Corinne Marrinan

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 12, 2007 - 9:28 AM GMT

Associate Producer Corinne Marrinan has been with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation from the very beginning and has seen the show grow from an underdog to a ratings powerhouse. She's captured the on screen journey in her new book, Ultimate CSI, which chronicles the show's best known episodes, details the science and technology used by the CSIs to solve homicides and delves into the characters' personal lives and back stories. Marrinan sat down with CSI Files' Kristine Huntley to discuss the book and her experiences working for television's most popular franchise.

CSI Files: Ultimate CSI covers all six seasons of CSI. What did you feel were the most important things to include when you were writing it?

Corinne Marrinan: If there was one thing I wanted for this book to do, it would be for a serious fan to be able to pick it up and feel that they were getting an authentic CSI experience. We've got very savvy viewers out there. They love the details in the show, so I wanted to give them some up close and personal detail in this book. Luckily, after six seasons, we have plenty of exciting stories, as well as visual content, to choose from. It was difficult to narrow them down to 140 pages!

CSI Files: What sections did you have the most fun working on?

Marrinan: I love revisiting the character history. I worked with the writers to fill in the gaps here and there. Every season, we learn something new about what makes these characters tick. Sara Sidle, for instance, has been given a good deal of back story and it makes us understand her motivations better. She becomes a well-rounded personality to us.

I also love diving into the old props and finding little pieces of ephemera from various episodes. It's a dusty process and it makes me sneeze, but it's a lot of fun. Like a treasure hunt.

And I can't wait to see the book printed in different languages. I'll get a kick out of that.

CSI Files: What information in the book do you think will be particularly appealing to fans?

Marrinan: The feedback I have gotten is that people are hungry to know more about these characters, so I think the profiles are most appealing to fans. Also, the sheer volume of show photos and graphics included in the book make people say, "Oh, I remember that moment!" Even people here at the office do that. George Eads (Nick Stokes) was very sweet--he loves it and said it feels like a yearbook for the cast. CSI Files: Did you learn anything new when you were writing the book?

Marrinan: Yes. I learned that that I had been pronouncing certain scientific terms incorrectly for seven years! Steve Parker, my co-writer from the UK who I never met nor spoke to, did a fine job with the science and makde a theatre major like myself look smarter than I am.

I also learned I needed some serious help in my show fact checking! I fancy myself quite the trivia expert on CSI, but I must have asked every writer on staff to confirm something about their episodes for me. I think learned the most from Rich Catalani, who is a great writer as well as a former real-life CSI. DK books get very specific, so I'd bring a bunch of photos to Rich and ask him questions like, "What kind of gun is Catherine holding here?" or "Which type of microscope is Hodges looking into?" Rich is pretty much my hero.

CSI Files: Going through six seasons of information is no small task! What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing the book?

Marrinan: Getting six seasons worth of material organized was a daunting task. It looked like A Beautiful Mind in my little office, like John Nash had gone off his meds. Both at work and at home, I would tack up pages to keep track of notes and revisions. My editor, Laura Gilbert, and her design team were excellent. She was in London and I'm in L.A., so there was a lot of email. I imagine doing a book like this would be much easier if you're in the same city. In addition to that challenge, I had a constant anxiety that I would get something wrong and it would be wrong in print forever! I see a few mistakes in there even now, but I keep those to myself.

CSI Files: How do you think the book compares to other CSI books on the market. What makes it unique?

Marrinan: The last official CSI book, The CSI Companion was done by Mike Flahrety and me a few years back. The structure and design of these books are very different. That was intentional, because I didn't want this volume to be a continuation of the first book. The CSI Companion was much more of a "behind-the-scenes" guide to the show. Every episode from season one through season three was summarized and commented upon by writers, producers, directors and cast. I thought it was very successful in showing how the show and the characters "fount its feet" in those early years.

Ultimate CSI distinguishes itself in a few different ways. For one thing, we did our best to stay within the fiction of the show, that is, we discuss cases as if they really happened and the characters are real people. Because of that, there aren't any behind-the-scenes elements in this particular book. We have done so many "making of" documentary style features on the DVDs, we thought it would be more fun to stay in the "reality" of the series and the science. The book is separated into different topics of forensics. For instance, in the "Entomology" section, we talk about our staff entomologist Gil Grissom and over some of his star cases. In the "Ballistics" section, we take a close look at the firearm-heavy two part episode "A Bullet Runs Through It". But we don't rehash every episode like we did in the Companion.

CSI Files: You've been involved with CSI since the show's beginning! How did you find your way to CSI?

Marrinan: I started out as an assistant on CSI six and a half years ago. I worked for William Petersen for the first season and director Danny Cannon for seasons two and three. I knew Billy Petersen from the theatre scene in Chicago when I was a stage manager at The Goodman Theatre. I bumped into him just when the CSI pilot was picked up and he offered me the job of being his producer's assistant. He said the show would probably be cancelled and I could come back home to Chicago. Well, it didn't get cancelled and I'm still here!

CSI Files: How did you end up in the Associate Producer position that you're in now?

Marrinan: Around season three, I noticed the executives were inundated with requests to develop, edit and approve various products and merchandise. Everything from coordinating DVD special features and reading novel manuscripts to reviewing board game stories and making sure the actors were attractively portrayed in comic books. I took this responsibility on and we now have a wide array of accurate and consistently branded CSI merchandise. Then the show started spinnng off and I got even busier, so they promoted me. I'm very lucky to have such a unique job. There are always a dozen projects brewing at any given time and every day is different. By serving as a conduit between the CBS Consumer Products division and the CSI family, I have had a comprehensive education in the worlds of book publishing, graphic novel publishing, interactive and online game production, board game marketing, promotions, photography and design. This position only exists when a show has a huge commercial following with an abundance of satellite projects.

CSI Files: Any exciting new products that you can preview for us?

Marrinan: For the past few months I've been working on CSI: The Experience, a touring museum installation set to open in Chicago at the Museum of Science & Industry in May, just after the seventh season finale. The Fort Worth Museum is spearheading the exhibit, which features interactive labs, virtual autopsies, and three different mock crime scenes--one rated G, the next PG, the final PG-13 so that parents can decide what they're comfortable with their children seeing. It will be in Chicago for three months, then it will go to Boston for six, and the L.A. for three.

CSI: Senses is a big hit and Anthony Zuiker is writing stories for the booster packs. He always has a few surprises up his sleeve as well! Ubisoft has a brand new CSI game coming out in September in several different formats. A new comic is in the works from IDW, which features a murder at a Comic Con-esque convention in Las Vegas. There are two new novels coming out, one Miami one and one CSI: NY one entitled Deluge. Warren puzzles is releasing two new mystery puzzles.

And of course, there are the DVD sets which will be packed with features and commentaries. For CSI, one of the featurettes shows Robert David Hall (Dr. Al Robbins) and Dr. Gary Telgenhoff, a real life forensic pathologist, sitting in on a real autopsy. Better them than me! Miami is planning a featurette about what it takes to be a real CSI. We drive along with MDPD and tour the real labs. For CSI: NY, Hill Harper (Dr. Sheldon Hawkes) documents his trip to The Body Farm in Tennessee.

CSI Files: In addition to being an author and an associate producer, you're also an Academy Award winner for your documentary A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin. Are you working on any independent documentary projects right now?

Marrinan: My directing partner and I are in the planning stages for a few things. Several people have approached us to make documentaries wit them. I want to choose the next project with care. The Oscar is a lot to live up to. Sometimes I feel like I've been given a space shuttle and everyone's asking, "You know how to fly this thing, right?"

CSI Files: I have to ask the obligatory Oscar question: where do you keep it?

Marrinan: The Oscar is an amazing artifact to have in my humble home. It's on a bookshelf in good company with my fiancé's coveted C3PO model and his son's t-ball trophy.

CSI Files: Do you have any funny stories from the CSI sets?

Marrinan: I wish I could write a book that could capture all the wrap parties, late nights in Vegas and Superbowl Sundays. We've had some good times here! At lunch breaks, Robert David Hall, Jorja Fox (Sara Sidle) and the crew will jam with their respective instruments. In "Grave Danger", the cast had done a couple of very serious takes when the CSIs received the cassette tape with the Turtles song "You Don't Stand an Outside Chance." During one of the takes, the cast started dancing instead!

CSI Files: Do you think there will be books similar to Ultimate CSI for either Miami or NY?

Marrinan: I've already been inquiring with DK if they would like to create some additional books with us. They tell me it will depend on how the sales are, so tell everyone to go buy the book so it will be a wild success and we can keep making more!

CSI Files: What's your theory on why CSI and its spin-offs are so popular?

Marrinan: I think the majority of the population--myself included--are nerds of one type or another. Our show made being a geek cool. It made being smart cool. Audiences don't want to be condescended to. We respect our audience and their intelligence. And who doesn't love a good murder mystery?

Discuss this interviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.