Christopher Barbour joined CSI: Crime Scene Investigation at the start of Season Six in the clearance department. His first script for the series, “Lying Down With Dogs,” was produced during Season Eight and earned him a Genesis Award in 2008. Since then, he’s worked on “Long Ball,” “House of Hoarders,” “The Two Mrs Grissoms” and co-wrote CSI‘s 250th episode, “Cello and Goodbye.” Now an Executive Story Editor, Barbour’s first episode of the season, “Freaks & Geeks,” aired November 2. In this exclusive CSI Files interview with Shane Saunders, Barbour discusses how the idea for his episode came about, the crossroads in Catherine Willows’ (Marg Helgenberger) life, and his next episode for Season Twelve. Mild spoilers after the jump!
CSI Files: Catherine made a comment at the beginning of the episode about a missile base, and with all the spoilers released in regards to a powerful military contractor being involved in her exit, was that meant to be foreshadowing upcoming episodes?
Christopher Barbour: You know, that wasn’t really. It honestly wasn’t. It was actually inspired by something in my personal life. [Laughs.] So it was actually not. Although it would seem like nice foreshadowing. In some elements the opening scene is about Catherine’s state of mind. We’re turning to a place after many, many years and this scene brings up an odd memory to you about where you were and what you thought was going to be your life. Not the missile base as a foreshadowing but certainly that scene is about Catherine’s state of mind and her past and where she’s going was intentional. I hadn’t even thought about that. [Laughs.]
CSI Files: It’s interesting that you mention that because Catherine also makes a statement to one of the suspects, “girl hates her life, finds a man.” So is that also playing into the fact that Catherine may be looking for love?
Barbour: Well, I think that one was more about how she saw life in her past when she was a younger woman and she measured herself by her attractiveness and relationships. And when she became a stripper and was inspired by a detective to think bigger about what she could do with her life that changed in her life. I think Catherine is longing for something that she can’t quite put her finger on and figure out what it is exactly. It’s probably not one thing, but in a general sense in that particular scene she’s referring to her past. I think that’s why she came at the Elephant man hard because she might have saw him as someone who might have taken advantage of a person like her. But her life is very different now and it’s a sense of looking back and trying to figure out where I go from here.
CSI Files: You’re halfway through Marg’s exit–tonight’s episode actually marked the first six of her twelve final episodes–what did you try to incorporate to add your own little flavor to her exit?
Barbour: I think it was again, as I said, a sense of discontent for her… I don’t know if that’s the right word. You get a feel that there’s something missing and she can’t quite put her finger on it. She’s at a crossroads in her life. She wants to change her life just like the Rachel Grier character wanted to change her life. It can be dangerous, obviously metaphorically for her. [Laughs.] There is something in her life that is about to change. I’m hoping that there was a sense of crossroads for her as it is the sixth episode in the line of twelve.
CSI Files: Do you think working with DB Russell (Ted Danson) now and seeing how he’s content with his life, aside from the fact that he’s investigating these disturbing murders, is giving her this perspective of something that she needs?
Barbour: I think so. I think that his life seems full. I think the experience of last year has made her reconsider where she is and where her passions lie and I think for her she’s made choices that are very different from Russell’s. I don’t think she wants to be Russell but it has brought up questions for her. She loves these people that she works with so it’s probably a little harder to understand why she’s not feeling content.
CSI Files: One of the things being discussed online is how Catherine and DB always end up being paired together and not so much with Catherine working with other teammates, since she is leaving. Is there going to be more of an equal pairing coming up?
Barbour: She’s going to work with the entire team. I don’t even think it was entirely intentional; although we have liked the chemistry between Ted and Marg. It’s really kind of happenstance that they got paired up a lot. But she will certainly be touching base with everyone before she exits.
CSI Files: Tonight was really your first Catherine-focused episode; you’ve written some pretty big episodes for Sara in the past such as “House of Hoarders” and “The Two Mrs Grissoms.” Did you find it a challenge writing more material for Catherine for this specific episode?
Barbour: I wouldn’t say it was a challenge but I will say I was surprised I never really delved into her character. She’s very strong. I did like the opportunity to write for her at this point. I think you’re the one who asked me if I identified with Sara or any particular character–I think I do; I think Sara is a very interesting character to me. At this point Catherine was particularlly interesting to me because there’s a vulnerability there that I wanted to explore. Particularlly, as I mentioned before, a crossroads in her life. In my own personal life it seems like there are chapters; a beginning, a middle, and an end. It was nice to write an episode where she was a prominent character and at this particular arc for her character. I feel very lucky in that way.
CSI Files: At the beginning of the summer we talked about you writing an episode and it ended up being the sixth to air. How did you come up with the idea for “Freaks & Geeks”; was it pitched in the writers’ room or something you personally wanted to write?
Barbour: It was an idea I had. I had seen these sideshows during the late ’90s and I lived for a time in New York City where I’d seen similar sideshows, Florida as well. I was interested in that world and essentially the difference between freaks and geeks. I’m also a huge fan of The Elephant Man and I wanted to incorporate that into the episode as well. This is a strange world and the people are different, but who’s to judge as well. It gave us an opportunity to bring out a little backstory on the DB Russell character and where he’s coming from.
CSI Files: What’s the next episode you’ll be writing?
Barbour: I’m actually writing Episode Eleven with Don McGill and that is episode two of what I think is being coined by Joe Pokaski as a ‘Willowlogy.’ They’re not airing in sequential order; there’s three episodes that deal with the arc of Marg leaving. Episode Nine is that and Episode Eleven continues it. We start shooting eleven next week.
Shane Saunders is a freelance writer and reviewer. His work can be seen on EDGE Network and ShaneSSaunders.com. Twitter: @ShaneSSaunders.