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CSI Files

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Familiar Faces Bring 'Level 26' To Life

By Rachel
August 1, 2009 - 7:16 AM

Blog posts on Level26.com reveal details about CSI creator Anthony Zuiker's Level 26 series of "Digi-Novels" and how actors were chosen to play key characters in the online "cyber bridges".

As CSI Files previously reported, Zuiker has been blogging on Level26.com, the interactive website created to accompany the Level 26 series. CSI Files' own Kristine Huntley has a blog on the site, True Crime, which explores real life killers and the people who hunt them down. Level26.com also has contributions from several people involved with the process of making Level 26 a reality. In the site's most recent blog post, Ra Hanna described how he created the "Sqweegel Mix" and posted a 50 second clip for visitors to listen to. Earlier in the week, Jennifer Cooper offered insight into the casting process for the cyber bridges that take Dark Origins from crime novel to Digi-Novel.

Cooper is the casting director for CSI: New York, and Zuiker approached her about finding the right people to bring his Digi-Novel characters to life. "When Anthony asked me to work on Level 26, I of course signed on without another breath," Cooper explained in her blog post. "I cast CSI: NY for him, and after hearing about the Digi-Novel concept, I was both totally confused and totally in!"

"In the beginning, I was unsure about how to cast something like this," Cooper said. "I knew that people would at least take the call based on the creator of CSI being the director, but to actually convince big time actors to work on a project in a medium that has not even been created yet seemed like a daunting task."

For the hero of Level 26, Steve Dark, they found Daniel Buran. Cooper met Buran when he auditioned to appear in the New York episode "A Daze of Wine and Roaches" from the show's third season. "The second he walked out of the office, I called every agent and manager I could think of to get him signed," Cooper shared. "He has the kind of star quality that is rarely seen in this business and a humility that makes you wish every actor behaved as well as he does. I introduced Daniel to Anthony, and it was clear that we had found our Steve Dark. Everything about Daniel Buran screamed Steve Dark."

Once Buran was chosen, the rest of the cast came together "like a puzzle", Cooper said. "Anthony had worked with Glenn Morshower on CSI and Michael Ironside on Terminator Salvation. So, after a short meeting they were off and running as Tom Riggins and Norman Wycoff," she explained. Fans of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation will recognize Morshower as Sheriff Brian Mobley, who appeared in seven episodes during the show's first and second seasons. He was last seen in "Overload".

While casting Jack Mitchell, Zuiker kept wishing that each potential actor was "more like Bill Duke." Twenty-four hours later, Duke himself signed on to play the role. For the character of Josh Banner, Cooper immediately thought of Kevin Weisman. "I had known Kevin for years, and within a few minutes of talking to Anthony, Kevin was excited and ready to start working," she shared. Weisman was in the CSI: NY episode "The Box" this past season.

Finding the perfect person to play the series' twisted--and twisty--serial killer, Sqweegel, was not easy. "We had actors crawling on the floor and balancing on chairs, and after the 30th disastrous audition, I knew we were not even close to the scariest villain of all time," Cooper explained. "We decided we needed a contortionist, and we needed him to be under 6 feet and under 120 pounds to fit in the suit we had already bought." When they met Daniel Browning Smith, they knew they had their man. Smith, who played contortionist Lukas Neiman in "Blood, Sweat and Tears" during New York's first season, fit all of their criteria.

"What makes the cast of Level 26 so special is that they are visionaries," Cooper said. "Each one brought something unique and cool to the table. They are the kind of actors who are willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown. And working with them is like working with family."

The original blog post about the casting for Level 26 can be found here. Curious CSI fans can find out more about the series at Level26.com and preorder their own copy of Dark Origins at Amazon or other online retailers (Level26.com provides a list of links on the right side of the main page). A filmography for each of the actors featured in the cyber bridges can be found on IMDb: Daniel Buran, Glenn Morshower, Michael Ironside, Kevin Weisman, Bill Duke and Daniel Browning Smith.

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