The Archive of American Television “interrogated” CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker in 2010. His full interview is now online.
See some video excerpts, below:
Anthony Zuiker wrote the pilot in two days
CSI was one of those scripts where I did research for three days. I wrote the teleplay in two days. I think I changed five words in it. And every writer who’s had some success, knows that there are those that just kind of channel down from the heavens, that you’re just the typist. And that’s what “CSI” was. It really was the first thing I wrote, we shot every word of what I first wrote.
Screaming “I’m just the writer!” does not protect you at a crime scene
The ride-along happened before the construction of the pilot. As luck would have it– I met Daniel Holstein, who’s the real-life Gil Grissom– who’s one of 15 people licensed in blood splatter analysis. Keeps maggots inside of vials inside of his desk. So I went on ride-alongs. And on day two, there was a 19-year-old woman who lured another woman back to a motel. And we got the call for a sexual assault. The next thing I know, we’re blowing red lights at 100 miles an hour. I was freaked out, scared to death. We show up…The 19-year-old they couldn’t find. So the CSI, to be a big shot, said, “Hey! Here’s some gloves and some booties and a little comb. Why don’t you go comb around the bed for biologicals. Ha, ha, ha.” So I had my little book and I was being a fake CSI and looking for things… Next thing I know, the bed started moving. I lifted the bed skirt and there are two sets of eyes. The 19-year-old girl comes out. She scratches my face. I jump to the ceiling. The guy pulls out a gun and “Freeze!” And they drag her out and handcuff her and slam her on the bed, and I’m like, “I’m just the writer, man! I’m just the writer.” But what I’ve learned– is that law enforcement, if they don’t do their job right and clear the scene, then people will hang around or harm the CSIs trying to get the evidence to convict them. They didn’t clear the scene properly. That’s how come I got quasi-attacked. But if you watch the pilot closely, you’ll see that Holly Gribbs was shot at the end of the pilot, and that’s where I got the idea.
You won’t see the CSI crime lab in real-life.
When you walk through a crime lab in Las Vegas, or even the number two lab in the country, or even in Quantico, they’re very boring, four walls, drab, don’t smell nice. Very archaic equipment. PCV pipes and tubes, drapes, machinery, unorganized. It’s not a very pretty sight. But we are doing television, so we had to sex it up, so to speak. So we did these really state-of-the-art, cool sets with see-through windows and state-of-the-art computers and made it feel like you were in sexy Washington, in terms of the state-of-the-art buildings that you might see that might be Frank Lloyd Wright-designed. It was to give it a sense of pace and style, and that’s what we did.
On the inspiration behind “C.S.I”
On breaking TV rules
On how “C.S.I” stands out
On naming “C.S.I”
On pitching the show
Anthony Zuiker’s full interview is now online at http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/anthony-zuiker.