"Hi, pal!"

The voice on the phone - cheerful and friendly - is nearly unrecognizable.

And cheerful and friendly are two adjectives not normally associated with either David Caruso or Horatio Caine, the intense crime-scene investigator he plays on CSI: Miami.

Caruso, 51, was in Miami recently to film key scenes for his hit crime drama that both the BBC and Reuters have called one of the world's most-watched TV shows.

After wrapping up his day on the set, Caruso took a few minutes to chat about his stormy NYPD Blue days and why Horatio always stands with his hands on his hips.

Question: What do you enjoy most about playing Horatio Caine?

Answer: I would describe Horatio as a man I deeply admire. The situations that we deal with in this world of crime-scene investigations are sometimes challenging, sometimes horrific situations, and the thing that Horatio brings to the setting is poise. Poise, and the ability to be effective under pressure.

Q: When I'm watching you on CSI: Miami, I'm thinking that I'm basically watching a version of you. Is that accurate?

A: (Laughs.) If you and I were to spend time together, you would think: "This guy is nothing like Horatio. What a disappointment."

Q: So that's not true, then?

A: Well, put it this way, I wish I was more like him. Let me rephrase that - I aspire every day to be more like him. At the end of the day, he's a completely selfless human being. He is dedicated to the citizens of Miami. It takes a certain level of courage and a certain character to do that.

Q: A lot has been made of Horatio's speech patterns - very serious, very deliberate - and the sunglasses being taken off and put back on. Was that a conscious choice to give the character so many tics and personality quirks?

A: That was a deliberate [attempt]. The character came out of the tone that had been set in the world of CSI. There's a very specific tone to these shows, and I wanted to create a man who would mirror that tone.

Q: Talk about the sunglasses and always having your hands on your hips. What's up with that?

A: The character doesn't reveal himself to me until I find his stance. The body posture is a very important part of who the man is. In this particular case, Horatio has a very specific way to stand, with his hands on his hips. The John Kelly character on NYPD Blue had his hands in his pockets all the time.

Q: Any regrets that your film career never took off they way you had hoped?

A: You know, I got to realize some big dreams in the film business. I got to make a couple of movies I was very proud of and work with people I wanted to work with. In Jade [the 1995 film in which Caruso played a politically ambitious assistant district attorney], I got to work with the director of The French Connection [William Friedkin] and the producer of The Godfather [Robert Evans]. And for me, that was the reason I went to California.

While the pictures didn't do box office, those were very valuable experiences for me. Having said that, if they had done better box office, I might not have gotten to Horatio. So things kind of work out the way they need to work out. I have no regrets.

Q: Compare the David Caruso today with the David Caruso of 15 years ago.

A: When I got the opportunity on NYPD Blue, the best way to describe me was "green." The thing about television, you can take someone who made a living as an actor and just vault them into the middle of all this electricity. Some people are prepared for it, and some people just don't have the perspective.

There's a lot of activity and a lot of intensity, especially on a show that was received like NYPD Blue. If you don't have the experience to understand that, it's easy to be overwhelmed by it.