Though no longer on the show, Gary Dourdan’s character plays a pivotal part in this week’s installment of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, “Fallen Angels”. Killed in “For Warrick” after clearing his name in the murder of mob boss Lou Gedda, the CSI team must face the ghost of CSI’s past when a corpse appears on the grave of the late Warrick Brown. Co-Producer Tom Mularz, who has been with the show since Season Six, is behind the latest CSI episode and talked to Shane Saunders about the episode which is sure to strike an emotional chord with fans.
CSI Files: Can you talk about the genesis of bringing the Warrick storyline back into the fold?
Tom Mularz: I wanted to do something that would have some really emotionally resonant component. It’s very sad. Basically, we were talking about, at the beginning of the season, some ways to have our CSIs really connect to a case. We kicked around a few ideas, and I thought just for pure teaser value, finding a dead body on your friend and coworker’s grave is a cool, weird little mystery. There’s a lot of possibilities where that could go. The fact that it’s Warrick was kind of an emotional bonus to that. I thought that Nick in particular would really be affected by seeing that, and it just kind of presents a case of the week where, when we first find the person on the grave, we don’t really know much about him. We don’t know if he had a connection to Warrick, if he was a friend of his or just a neighbor, whether this was coincidental or something more, and that as you start to delve into the case, it’s an excuse for our people to kind of delve back into Warrick’s life and to see what has become of his ex-wife and his kid. That was basically it. That was kind of the idea when I pitched [Executive Producers] Don [McGill] and Carol [Mendelsohn] on the basic premise of finding a dead body on Warrick’s grave that brings us back into Warrick’s world. They really responded to that, and I just kind of took it from there.
CSI Files: It kind of comes full circle because the episode that Warrick dies in, “For Gedda”, begins with a dead body falling out of a casket at a funeral at a gravesite. And now, when we pick up with his legacy, it’s a body found on his grave now.
Mularz: Somebody on the crew brought that up when we were at the cemetery where we shot this, which is a cemetery near downtown LA. Nobody in the writer’s room had really mentioned that, and we were there on the day of shooting, and somebody said, “Oh, this is where we filmed the episode where the body fell out of the casket.” And then they said, “Wasn’t that what started Warrick’s death storyline?” And I thought oh, that is right. That’s purely coincidental. It hadn’t even occurred to me. I thought that was cool, I thought that it did give it a sense of placement and build up a kind of unintentional foreshadowing, I guess you could say, through that. The other eerie thing at the cemetery was there was a Henry Andrews grave. I took a picture of that to send to Jon Wellner.
CSI Files: Is this an episode that’s going to have a happy ending, where it’s going to be very dramatic for the hour, but there will be a sense of a light tone at the end? Or is it pretty emotional throughout the course of the hour?
Mularz: It’s pretty emotional. The state of Warrick’s family is pretty bad, and we realize pretty quickly that everything’s not right with the people that he left behind. It’s tough for our characters seeing that, and there’s some reflection on what they wish they could have done to help Warrick’s family, and what they tried to do, and it kind of gets into why that didn’t work out so well and kind of the issues that Warrick’s ex-wife had with the other CSIs. So yeah, it is definitely emotional. Without giving anything away, I think by the end it’s hopefully satisfying where we’re leaving them, but there’s some very somber moments to it. During the shooting, there are a few moments where it seemed like the real and the fictional blurred a little bit because when you have somebody who’s a character on the show and who’s such a part of the family, and they’re not here anymore, I think even just among the cast they miss seeing him everyday. I think in the episode that emotion is there, and I think there are some moments in it where a little bit of real life kind of creeps into the performance.
CSI Files: I was talking to Jorja Fox (Sara Sidle) earlier this month, and I saw George Eads (Nick Stokes) a couple times throughout the summer, and they expressed how much they missed Gary on the show and the character of Warrick, and how sometimes they think that, creatively, they still wonder why that had to happen. They seem very emotional about it.
Mularz: It’s interesting because for me, I was not a writer yet at CSI when Warrick was killed, so I wasn’t really privy to what happened there. But actually my very first episode, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, part of it is kind of a flashback to a year earlier, and in one part of the episode it references Warrick’s death, and there’s a scene where David Phillips gives Nick a check because he heard that they were collecting money for a college fund for Warrick’s son. So he wasn’t actually in the episode, but there was an offscreen kind of mention of him. So now I’ve got two episodes that have touched on him and his legacy without actually having written for the show when he was still a cast member.
CSI Files: How has Tina (Meta Golding) changed since the last time we saw her? She just had a small cameo in “For Warrick”.
Mularz: Without giving too much away, her life has not gone smoothly since Warrick’s death.
CSI Files: Who of the original team is most affected by this episode?
Mularz: I’d say Nick and Sara. Nick and Sara, I feel like, take it the hardest. Brass has a really nice moment where he talks about how he actually hasn’t been to the cemetery since Warrick’s funeral, but he has his own ways of remembering him. Brass likes to think about how much energy Warrick had. He says a little piece about Fight Nights, those are the nights that he thinks of Warrick. He has a feeling that there’s no way he would be missing all of that electric energy on the Strip. So they each have their own ways of remembering him, but I think Nick and Sara are the two who the weight is most apparent on their shoulders as they’re dealing with this case.
CSI Files: I was watching the pilot the other day for what seems like the 700th time. From the onset, Brass and Warrick had a very tumultuous relationship.
Mularz: Brass and Warrick had an adversarial relationship at the start, and so did Sara and Warrick at the very start. Sara kind of blames Warrick’s gambling for Holly Gribbs’ incident, and she is skeptical of him until a little ways into that season when there’s a misunderstanding about whether Warrick was leaving on duty again to go gamble, and it turns out he was actually going to pick up money to help out this boy he was helping support, so they grew much closer. At the start of the show, both of those relationships, Brass and Warrick and Sara and Warrick, were pretty rocky.
CSI Files: Will Warrick’s legacy be an arc throughout the season, or is your episode really the closure to his storyline?
Mularz: As far as I know, it won’t be an ongoing arc this season. I think this puts some nice closure to it. There are a few little threads from this episode that we could definitely take off in the future if we wanted to, but I think if we don’t hear anything else about Warrick or his family for a while, hopefully this episode ends on a note that will be satisfying without anything more being said.
CSI Files: Congratulations on the promotion to Co-Producer. How has it been to rise through the ranks and get to this position now?
Mularz: It’s been wonderful. I started at CSI as an assistant to the writer Josh Berman, then I was Carol Mendelsohn’s assistant. It’s absolutely a dream come true. I was very fortunate to be in a place where, well one, a show that’s been going so strong for so many years where there’s time to even potentially move up through the ranks, but then more importantly to work for people who are incredibly generous and open to mentoring new writers. So yeah, it’s just fantastic to be here. I’ve been here now for seven years, which is an incredible amount of time, but especially in a business where many jobs last for a month or two, so it’s been great. There’s no place I’d rather be.