Set Tour: 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 14, 2005 - 11:01 PM GMT
See Also: '4 x 4' Episode Guide
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has the distinction of being the show that started the forensic science revolution on television. The show has two spin-offs and more than a few imitators. Almost every week there's a newspaper article in some newspaper about the "CSI effect," which makes juries scrutinize evidence in criminal trials with a more discerning eye.
At the tail end of its fifth year, there's no doubt that the CSI has changed the landscape of television. It wasn't always such a safe bet. Corinne Marrinan, the associate producer in charge of multi-media, notes that the show began its existence as an underdog. "It was definitely the dark horse," she says, mentioning that director Danny Cannon was told to lighten up the pilot and refused. The refusal paid off, but that doesn't make the move less daring. "It's always a risk to do something different in television," Marrinan comments.
At CSI's studio in Santa Clarita, they refer to the parent show as "CSI Classic." On the day I paid the set a visit, the cast and crew were hard at work shooting "4x4," the novel episode that follows four different storylines in one episode. George Eads (Nick Stokes) and Gary Dourdan (Warrick Brown) were on hand that day to film their scenes for the episode.
Impressed by the different locales the CSIs visit in each episode? Many of them are one-time sets constructed for the individual episodes. The crew was in the process of constructing an apartment with dark brown walls and white trim for an upcoming episode.
The studio keeps various set pieces on hand for use in these temporary sets, including paintings and pictures, which enhance these rooms and make them more authentic. Among the things on the wall are a fraternity paddle, two outdoor lights, three small wall mailboxes, several paintings and drawings, a portrait of a young boy and a Xerox copy of a cartoon!
Down at the actual standing set, an interrogation scene is being shot. It isn't going particularly well for one suspect, who vomits when confronted with evidence. The scene requires several takes, meaning the actor has to convincingly upchuck several times. Once the cameras start rolling, the set is silent save for the actors' lines. One bell rings when filming begins and two bells sound out when the 'cut!' command has been called. Outside the windows of the interrogation room, extras stroll by, seemingly casual but actually on an exact cue. Extras who are not in the scene lounge in one of the un-used sets, in this case the lobby of the CSI labs.
Eads strolls onto the set, easygoing and personable. He's ready to shoot his scenes and then head off, but first graciously agrees to an interview after he finishes his shoot.*
Leaving the shoot, we explore the hallowed halls of the CSI offices. While some sets are spread out, the CSI set rooms are fairly organized, with labs lining the halls just as they appear onscreen.
A bulletin board takes up one of the walls in the hall. With the title "Crime Solve Score Board," it lists cases of five different CSIs: Warrick, Nick, Sara, Catherine and Joe. Warrick leads the race with all but one case marked 'solved,' while the mystery CSI, the unfortunate Joe, doesn't have a single solved case out of five. Sara only has one case, but as the board was presumably posted during the early episodes of the first season, she was relatively new at the time. As fans may assume, the concept was abandoned early on, but the board remains.
Though a light shines on Brass's office, the lieutenant isn't in. His office has a warm feel to it, with a large bookshelf stocked with books, a radio and various awards behind the desk.
The morgue is our next stop--with its eerie blue lighting, it looks much like it does onscreen. Behind the autopsy bed, the body lockers are lit up and clearly not empty. Opposite, cabinets filled with beakers and bottles line the walls. Genuine medical storage containers fill the countertops.
The show's other autopsy bed resides in a room nearby. The curtains are drawn back to reveal the bed with a faucet above it for rinsing off corpses. Two lights hang over the bed as does a viewing monitor.
Fans will recognize our next stop by its distinctive look and the collection of insects: welcome to the office of the night shift supervisor, Gil Grissom. A nameplate sits on the desk, but doubtless it's the extensive assortment of bug paraphernalia, including dead insects in various boxes and even artwork featuring bugs, that makes the quirky scientist feel at home.
A visit to one of the labs proves the equipment within is the real deal--companies often send actual lab equipment to the CSI shows to be featured in scenes in the labs.
The CSIs converge in the above room to examine photographs from their crime scenes as well as pictures of the victims whose deaths they are looking into. In the right hand picture, photographs from various cases cover the wall, as well as several evidence bags and diagrams.
The CSIs spend a fair amount of time going over cars in the garage, and as is true of the other CSI sets, it's stocked full with sophisticated equipment to aid the forensic investigators in doing their jobs.
Before taking off, we make a stop at the craft services table where Dourdan is relaxing before a scene. He kindly takes a moment to pose for a picture before grabbing a snack.
One of the highlights of the tour? Kicking back at the desk of none other than Gil Grissom. Shhhh...don't anyone tell William Petersen.
Special thanks to Corinne Marrinan, Carol Mendelsohn, George Eads, and Gary Dourdan!
*Look for the exclusive CSI Files interview with George Eads next week!
Discuss this articles at Talk CSI!
Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.