CM_SetReport Chat Transcript for Bruce Zimmerman 10-20-11
Bruce Zimmerman (bz): Hi, Bruce here. This is my first time in one of these... I'm happy to answer your questions... or try.
rensomnia: The shoe reference was amazing---how did you come up with that idea?
bz: Well, I'm not a genius like Reid, but I think men trying to understand women and their shoes is universal. Personally, my wife has an entire closet devoted to shoes.
niteanjl: Is it hard to work in the 'personal details' of the characters without detracting from the main plot?
bz: It is a little tricky. You never want to interrupt the flow of a story to get into personal issues, so I always try to find some way to make it feel like it is a branch from the same tree and not something completely different.
4pairsofshoes: Why did you choose to include Rossi’s wife in this particular episode, or was there no underlying reason (was it just time for a Rossi-centric ep)?
bz: Joe has been asking for a story about one of his ex wives since it has been floated in the series earlier. This seemed like a good time to do it. There was a slight thematic thread because in the end she is going to ask him basically to help her commit suicide, and the UnSub in this episode is coming to terms with a mother who wanted to kill herself.
shmoo: Was there a specific reason you chose Emily to be the person that Rossi confided in about his ex being back in his life?
bz: When I first thought of writing that scene, I had Hotch in mind. But it felt like Hotch was too focused on the case and Rossi would be able to take a little breath and confide to Prentiss instead. And when I saw how it came out, I was happy I did it. Paget has a really nice side to her that was able to reach out to Rossi and give him the type of advice that he needed.
intimatenecktouching: JJ's sister killed herself - was JJ not effected/reminded by this case, or was it simply not showcased?
bz: Sometimes unfortunately we are really under pressure to service all of the characters in a very short time span. This was a case where it might have been legitimate to involve JJ, but that would have taken a chunk of story away from somebody else, and it was simply a matter of logistics.
4pairsofshoes: What character does your next episode focus on?
bz: It involves the world of compulsive gambling, set in Atlantic City. There isn't a specific strong personal story in it as there was in this episode, but I'm trying to have more fun with Morgan and Garcia. I think their relationship is a very interesting one.
criminalrinds: This is your first Criminal Minds episode. How did you go about preparing/researching to handle the team members' characterizations and dynamics particular to the show?
bz: Good question. It's always a challenge to come to a new show and plug into the voices of the existing characters.... particularly a show like this that has had such a long run and is so successful. All I try to do is learn from the actors and the other writers, and take their guidance. Several times during the breaking and writing of my first two episodes I've gotten the occasional "Hotch wouldn't say that," and it's very helpful. And of course I watched a lot of the show before even joining the staff.
marisa: How challenging is it to work with minors in an episode with this serious of a storyline?
bz: Again, it is always a tightrope you carefully walk. You need to be mindful that these are children, but most of these kids are very well focused on the fact that this is a show and not real life. I got a sweet card from the boy who played the little guy who kept screaming for his mommy. He said he had a lot of fun, and thanked me for not having him die at the hands of the UnSub. So even the kids have some humor and perspective.
criminalrinds: Anything you can tell us about Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, which we've heard is a Morgan episode?
bz: Morgan is showcased a little more in it. Strauss is in it, and Morgan finds himself knocking heads and in conflict with his superiors. Don't want to say anything else because I don't want to spoil it for you...
fromchildhoodshour: How does your background as a novelist inform your writing for CM?
bz: It works for and against me sometimes. As a novelist you can write whatever you want, take your time, describe things elaborately, use 500 pages to set up a world, etc. You also don't have to think about a budget. In this episode the big money expense was the leap off the bridge, obviously, and this was something I really wanted and fought for. The stunt people and crew did an extraordinary job, and I was lucky to have a director who really had a vision for how she wanted it to look. I guess the main thing is, as a novelist you really want to explore character. Fortunately this show has terrific characters already in place, so it's not just the nuts and bolts of a standard procedural.
intimatenecktouching: Morgan and Reid's camaraderie in this ep was a nice pick up of the pattern of their relationship s1-s4 (less so in s5-s6). Why do you think these characters work well together?
bz: I think they're fun because they are such opposites. In my mind, I think the two of them respect what the other one brings to the table that the other cannot. Again, this is me, but I find Reid very charming and probably unaware that this kind of charm and intelligence can be very attractive to women -- as opposed to Morgan, who is your classic leading man, handsome, action-oriented, and so forth.
fromchildhoodshour: JJ had a very authentic voice this episode, which I loved. It reminded me of why she is my favorite character. The majority of the character's voices were authentic, in fact. I really appreciate that and I just wanted to tell you. I can't believe this is your first episode, because it was so well done. Who is your favorite character to write and why?
bz: Thanks for the nice words. I tapped into JJ a little because she is a mother of a young child and it was natural that she would be the one to reach out to the distressed mother in order to get information. Hotch also recognized this, which is why he sent her in alone. I'm still feeling out who my favorite charaxter to write for is. It might be Garcia, believe it or not, because she's so outlandish and can be the voice of the average person.
jasper: Who chose the Poe quote?
bz: I did. Always liked the poem from when I was in college and it seemed the natural quote to kick off a story about an Unsub who had a bad childhood.
alianora: Why did you choose to give Rossi's ex wife ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) as opposed to any other fatal disease?
bz: I wanted to it be a disease that is particularly awful in how it works on the body, to make it really understandable why Carolyn would want to not go through it. On a personal level, I had a very good friend who died of the disease about ten years ago and I remember how difficult it was.
rosalieee: Will Rossi Share his dilema with the team?
bz: A member of the team will find out. Don't want to give away who it is, or the reaction. Stay tuned for 706.
fromchildhoodshour: Did you envision the unsub as being so young and handsome when you wrote him? Or was that someone else's (casting?) call?
bz: Honestly, I think every writer has strengths and weaknesses, and casting is not one of my strong points. The novelist background again, probably. So I defer frequently to the director and showrunner unless I have fairly strong feelings yes or no -- which I do sometimes. On this UnSub, the director particularly responded to him because he portrayed a kind of man-child innocence that made it believable he'd want to be a 911 operator so he could go rescue children.
criminalminds82: The mix up of the partnering was different than usual. Hotch/JJ Rossi/Prentiss Reid/Morgan It was nice to see the interactions. Was it intentional?
bz: Yes, it was intentional. A nice thing to explore is how the various team members interract. I think it keeps things fresh and unexpected and I'm trying to do the same thing in my next episode as well.
criminalrinds: This is the first time this season (besides Prentiss' return) that we've seen a major plot development for one of the team members. Can you talk a little about how those big elements are decided upon and how they're introduced into specific episodes?
bz: At the start of the season we talk about possible story ideas and also discuss bigger character arcs. This year our showrunner Erica Messer particularly wanted to get into the character's personal lives a little more than in the past, so we look out across the expanse of the 24 episode landscape (which is daunting at the start of the season, believe me) and plant some flags in the ground so that we are sure to give each character something meaty to complement the case each week. The Rossi ex-wife storyline was actually something that the writers discussed doing last season, but the Prentiss/Ian Doyle issue became so important that the Rossi story was pushed to this season. I guess this means that there is always room for surprise and discovery even among the writers, and it's hard to predict how some of the final episodes of this season will play out. But it's also what makes this job fun.
deathangelarawn: Who's idea was it to put the wolf fact in the episode? Why is Hotch going trigger happy?
bz: I wanted to put the wolf story in there. It felt thematic, and the wolf is always a symbol in children's literature of the bad guy. As for Hotch, I guess I could have given the shot to Morgan. I'll have to talk to Thomas about letting his gun cool off for awhile.
katie.weber: Anything special happening in the 150th episode?
bz: We're going to be reading it today. It's written by Breen, so you know it'll be good. I taught him everything he knows.
unknownsubject: If the BAU could time-travel, what era do you think they'd do well in?
bz: I think if they time travel to next Wednesday they'd do fantastic. But a funny question. Maybe the could figure out if there was an UnSub among the dinosaurs, we'd know why they became extinct.
sue5789: Is Jason coming back
bz: I'm new to the show, but the last time I looked he was working over at homeland security.
sometimesthedayjustends: Do the other writers read the transcripts of the writer chats?
bz: Sure do.
longponytail: How different is it writing for Criminal Minds, compared to other shows you've worked on?
bz: It's been great. My background it mostly crime and procedural, but this show also has the element of varied and interesting characters. And it's great to be in the world of such crazy killers -- you almost never find that you need to rein yourself in when thinking of stories or villains.
fromchildhoodshour: The "breaking" of an episode sounds painful. Like it is full of critiques and criticisms. Is it what it sounds like or is it more based on logistical things?
bz: Yes, it can be painful. Most viewers (like my folks, for example) watch a tv show and don't think too deeply about the dozens and dozens of combing-through each episode goes through. But it is valuable. When I came to LA to write for TV after writing my novels, some of my TV writer friends here told me I would hate it. Group writing, network notes, etc. But I found the opposite to be true. The vast majority of people in this business are very, very smart, and it's great to have eight brains in the room helping with a story.
alianora: Whose idea was it to put the unsub's mother in a floaty white fairy tale type dressing gown in the unsub's mind? I really liked that touch.
bz: I thought it was important that we see the event as it appears in the UnSub's romanticized imagination. Glad you liked it, and it provided a nice contrast to the reality.
sometimesthedayjustends: What if your favourite CM ep?
bz: It was probably "100". I wasn't on the show then, but I remember watching it and being blown away. I think I'll lobby with Erica Messer to write "200".
bz: Thanks for all your questions... this has been a lot of fun. Hope you enjoy coming to Atlantic City with me on my next episode...