Interview: Elizabeth Devine

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It’s good to be Elizabeth Devine. Not only is the former criminalist back on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as a consulting producer (Devine left the series after season four to work on spinoff CSI: Miami), but “Genetic Disorder,” her first script produced this season, brought in big ratings–the highest since this season’s premiere. Just a few hours after preliminary ratings surfaced, the Jill of all trades (fair to say for someone who can write and solve crimes in real life!) talks with CSI Files’ Shane Saunders about some behind-the-scenes changes required for her episode, saying goodbye to a best friend, and teases what’s to come after CSI‘s winter hiatus. Spoilers after the jump!

CSI Files: This was your first teleplay since you returned this season. What’s different about being at CSIsince your last episode?

Marg Helgenberger (left) and Elizabeth Devine (right) on the set of "Genetic Disorder." (photo: Elizabeth Devine)

Elizabeth Devine: Well, we have a really collaborative writing staff here–not that we didn’t before–and everybody is just more seasoned. Trying to find new methods is really hard now because our fans are just so smart they know everything, so I was fortunate to be able to find the familial DNA in CODIS was something we hadn’t done before. That was kind of fun. At first when we were writing, everything was new to us and everything was cool. Now, you really have to work to get our fans interested because they know everything, so that was fun.

CSI Files: Last year David Rambo and Carol Mendelsohn had a pilot in development that dealt with geneology. Was “Genetic Disorder” an idea from Carol since the pilot was never produced?

Devine: She has a complete fascination with geneology and yes, her research in the pilot that she wrote had something to do with that, absolutely. I wouldn’t say that’s why she wanted to do geneology but she knows it’s a great arena that people are really interested in. We thought it would be fun to do an episode around it. She has a lot of research that I got to look through. She just loves this episode; she was just so excited about it. Geneology is very close to her heart.

CSI Files: How many drafts did your script go through due to the cast changes in this episode?

Devine: That was, I guess, the hardest part. I was told initially that Jorja [Fox, Sara Sidle] would not be in the episode, that Ted [Danson, DB Russell] and Marg [Helgenberger, Catherine Willows] would be light; so I thought ‘well, okay, that’s fine.’ We have such a great cast we can always focus on someone else. But at the very last minute George Eads [Nick Stokes] had a family emergency, so the night before we started shooting we did have to rewrite the whole show. That was kind of stressful. [Laughs.] And because there was personal geneology information from a character’s standpoint, I had to do a lot of research at the last minute to get the Norwegian backstory as opposed to what I had for Nick. There wasn’t just dialogue changes for the characters, it was some major geneology stuff that I had to find at the very last minute, but that’s kind of the fun part. I was sad to not have George, but things happens and we’re a family here and supported whatever had to be done on his end. We knew Eric Szmanda [Greg Sanders] would step up to the plate, which he did fabulously.

CSI Files: So your first draft had Nick working with all of the geneology information?

Devine: Yes.

CSI Files: It was a big episode for Doc Robbins last night, and Robert David Hall just knocked it out of the park. When creating the character of Judy Robbins, what did you guys have in mind? We’ve never seen her before, but she’s been mentioned during the past eleven seasons.

Devine: What I really wanted to demonstrate is that despite his disability, not only does he have a wife that loves him, but they have a very long-term marriage, which long-term anything has its ups-and-downs, but there was a general faith that they had in each other that was rocked a little bit in this episode. What I wanted to do is what you would not expect when you have someone finding their wife in a compromising situation where it really looks like she’s having an affair. I wanted him to be different than what we would expect which is the yelling and the ‘I’m gonna divorce you,’ all of that stuff that you usually see on shows. I really wanted Doc to be smarter than that and be hurt, but because he’s a forensics person he really did try to put his head before his heart and figure out what the evidence was before he got his heart into it too much.

CSI Files: Which is the polar opposite of how Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) was acting.

Devine: Right. I just felt that Paul Guilfoyle as Brass was perfect because he is a guy that got blindsided by his wife and was really hurt by her; he’s still getting over it. When he sees that tableau in Doc Robbins’ master bedroom, he had made up his mind. The last scene when they make up is actually the first scene we shot in the episode and Paul just got it; he knew where he had to end up in the episode. It’s fun when the actors really get the episode and understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

CSI Files: Will we be seeing Wendy Crewson (Judy Robbins) again?

Devine: We are leaving that open. She was such a joy; absolutely wonderful to work with. She and Doc Robbins and the real Judy Robbins, Robert David Hall’s wife really bonded. We’re really hoping we can bring her back. I think we’ve left that door open.

CSI Files: This is your first season back and of course it’s Marg Helgenberger’s last. The two of you are very close, so how has it been knowing one of your good friends is leaving just as you’re back on the show?

Devine: I know. Especially in my last episode she had other committments, and I didn’t get to have her very much. I’m going to miss Marg; no one can replace Marg. I know our fans are a little frustrated with her leaving; I can see from her own standpoint, she’s been Catherine Willows for twelve years and I can see that’s a lot to do for one role for that long. We beg her on a daily basis just to change her mind, and I think I can safely say that when our fans see her exit the door is open for her to come back. She’s fabulous. When I read articles saying she’s being replaced, that does bother me because you can’t replace these characters. What we try to do is bring in other characters that bring a different point of view and are interesting. I understand that without Grissom [William Petersen] and Catherine it is hard for some of our fans because they’re so wonderful. It’s heartbreaking for me and I can tell you her last scene… we were all in tears crying. It was just a mess. The whole stage was in tears. She’s fabulous and everyone loves her and she’s such a great person–great actress, but a really great person. We are really going to miss her here.

CSI Files: And the show has done a good job of bringing in new blood, such as Ted and Elisabeth Harnois (Morgan Brody) and coming up there will be Elisabeth Shue. What can you share about her character?

Devine: She’s going to be a reconstruction expert and I’m really excited about that because that’s what I did. [Laughs.] It’s easy for me to totally relate to that and write that. She will be very physical. She’ll be getting down into crime scenes because doing reconstruction means throwing a lot of blood around and figuring out who is standing where. Really bringing a different point of view to the characters. She will know DB from when they worked together in Seattle, so they have a bit of a connection; she was his number two there. It’ll be interesting to see DB when Catherine leaves… he was getting settled in. When Catherine leaves CSI, he realizes there’s something that he needs, so he goes to the person that can fulfill that need in the standpoint of work, which will be Elisabeth Shue, who I believe will be playing the character of Julie Finlay. It’s really going to be an interesting dynamic. They do finish each other’s sentences and they do have sort of a yin-and-yang as they say, but she’s not there to replace Catherine. She’s a completely different character and I just hope fans can–insteading of just closing things up and saying ‘I’m done’–give her a chance, because I think they’re really going to like these characters. We love our existing characters but we also think that adding a little new blood gives you a fresh take sometimes. It adds a little life being twelve years into it. We’re all very excited here and I think the fans that stick with us will be pleased.

Ted Danson’s just been wonderful and he’s such a nice man. I personally feel fortunate that he’s so dedicated to the show already and he’s only been here a few months. We’re very excited here.

CSI Files: Changing gears, you had a pilot at A&E that you were working on. Anything to come of that?

Devine: They decided they weren’t going to go that route. Pilot writing is very difficult and I enjoy it, but at the same time I’m surprised any shows get made. [Laughs.] It’s so difficult! I’m still working on some new stuff, but right now I’m just really happy to be here at CSI.

CSI Files: Do you have another episode that you’ll be working on this season?

Devine: I’m not sure. I may have involvement in some of the last episodes. We’re so far ahead–knock on wood–and we’re already breaking Episode Nineteen. We’re in such great shape that it’s just a testament to how hard everyone works. There’s only three episodes to break after this, so if they tap me on the shoulder I’m more than happy to jump in.

CSI Files: Do you anticipate that you’ll be back for Season Thirteen?

Devine: I hope to be. I would like to be, absolutely.

CSI Files: What can viewers expect after the winter hiatus?

Devine: Well of course we have the farewell to Catherine, which is a great trilogy. We’re going to rerun “Zippered” to kick off her exit. Then we have some really funky fun episodes. We have the important introduction of Elisabeth Shue’s character, which is also very fun. I think fans are going to like her right away. Some moving houses and caterpillars and all kinds of crazy stuff, so it’ll be fun.

 

Shane Saunders is a freelance writer and reviewer. His work can be seen on EDGE Network and ShaneSSaunders.com. Twitter: @ShaneSSaunders.

Shane Saunders
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