Interview: Elizabeth Devine


There’s a fine line to ride when doing interviews with folks from the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise. Obviously, I am a huge fan of the shows (otherwise I would not be here), so there’s always a bit of excitement and nostalgia when doing promotional material. But there’s always a reminder in the back of my head that CSI Files is a very professional outlet, and I have to be somewhat on guard as to how ‘geeky’ I get. However, this week’s interview subject is someone I consider to be a vital and important part to the CSI franchise and her knowledge and history from the early days of CSI is so enlightening and special. CSI: Miami producer Corey Miller first introduced me to Elizabeth Devine in 2006, and we had scheduled an interview that never quite worked out (on my end). We reconnected a few years ago much to my delight and I feel like professionally, from a career standpoint, she has changed the direction of the path I take for the better. Devine, who is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, started out at a real-life CSI before segueing into an entirely different career: a writer at CSI. More often than not I find myself increasingly frustrated by how impatient I can be by my pursuits to engage in a television career as well, but Devine gives one hope that, no matter what the job is now, engaging in other professional endeavors is likely to happen.

Here below the consulting producer previews the final episode of 2012, Sara’s unhappiness in her life, and looks back on the history of two CSI classics.

Consulting Producer Elizabeth Devine, CSI Files’ Shane Saunders, and Jorja Fox on the set of “Risky Business Class.” (Photo: Jennifer Solari/CBS)

CSI Files: Having been on set for some of “Risky Business Class,” I get the feeling that the Grissom/Sara pot is being stirred a little bit.

Elizabeth Devine: Yes.

CSI Files: With Doug Wilson (Josh Randall) entering the picture does it seem on first blush that he is a threat to their marriage?

Devine: We’re not playing it as that right now, but it’s more of a realization that she’s not getting what she needs out of the relationship with Grissom [William Petersen] being so far away. This is a person that she had a relationship before coming to the crime lab in Vegas and it went well, and we don’t know why they didn’t pursue it but some probably think it’s because she moved to Vegas to work at the Las Vegas Crime Lab. He comes back in the picture and she sees that she can be attracted to somebody and deserves to have someone to be around. Grissom’s not there and she’s very lonely. I think it’s pretty obvious in her expressions that this has been a hard time apart for her.

CSI Files: I have a feeling that this is not the way Sara (Jorja Fox) had envisioned her marriage to go.

Devine: Right. There’s no question that she loves him, it’s not about that; it’s how they’re apart so much that I think whenever she hears about being married, I think she feels so separate from him that it’s got to be impacting the way she feels about their relationship.

CSI Files: Doug comes from San Francisco and Sara’s whole history and back-story originates from that city. Is Sara’s mother mentioned in this episode, or any of her back-story at all?

Devine: No, we don’t talk about that at all. We really just mention that she worked an assist for the NTSB when she was in San Francisco. They had a plane crash there and that’s how she met him. They worked together and became close. That’s about as much detail as you’re going to get from Sara, but their body language is pretty obvious that they had a relationship. He does try to pursue it a bit in the episode.

Sara Sidle and NTSB investigator Doug Wilson look over some files in an effort to find out why an airplane crashed killing five people. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CSI Files: And how does Sara react to that?

Devine: She obviously says no. [Laughs.] But I think you can see that she’s torn in the fact that not him specifically, but just she’s very lonely and she’s sad; it’s wearing on her. They’re playing phone-tag, which we start the episode with, and it’s hard for her. She doesn’t get to talk to him when she wants to and they have to squeeze time in to talk to each other. They make quick flights to see each other but it’s not a consistent situation and she’s not happy.

CSI Files: You’ve been involved with CSI since the beginning, so you most certainly know Grissom and Sara to a T. From your own point of view, what would your ideal situation for this couple be?

Devine: Well if I had my way, we’d have him have a fear of losing her and get him back, but that’s not going to happen. [Laughs.] We love Grissom and everybody loves Grissom; it’s impossible not to. But is he a good husband? I think he does the best he can. I think their separation is easier on him than it is for her, I’ll just say that. I don’t think it has to do with how they feel about each other, I really want to stress that. I think it’s more it’s hard to maintain a long-distance relationship and retain the intimacy that you need when you’re married to somebody. She’s finding that to be difficult and he must too. We’re very sensitive about Grissom. We want to protect that character because everyone loves him, but we also have Sara here and she is the character that we see, so we also feel that we have to protect her as well. It’s very hard to figure out what to do because this character is basically talking on the phone to her husband and that’s all we see. In a perfect world we’d get Billy back, have him shoot some scenes, and we’d all be happy. But we don’t know if that’s going to happen. Right now we’re playing that it’s wearing on them and there will be developments from that.

CSI Files: Donna Hoppe (Pamela Reed) also makes a return. Her involvement here is more with Morgan (Elisabeth Harnois). What can you tease about their connection?

Devine: We know that Morgan has been establishing a closer relationship with her father [Conrad Ecklie, Marc Vann] after really being estranged from him for so long. Now that she’s in Vegas, and especially after him being shot, they have become closer and it’s a perfect opportunity to play with the genealogy a bit. She is looking into Ecklie’s history because she’s been a Brody, and now she wants to learn a little more about the Ecklies. That’s how we get into the Donna Hoppe story, but she’s also close with Doc Robbins [Robert David Hall]. Doc Robbins expressed a lot of excitement about everything Donna and her group were able to do in “Genetic Disorder” for him, so he suggested to her that it might be a great way to connect with that side of her family. Donna also helps us solve this case.

CSI Files: How does “Risky Business Class” compare to Season One’s “Unfriendly Skies”?

Devine: They’re completely different.

CSI Files: How was it reuniting with Mark Moses?

Devine: It was great. I was so so new when he was on the show in Season One [“Sex, Lies, And Larvae”], it was early for me in terms of working on a set, so I was a little intimidated by actors. He is such a nice man and I’m a huge fan of his work on Mad Men and Desperate Housewives. I enjoyed having him in the episode.

CSI Files: You’re working more on development in the coming months, but are you going to be writing an additional episode this season?

Devine: I do not know. It could be, but maybe not. We have a big staff and we have some new kids we want to give opportunities to. I’m happy to just jump in and help out and hopefully share some of my experience and help them make a great episode. A lot of this job is helping them mentor people coming up and we have some great young writers.

CSI Files: Now that this particular actress is free you know what storyline I’d like you to revisit?

Devine: What?

CSI Files: “Organ Grinder.”

Devine: Aaaaah!

CSI Files: Since Marcia Cross isn’t doing anything, I think that would make for a great sequel.

Devine: That was right before she hit big with Desperate Housewives. I remember Carol [Mendelsohn], of course, was involved with writing the great Melrose Place episode where the shock and awe of when she took that wig off and you saw those scars… do you remember that?

CSI Files: I haven’t seen it, no.

Devine: Oh my God! Anyone that watched Melrose Place it was just shocking. So Carol was involved with that and it had a great deal to do with Marcia Cross being cast in “Organ Grinder.” That would be fun. I would have to watch the episode again to remind myself how we left that. I think she went to jail, did she?

CSI Files: No! Remember Sara got really peeved by them getting away, and Grissom reminded her that there’s no statute of limitations on murder.

Devine: That’s right! I love her. I would love to have her back.

CSI Files: I was also watching “Dead Ringer” the other night and that iconic opening sequence. That episode still resonates big with me. Season Four was a really interesting year in terms of what you guys did with the teasers. I also say this to you all the time, but “The Accused Is Entitled” is still a classic to this day.

Devine: Yeah, I really wanted to do that episode. It’s such a big thing for cops in Vegas and California, so that was kind of a fun thing to explore where all these cops come to Vegas for a race, someone dies, and all our suspects could be cops.

Shane Saunders
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