition of America, and the World Burn Congress since he was burned from the gas tank explosion after the 18-wheeler hit his car.
He was the keynote speaker at the Vermont Governor’s Summit on the Employment of People with Disabilities and specifically spoke to the needs of young adults with disabilities transitioning into the workplace. He has fought for the hiring of those with disabilities within the TV and film industry.
“It’s come a long way, the idea of (hiring) a person with a disability. We’re human beings for God’s sake. If you like our performance, great. If you don’t, fine. I don’t like tokenism. That gets in the way of creativity. But everyone should have an opportunity. Being disabled doesn’t excuse from getting trained, getting experience and learning about the business, though.”
When he addresses those who are disabled, he says he tries to be empathetic, but refuses to allow anyone to see it as the end of the world.
“Some people are going to want to get back on the horse immediately and some people need a little more time and care,” Hall says.
He admits after his accident there were dark moments and they had to be lived one day at a time.
“From the moment I got scraped off the freeway, I realized something awful and serious had happened to me, but it didn’t dawn on me until later just how big it was. By that time, I was already making plans. I don’t want to see any injury or disability cause people to abandon their dreams or their plans, but I will say that they’re going to have to become really good at making adjustments.”
He said newly injured people worry about how they will be perceived by others. Someone actually asked him how another person could find him attractive.
“The good news is it happens the way it’s always happened. It’s chemistry,” says Hall, who is married with a 33-year old son. “Men and women are attracted to people who don’t feel sorry for themselves and who work hard.”
His hard work has brought him to the White House lawn where he introduced President Obama at the 20th Anniversary celebration for the Americans with Disabilities Act and has allowed him to perform his music at the historical Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for the Grand Ole Opry’s 85th birthday celebration.
“I’ve been a musician longer than I’ve been an actor,” says Hall, who recently fulfilled a dream by recording Things They Don’t Teach you in School, an album that includes seven self-written tunes http://robertdavidhallmusic.com/
He loves his work at CSI and is grateful to actor William Peterson for tapping him as a regular when he was just hired to do one scene in the 5th episode.
“It is an ensemble and although there have been cast changes the chemistry is still there,” Hall says. “We all thought when Billy left it was the beginning of the end. When Ted Danson came on, he sort of brought a renewal of energy to the show.”
Hall says despite the 15 years, he never takes it for granted.
“After all these years I still have things to find about about my character, Dr. Robbins, and I can’t wait to get each script to see what the writers have up their sleeve for him.”