After making her feature debut as an all-night answering service operator in the mediocre anthology thriller "After Midnight," Helgenberger had a small role in Steven Spielberg's engaging fantasy "Always" (both 1989). But her bread-and-butter through the 90s were TV-movies and miniseries, many of which were made for the Lifetime Channel: "Death Dreams" (1991), "A Friend in Need" segment of "The Hidden Room" series (1991), "Lie Down with the Lions" (1994), "Giving Up the Ghost" (1998), and "Keys to Her Past" (1999) to name a few. Though "Stephen King's The Tommyknockers" (ABC, 1993) was not one of the better made-for-TV King adaptations, "Peacemaker" (PBS, 1991) was a thoughtful drama of life in the nuclear 1950s, and the CBS drama "In Sickness and in Health" (1992) offered her the plum role of Mickey, the lusty caretaker who befriends her charge (Lesley Ann Warren) suffering from multiple sclerosis, only to betray that trust by sleeping with her husband (Tom Skerritt). Her leading role in "The Cowboy Way" (1994) offered Helgenberger some feature exposure, as did "Species" (1995) and its regrettable 1998 sequel "Species II," "My Fellow American" (1996) and "Fire Down Below" (1997), but nothing about her work in these films would erase perceptions of her as a TV actress.With Tom Hanks' "I'll Be Waiting" (1993) segment of the "Fallen Angels" series, Helgenberger began an association with Showtime which would include Peter Weller's "Partners" (1994, from the "Directed By" series), "Conundrum" (1996), "Elmore Leonard's Gold Coast" (1997), "Thanks of a Grateful Nation" (1998) and "Happy Face Murders" (1999). Excellent as the sex-starved widow of "Gold Coast," in which she rejoined Weller, she delivered arguably her best performance as the sister of a veteran felled by Gulf War Syndrome in the critically-acclaimed "Thanks of a Grateful Nation." She was equally terrific in NBC's "Murder Live!" (1997) as shallow talk-show host Pia Postman and "Perfect Town, Perfect Murder" (2000), a thoughtful CBS miniseries look into the killing of JonBenet Ramsey. That year also found her in her biggest feature success to date, playing the woman whose medical condition leads Julia Roberts to uncover evidence of corporate wrongdoing in Steven Soderbergh's "Erin Brockovich." She appeared next in the critically acclaimed comedy-drama by PaulWeitz, "In Good Company" (2004), in which she played the pregnant wife of a recently demoted executive (Dennis Quad).