Breen Frazier (bf): Hello everyone!
nopetodope: question for Breen: Many fans have been "arguing" about Reid acting too much like Matthew, while others say he's maturing as a person, comments?
bf: It's a little bit of both. Matthew is always looking for new details to play with Reid. I think all the actors do. The humor in this episode is a reflection of that. But we try to keep the core of the character true. cough. So the MIT/CalTech mistake is mine. Apologies.
talleycat: Great episode, the best so far this season IMO. Loved the Jack and Hotch scene. Those are always gold. Hotch has been a lot less intense this season. I think he's smiled in every episode. Is there a reason why he's seems less "burdened"?
bf: We haven't discussed in the room why Hotch is less burdened. I think it's a function of the arc of the character. If the theme from last season is secrets, the theme for this season is scars. That's my take, BTW, not Messer's. Anyway, at a certain point the scar tissue heals and you learn how to move on. I think you're going to see that pop up with a few of the characters this season.
criminallymindless: Hello, Breen! Thank you so much for a wonderful episode last night. The writing was superb. Will we by chance get to see more of the prank war between Reid and Morgan? Please don't say it's over! :)
bf: Not yet. I'd like to see it revisited. It's a tonal issue, to be honest. In the middle of a murder investigation for Reid and Morgan to be one-upping each other can be distracting. I know it was divisive last night. The way I justified it was that it was on point with the theme of the episode. As the team was investigating a high school tragedy, the high school nature of their characters came out a little bit.
GublerlyMindless: How did you think of the idea for the Morgan vs. Reid thing? It was hilarious!
bf: It sort of evolved over the course of several rewrites. It started with Reid teasing JJ about being a mean girl. Then that led to, "Who were YOU (reid) in HS?" Then that led to Morgan and Reid going at it. The actors were all game. And I think if you watch the episode again, you can see a lot of subtlety in their humor. Shemar, esp. If you watch his face in Act 3, just reacting to Matthew, the man can say more with a look than with a speech.
Fred: Are we going to see more about Reid’s genius in the future, his scientific background (chemistry, engineering, math), ..?
bf: Yeah, we've got an episode coming up about that that deals extensively with that. Specifically, the question of, how well does a boy genius age?
NittyMcNitpicker: In your defense, I read interviews that Kirsten, Polly, and Matthew were trying to push the idea that the characters knew each other at MIT so they could have a crossover....
bf: I've heard that, too. The actors are VERY game to do it. My understanding is that it's a studio hangup. You can cross-promote when it's the same studio. We're an ABC/CBS co-prod. NCIS is just CBS.
Tigereye: Breen, you wrote one of my favorite CM episodes ever, 52 Pickup. I can see some common elements with that episode and Painless including the humor (loved!) and finally a bit of Hotch/Prentiss interaction. I appreciate you remembering that these two in the past have asked each other the difficult questions. Will we get to see more of that between them, especially given no one seems to know, except maybe JJ, what Emily went through in her time away?
bf: My next ep is all about that. Ep12. Here's my take... Hotch and Prentiss understand each other in a way that no two other members of the team do. That's esp true now that they're both survivors of MASSIVE TRAUMA. I thought a lot about this while writing Lauren. Do you think Emily Prentiss enjoyed sleeping with Ian Doyle? Was she holding her breath and her nose each time? I mean, these are really complex emotions that we've never unpacked. The two team members who come closest are Hotch and Morgan. In terms of violent and/or sexual assault. I believe that Hotch is the closest in terms of dealing with it, working on it. And he can help Prentiss through it as well.
pranksterparty: It seemed a bit strange that an episode focusing on high school bullying made no reference to Reid's experiences that we learned about in "Elephant's Memory" -- not even nonverbally. Was that a conscious decision, and if so, why?
bf: It's a question of "personal story" real estate. We only have so much time and space per episode. Just to be mercenary about it, we hadn't had a Hotch-centered episode and he needed one. And I was happy to write it because who doesn't love writing Hotch? As a result, there needed to be something else to do with Reid and I wanted a different flavor for Reid, a lighter moment. I mean, the episode is SO dark. You're talking about Columbine, school shooters. Stuff that can be a trigger for certain audience members. So rather than duplicate our strengths by having Hotch deal with a bully situation (at home) and Reid dealing with it in his past, we thought, let's play a funny runner between Morgan and Reid instead. At the end of the day, these decisions are dealer's choice. And that was mine.
Guinevere: Hi Breen! What great writing last night. There was a little bit of everything, violence, suspense, humour and tender moments. As one of my favourtie writers on the show, I can't wait to see your next episode. Can you tell us which ep that will be?
bf: Yeah, Ep12. Writing it now. Can't say too much. If you're obsessive about it... There's a Korean horror movie called "3 Extremes." It's basically a hard-R version of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." Watch the middle section.
painless: Who thought up the screaming in the phone scene? I want to know!
bf: Matthew definitely enjoyed it. He doesn't get to play blind rage very often. I wrote it as intense, he performed it the way he did. But we talked a lot about the tone of the scene. Real quick digression about this... I asked our FBI profilers, Jim Clemente and Jim Fitzgerald if this practical joke was okay or if it was the type of thing they would never do. Fitz said, not only is it okay, he's done it on another profiler. So, a lesser-known detail about the job that we got right.
ssaminds: how did you come up with the idea for JJ to be cheetobreath?
bf: Heh. I love putting shout-outs to the fans in my episode wherever I can. That's it.
Rosalieee: Who is the hardest to write?
bf: None of them. JJ is the most fun to write now that she's a profiler.
Star76114: OMG Breen! Love the way your mind works!!!!
bf: Reid is the one that I feel the most kinship toward. Sorry to be that guy answering the question that way, but it's true. They're all a delight.
NittyMcNitpicker: Doesn't Prentiss having kept in touch with JJ-- even through online Scrabble-- sort of detract from Prentiss telling Reid that she lost 6 friends? Or was she just manipulating him?
bf: Yeah, but c'mon, playing online scrabble is not the same as seeing your friends for dinner, going out to a movie, going over to their apartment and sharing a glass of wine or hunting monsters together. It's a fair question, but I don't think it detracts from the pain Prentiss went through losing her entire family.
pranksterparty: We've been told that Reid and JJ's issues are resolved, but there still seems to be an underlying tension between them, particularly at Principal Givens' house. Was that your guidance, or was it nuanced acting by Matthew and AJ?
bf: Nuanced acting.
pranksterparty: This episode obviously referenced Columbine a great deal. Was that the origin of this story, or did a different aspect of the plot inspire you first?
bf: Great question. The episode started with a How Stuff Works podcast. They dealt with CIPA, congenital insensitivity to pain. Which, I found out, both House and Grey's Anatomy did. So I dug deeper into the research and found asymbolia. A serial killer who doesn't feel pain was where this episode started. It was too good an idea not to have an episode be about. But it wasn't enough. As we started getting into the story, we needed more than just, "He can't feel anything and as a result he doesn't feel empathy. Because we were breaking the story in July, the whole "ten years later" idea was in the zeitgeist. WRT 9/11, obvs. But something about that stuck in my head, and I thought, "What if it's 10 years after a Columbine-styled incident?"
I've always wanted to do a school shooter episode, but could never find the right tone. My mom, who is a fan of the show, said, "The minute I see a 16 year old walking down the hall with a machine gun, I changing the channel." But if it's 10 years later, you can give the audience the emotional distance to study school shooters without exploiting it. As weird as it is, it's okay to see 27 year olds get killed, but not 17 year olds.
sonofadorito: It seemed kind of out of character that Reid would actually coach basketball, after his experience with the football team. Don't you think he would be a little traumatized?
bf: We made it basketball because of his history getting bullied by the football team. In my experience, the basketball team were not nearly the same kind of bullies as the football team. Also, you can break down the stats of HS basketball much more effectively than HS football. Sort of.
pranksterparty: What is your favorite episode of Criminal Minds that you've written? What are your favorites from any writer?
bf: Fave that I've written: Uncanny Valley. Fave of all time: 100
sonofadorito: Do you have a working title for your next episode?
bf: "Unknown Subject."
Cheery: Do you (and the other wirters) keep in mind how often the unsub is introduced at the beginning of the ep vs. revealed later on? The exposition for the latter is preferable, for me anyway.
bf: Yes, that's a big part of the story structure as we break it. It's one of those things that we sort of figure out as we go. It's not the first detail, but it's not the last either. Usually, the terms of the story dictate when we see the UnSub's face.
ghostturtleneck: Are we going to see more of Prentiss struggling with the events of the past few months? It seems from what we've seen so far, she's not ready to address it, which is very much how we would expect her to deal with it. Is it going to came to a point where she can't avoid it any longer?
bf: Ep12 is all about that.
dst: Are we ever going to revisit the family members of any of the team? e.g, Morgan/Prentiss' mother?
bf: Yes. Can't say who yet.
Rosalieee: Any Garcia/Kevin info? I love the geekiest couple of tv
bf: Ep13 will have Kevin.
bf: You guys are going to flip when you see what we're doing with the two of them. No, they're not getting engaged.
Rosalieee: Is it difficult to find new ways to kill people?
bf: YES!!!!! No, here's the problem. We've covered all the serial killer greatest hits. So now the question becomes, how deep do we need to go with the UnSub's individual personalities, the quirks that the team can profile. EG capgras or pain asymbolia. We are not (repeat NOT) going to turn into a disease of the week show. But we can't just do Bundy or Dahmer week in or week out. I have to say, that's where the new writers -- last season and this season -- have brought in a ton of new ideas that have reinvigorated the CM template. And they're a big part of why we've gotten to Season 7 and why I think the show can last well into Season 10.
Jasper: What character dynamic do you enjoy writing most?
bf: Character dymamic... hmm. Whoops. Here's the thing, and this is true of any writer on this staff or any writer in TV ever. You want to find NEW dynamics to play. New scenes that you haven't written before. New scenes that the actors can bring new life to. There's a small but important detail at the end of Uncanny Valley I can give you. Reid has just talked down the UnSub. Rossi looks at him and says, "Nice job, Dr. Reid." Not "kid" but "Dr. Reid." He sees Reid as not just AN equal, but HIS equal. I love Hotch/Prentiss. Love Morgan/Reid. She wasn't popular, but I liked Ashley and Rossi together.
painless: There is so much homoerotic subtext. Loved it. Whose idea?
bf: BWAH! Hang on... Ed Bernero and Simon Mirren's. Kidding. Look, these guys love each other. They hang out together. They're always cracking each other up. It's natural that the rapport between them as people would bleed through on camera. Ed always said this show was a family. Every show says that. This is the first show I've worked on where I felt it was the truth. So, the vibe you're getting is the actors really enjoying each other's company. I think that's a HUGE part of the show's staying power.
thatgirloverthere: How hard is it to write unsubs? Like, how can you, as a writer, go from writing a delusional phsycopath to someone who just loses it from one stressor?
bf: Eh. Hmm. It's a huge part of the show, where the stories start from. So, Erica Messer says, "I want to write an episode that starts with a little boy running for his life down the street Then we cut twenty years later and we see that same kid as an adult, and he goes on a rampage." When that's your starting point, you've already determined a lot about what your episode is going to be. Spree killer vs. serial, etc. For me, I like to dive into the research. I had been fascinated with hoarders, specifically, Homer and Langley... uh... somebody. Anyway... That turned into doll collecting, our inability to let our past go and, as a result, "Uncanny Valley."
MCV: In your experince is the writing process at Criminal Minds different from any other show you may have written for, in that a conscious choice has been made to involve the actors and their interpretation of the characters they portray and obviously care about, in the process
bf: It is different, both in the way you framed your question and from my personal experience. We ALWAYS seek out the actors' input. We have a table read and the actors go to each cast member afterward to get their notes. Usually, the cast member that is the focus of the episode has the most to say. That process is invaluable for making the episodes as true and good as they are. What's new to me is writing on a standalone procedural drama. I never thought I was going to be the type of guy who'd be able to write a CBS cop show. Fortunately, this is not a CBS cop shop. It's much better and smarter than that. But you know what I mean. It's not NCIS. Nitty. But what we get in the process is to tell season long arcs in a VERY special, detail-oriented way. Sometimes this is planned -- like Hotch and the Reaper. Sometimes it is thrust upon us -- like writing JJ and Prentiss out of the show. However we come by it, the best we can do is to write scripts that are true to the characters as we understand them and as the actors inhabit them.
drewski126: What is your favorite TV show besides Criminal Minds?
bf: Phineas and Ferb. I have a 4-year old. Love Mad Men and Justified and Homeland.
ReidLover: Why aren't you on Twitter?
bf: Remember Kurt Sutter? I have a bigger mouth than he does. There are things I say in the writers room that would probably get me fired. So its for the best that I stay off social networks in general.
freechickennow: Breen I love your personality. If I ever meet you, I'll buy you dinner. Dessert too.
bf: Will it be chicken?
Porthos: The no-inter-team-romance on CM has fostered a fan community where creative fanworks focusing on romantic relationships between characters has thrived without a lot of the issues and "drama" witnessed in other fandoms. Do you think this "no romance rule" has helped the success of CM as a format?
bf: Absolutely. When I started, Season 4, Ed had laid out certain non-breakable rules. Interteam romance was one of them. He knew that once team members started dating, that's what the focus of the show would be. And that was one of the smartest decisions he could have made. I don't think it's ever going to happen. Sorry, shippers.
Cheery: Will anything every go "wrong" with the team's plane? Is that something you might explore? Afterall, there's already been an exploding SUV...
bf: We joke about that in the writers room. I don't think so. Maybe Season 10. Hang on... Ep7 has a gag about this.
gchan_s2: is there a date when ep12 will be aired? :).
bf: Jan 25 2012. Unless the Mayans have other ideas.
Rutland: What ever happened to that weird little cookie last year where Hotch refused to use the tablets and was reading Spenser's hard copy files? Will that loose end get raised explained and tied up?
bf: Hotch refused? Well, he uses them now and we never really deal with iit. I think it has to do with the ubiquity of iPads. Hotch isn't a technophobe like Reid is, and to a lesser extent, Rossi.
NittyMcNitpicker: Can you share some of the other unbreakable rules Ed set out?
bf: Let me think... The victims need to be sympathetic. Which I know seems self-evident, but you'd be surprised. Sometimes as a writer, you get excited about a death scene because you're thinking like the UnSub but you ALWAYS have to feel for the victim or the audience isn't scared. That's all I can think of right now, but if more come back, I'll post them.
D: Will we ever hear Emily calling Hotch by his first name "Aaron"? It has never happened before, she always calls him "Hotch".
bf: H-m-m-m-m-m... I'm trying to think, I don't think so. Rossi is pretty much the only one who can get away with it.
stucky: Whats going on with Reid and his headaches?
bf: We'll deal with Reid headaches, but it will be a while. This is my take (and only mine), but I feel that now that the team is back together, a big source of stress is gone from his life.
pranksterparty: Is there a Morgan-centric episode in the works?
bf: Yes. Ep9
sonofadorito: Have you guys ever tossed around the idea of character being homosexual?
bf: We have. Here's the trick. You can't have it the focus of the episode. You can't throw it away so that the audience goes, "What?” Remember that Law and Order that ended with the lawyer going, "Am I being fired because I'm a LESBIAN?!" Cut to EXECUTIVE PRODUCER DICK WOLF. So, we haven't found a way to integrate it naturally into the storyline. If it presents itself, we totally will. Season 10, as the plane goes down, Morgan turns to Reid and says, "I love you." There you go.
ReidLover: If you could write on any show other than Criminal Minds what show would that be?
bf: Show that's already gone, Battlestar Galactica. On the air now, swear to God, I would love to just hang out in the Phineas and Ferb writers room. They took all the stupid stuff we did on Alias and made it hilarious.
jillian: Are there going to be any female serial killers this year?
bf: Female SK, yes, but not the way you'll expect.
freechickennow: You think you'll ever do a collaboration episode again in the style of Bo Crese?
bf: Bo Crese, not in the near future. Part of it is a math problem. We have 8 writers, 24 episodes, we each get 3 and we're all to greedy to share credit.
a: AND IN SEASON TEN CAN HOTCH AND PRENTISS GET MARRIED AND ADOPT JACK AND SERGIO?
bf: Would you like to join the writing staff?
onionsssss: Have you ever considered a career in professional trolling?
bf: Only if you finish writing Ep12 for me.
jessi: Are we gonna see more about their lifes outisde the FBI?
bf: Yes. Here's where Messer started the season... She basically made a deal with CBS and said, "Look, for six years, we haven't gone home with this team. "Now, it's time to do that." So there's more personal stuff this season than the past six years combined. I can't tell you what it is, but that it's awesome and you guys will love every second of it. Also, Reid now has a fourth Ph.D. from Yale.
ReidLover: Any special plans for the 150th episode? Killing anyone new off?
bf: Funny, that's Ep12. And no.
bf: That's it for tonight. Need to go home and tuck the kids in. Thank you for the great questions. And, as we were secretly talking about you before I logged in... You guys keep us honest, not just in the Reid, PhD department, but in making the best show we can. Thank you very, very, very, very, very (VERY) much for that.