CSI Files’ Shane Saunders was at the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation panel during the TCA Press Tour on Wednesday, and you can read his live-blogging of the event here. You can find more information about the panel, compiled from various sources, after the jump. (Contains minor spoilers!)
As CSI Files previously reported, Ted Danson is joining the CSI cast as DB Russell, and he will take the place of departing leading man Laurence Fishburne (Dr Ray Langston). “[W]e looked at a number of different choices,” CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler revealed. “We looked at the arc of the stories this season on the show, and at what (executive producers) Carol Mendelsohn and Don McGill wanted to do, and he just seemed like the right choice. He is a huge TV star. He’s got a tremendous amount of charisma, and it was really what we wanted in the show right now. So, when his name came up, we jumped at it. We were thrilled to have him.”
Regarding Danson’s character, Mendelsohn explained, “We wanted a Sherlock Holmes—we did not want a science nerd. And we started the premiere of Season 1 with, ‘Here comes the nerd squad.’ We said, how do we get someone of great intelligence who is not a nerd?” As a child, DB travelled around with his West Coast, hippie parents. “They were folk singers,” McGill said. “He wasn’t just home-schooled, he was van-schooled.”
DB is a family man with four children and a supportive wife, which is a departure from CSI’s typical troubled romantic formula. “We joke that if you have sex on our show, you die. [Danson’s character] has had sex four times,” McGill quipped. On a more serious note, McGill explained, “Here’s this character who has things really, really in balance: family; work; life.”
“I’m a family man and I’m being brought in to make the team work as well as possible,” Danson said. He also compared DB to a beloved NBA coach: “I’m the Phil Jackson coming to to handle a group of people who were on a slippery slope because of what happened last season.”
During season eleven, the team tracked down serial killer Nate Haskell (Bill Irwin), and the finale ended with Langston in the hotseat after Haskell ended up dead. The rest of the team will face some problems as season 12 starts due to their actions during that storyline, and Danson’s character comes in and takes charge of the Crime Lab. This causes a bit of an issue with former boss Catherine Willows; as Marg Helgenberger explained, “There is a little resentment, but Ted’s character so far is endearing and has a unique way of looking at a crime scene. It’s a nice fresh perspective and it kind of gets under everyone’s skin a little bit, in a good way. I think Catherine is very intrigued by him. I think ultimately Catherine is a team player and they took some liberties last season the way the crime came about or was solved and she was willing to admit it. And this is the fallout.”
As CSI Files previously reported, this will probably be Helgenberger’s last season on the hit crime drama. She initially planned to leave after season eleven, but she opted to return when Mendelsohn asked her to stick around long enough for the writers to craft a fitting exit for the character. “The combination of that info and me having a hard time letting go of this show and this group of people, I said, ‘Yeah, I’m not done playing this character; I’m not done letting go of this group of people,” Helgenberger said. For now, Catherine will stick around for the first 12 episodes of the season, leaving the show in January; however, that may not be a final farewell. “People come and go and come back, so hopefully when we say goodbye, that won’t be the last time we see her,” Mendelsohn said.
In case you missed the link in Saunders’ live-blogging of the TCA panel, you can watch a clip from the season 12 premiere below. The scene features Danson’s character and Nick Stokes (George Eads):
Mendelsohn said the clip illustrates a less somber tone, which will last throughout the season. “Last season we were chasing a serial killer … that arc has come to an end. With the introduction of our new CSI superior who has his own process, I think you can say it’s a lighter season,” she explained. She added, “Season 12—that’s a lot of years, and we wanted to excite the audience and excite ourselves as writers.”
Danson’s history as a comedic actor has been a boon for his new role on the crime drama. “A sense of humor, looking for funny, takes a certain kind of intelligence,” he said. “And it’s the same brain that looks for clues and solves things. I feel at home in a funny way, even though I’m not doing jokes. I feel I’ve walked into a perfect situation for me.” Despite the perfect situation, Danson said he’s still getting used to the role. “In [the span] of two weeks I [went from] staring at the ocean in Martha’s Vineyard to my first autopsy,” he revealed. “It’s all happening incredibly fast… My jaw’s still hanging down from the newness of all of this.”
In addition to being a lighter season with more humour, season 12 will also hearken back to the early days of the show. “We always talk every year about going back to Season 1, going back to that feel,” Mendelsohn said. “We looked at a lot of our first season episodes and were just inspired by them. I think you’ll see the tone is a little more Season 1. It feels like a fresh start and if you can’t start fresh after Season 12, I don’t know when you can.”
Sources: Click the links sprinkled throughout the article to find the original source for the various quotes, as well as even more information about the upcoming season! Thanks to Jacquie from TalkCSI.