CM_SetReport Chat with Co-Executive Producer Bruce Zimmerman 2-9-12BZ: Hi... it's Bruce here, ready to answer any questions.
PopcornBalls: I really loved seeing Reid go under cover!!! Will we be seeing more of that in future episodes, please?
BZ: We don't do that very often on the show, so it was fun to have a natural way to see our team pretend to be somebody else.
CriMiBird: What is the deal with "Plum Sauce" as a nickname?
BZ: Actually that was something the actor who plays Kevin ad-libbed on the day and we loved it. Originally I thought of having a different ending with all our people talking the bullpen, but having Morgan mulling over plum sauce seemed better.
freakingdork: Given Morgan's history as a victim of sexual abuse, why did Garcia even think Morgan would take advantage of her when she was so drunk that she didn't remember anything?
BZ: I never really thought that Garcia thought Morgan had taken advantage of her. If anything, Garcia might have been afraid that with too much wine in her she may have given Morgan the wrong message the night before and it was consensual. In the end, it was just meant to be a little bit of fun to lighten the murder and mayhem in the rest of the episode.
Schmoo: Where did you find the information about the equation when it comes to poker? I was watching the episode with an avid(and good) poker player, and he said it wasn't true.
BZ: I found the equation in a book of mathematical approaches to gambling. I was amazed that such things exist, and that gamblers can hold all that math in their heads while gambling.
Tiger: What is your next episode and which regular character will be the focus?
BZ: My next episode is going to involve a copycat killer who wants to pick up the torch of an executed serial killer. I'll touch a little bit on the personal lives of Hotch and Prentiss (separately), but there won't be a major personal story for our characters. It's about bringing down the bad guy, with a creepy twist at the end... hopefully.
SophieFCrowther: Who do you think on the cast/ crew would make the best unsub?
BZ: Of our characters I could see Reid being a good UnSub because he's so clever and evasive and seems so sweet and innocent. In the writers' room, I'd go with Rick Dunkle.
Tiger: If you were allowed to write any type of episode, it's all a dream sequence, it focuses on one character, it's a musical, etc., what would you do?
BZ: We can never do it on the show, but I think it would be fun to see our actors playing different people in a time flashback sort of story. I've written two of those before on other shows and they're always fun. Then you really could see Reid as a crazy UnSub.
SergioCushion: How much gambling research did you do for this episode? Or was that just recreational reading?
BZ: My family actually comes from Reno and Las Vegas and I grew up around casinos and gambling. I was never a gambler myself, but my cousins worked in the casinos and I was always fascinated with the stories they would tell.
hardeight: Who gets the character focus in the episode you're filming right now, Foundation?
BZ: In Foundation you'll see a lot of Morgan and how drawing on his past helps to solve and heal the current murder.
hardeight: Doug Aarniokoski (Thirteenth Step, Out of the Light) has SUCH a distinctive filming style. How do you think that influenced/affected the final product that was Snake Eyes? To me, it seemed to fit well with the bright manic hysteria of the casino and Curtis' emotional state.
BZ: Yes, Doug is an exceptionally good visual director who always brings something different to the story. Sometimes as a writer if you know the director you are going to have, you write to their strengths. As it turns out, I have Doug directing my next episode, so I'm always looking for scenes or moments that he can bring his distinctive style to.
Rutland: I liked the twist in the poker match where the unsub escaped only to be cornered later in the hostage situation. But my focus was on Reid leaving behind Rossi's chips!! Were they able to recoup that buy-in?
BZ: Rossi better get his money back or Reid is in big trouble.
BubblegumFox: When any of the writers suffers from writers block what is your most common thing to do?
BZ: Procrastinate. I'll walk around, think of other things to do, spend ridiculous amounts of time refining the one page I do have written, etc. Eventually the pressure of having a deadline is the great motivator. TV writing does not allow you the luxury of writers block.
jay_9: What is your favorite episode so far into this season and why?
BZ: That's a hard one. I feel that all the episodes have been awfully strong. I have to admit that I liked Unknown Subject a lot.
thatiendallgirl: The team seems to get less screentime than the usub nowadays, is that going to stop or?
BZ: In the coming episodes you're going to see more BAU and less UnSub. In the episode I'm writing now, for example, the UnSub is more of a shadowy presence than someone we follow walking around in his normal life. There's more of a surprise element.
PopcornBalls: Did you have to change anything while they were actually shooting, or is all that worked out before-hand?
BZ: Virtually every script gets tweaked during shooting... either for creative reasons or to service production. On Snake Eyes we had a scripted final scene where Rossi invites everybody out for dinner because they'd been giving him grief on how much money he had. But then the Plum Sauce moment trumped that so we decided to drop it.
littlevoiceswhispering: Did you write the part of the UnSub with Dean Cain in mind or did he come in at a later stage?
BZ: Good question. Dean Cain came in late, so when I wrote it I didn't have him in mind. It's always interesting for a writer to adjust the script for the actor. It is the same as contouring a script to a director's strengths. Years ago I was doing a mini series where the actor changed about five times in two weeks and I had to keep doing different versions to fit the voice and temperment of the actor of the moment.
emilyPOW: What's your favourite episode you've written?
BZ: I'm a new guy so this is only my second episode for Criminal Minds. Some of my favorite episodes on other shows can be pretty obscure. Two years ago I did a WWII script for the show Army Wives that I was quite proud of.
Hannah_CM: What do you think makes Criminal Minds so successful?
BZ: I think it's because you have good guys beating bad guys, but there's more. I worked on CSI:NY and the big difference there was that you didn't explore the characters very much. I think each one of our cast members is so distinctive and interesting that people not only get a crime that is solved, but get to learn more about these people who almost feel like part of the family. That, and the fact that the crimes are solved by crawling inside the mind of a serial killer and not just tweezing fibers for forensics makes it more compelling.
SophieFCrowTher: Have you always had a interest in criminal behaviour or has that came with the job?
BZ: It sort of came with the job. I started my career as a novelist, writing mystery suspense fiction, and it took off from there. My literary agent way back then told me in order to get published in a harsh environment it was best to pick a genre and write that. And I picked mysteries. The crime aspect of the TV writing career is an offshoot and continuation of that.
CriMiBird: What do you like to watch on TV?
BZ: My dirty little secret is that I don't watch a whole lot of TV. Not because I have an attitude about it... more a question of not having a lot of free time. But I like Justified, Modern Family, Breaking Bad, a few others.
BubblegumFox: How often do you have to completely rethink an episode to make sure it is good enough?
BZ: Once I decide on the main idea, I don't swap it out for a completely different idea. But I am an obsessive rewriter. I would estimate that I do 15 or 20 complete rewriters of my scripts, even if it's just to change a couple words here and there. Honestly, it's my favorite part of the process. Breaking the original story out of thin air is the toughest part.
Hannah_CM: How early do writers start thinking of how the season will end?
BZ: Sometimes we'll have a thought at the start of the season, but there are so many variables through the course of a year that it gets adjusted. But on most shows I've been on you start to ramp up to the finish when there are four or five left.
hardeight: The writers have really been hitting the Team as Happy Family trope hard this season. Are we going to see any chinks in that armor of unity in the back half of this season?
BZ: There will be a few bumps in the road to work out, but a lot of the issues between the team about the secret of Prentiss being alive have been put to bed by now. I think the truth of the matter is that the team has a genuine organic cohesiveness and flow with one another, and there aren't big divisive issues on the table. Having said all that, as a writer its always fun to explore conflict between characters, so hopefully we'll find those moments when we can.
SophieFCrowther: In fictional scenarios do you prefere a happy or sad ending?
BZ: I prefer happy. When I was first starting out as a novelist I felt cheated because I had a fairly upbeat take on the world and it seemed that 'important' work was always tragic and sad. Guess I have to live with it. But then... Breaking Bad is probably my favorite TV show, so go figure.
Kricket: Is the flirting between Morgan and Garcia done? It seemed pretty final in the end there.
BZ: No, I think the flirting is a part of who they are and how they relate to one another. It would be disappointing to see them have a more traditional interaction. I think Garcia will just watch that third glass of wine from now on.
Taryn: Do the individual writers come up with the main idea for the episode, or is that something you do as a group? Do you write the whole script and present it or do you present the idea, then write the script?
BZ: Generally speaking, each writer comes in with an idea. The idea is then elaborated upon by the whole room to see if it has legs, and if it does we start beating out a rough outline on the board. Once the basic building blocks are there, the writer goes off an brings in a 12 page or so outline. The room gives their notes on the outline, then the writer is off to script. There isn't nearly as much group writing on this show as I've experienced on other shows. Much more satisfying this way.
44: If you could get Bryan Cranston to guest on CM, what role would you want for him?
BZ: I'd love to see him go against type... not even the UnSub maybe, but the weird local cop who gunks up the works.
BubblegumFox: What are your favourite scenes to write? ...and what are your least favourite?
BZ: It's fun to write the UnSub scenes because you get to crawl into the head of a nut case. The BAU are the good guys, but virtue isn't as fascinating as vice, I guess. I like writing the profile scenes because it forces you to think from their perspective. Straight exposition isn't my favorite thing, and we try to keep it to a minimum on this show.
PopcornBalls: Who would be your DREAM UnSub? If you could pick any actor, who would you pick?
BZ: Rick Dunkle. No... not really. It might be comedic, but I could see a Betty White type being an UnSub you'd NEVER see coming.
Andi: Kevin was more at ease with Morgan in this ep, even finding them in a quite 'intimate' postion, compared to the unease he showed about them sharing a room in Alaska in s5. What's changed?
BZ: In my head he felt so badly about getting into a terrible fight with Garcia and storming out that he's not going to make another scene right before their first date night. I think he's going to cut her some slack.
BubblegumFox: As a writer you must of read quite a few books, what is your favourite classic book?
BZ: I like Hemingway a lot, especially the short stories. In the mysterty genre, I always enjoyed the Travis McGee series from John D. MacDonald.
Lizzan: Will Emily ever find herself a man?
BZ: I don't know. The last one drove a wooden stake through her stomach, so maybe she's taking a time out from men for awhile.
Hannah_CM: The BAU have never travelled to Hawaii, would you consider a case there?
BZ: Sure, why not. But only if the writers get to go. You can certainly fake Hawaii here in southern California. But you don't want to go to a location just because it feels like eye candy. But I'm sure the islands are swarming with UnSubs.
hardeight: So what's ahead for Morgan? We've heard there's some episodes focusing on him coming up, including yours! We really want some in-depth development for him -- Morgan is a great character, and Shemar is a flawless actor.
BZ: I agree, and I think you're going to be happy with some of the episodes coming up. Breen Frazier is writing episode 20 and it has a lot of Morgan.
Dee7822: Do you ever look at an episode you wriiten and think you should have added something or taken away something else?
BZ: Good question. Yes, all the time. That's why I haven't read any of my novels since I wrote them, and rarely watch any of my old TV episodes. You can always find moments here and there you'd like to change.
BubblegumFox: If you could write yourself in an episode, even if it was a very breif role, who would you play?
BZ: Probably Derek Morgan's twin brother. We have a similar physique.
MattyBangBang: Who is writing the episode Matthew is directing this year?
BZ: Sharon Lee Watson is writing that one. It is spooky as hell and fun.
BubblegumFox: Do you ever take your work home... in a sense where you are constantly thinking about the script and how it can be improved?
BZ: Always. My wife goes a little crazy because when I'm writing a script I keep a tablet by the bed and I am literally turning on the bedside lamp at 3 in the morning to scribble out bits of dialogue or things to remember. And she'll see me staring out at nothing from time to time and ask me what scene I'm working on. She's a trooper.
Hannah_CM: Do the cast and crew enjoy leaving the fans with a cliffhanger at the end of a season?
BZ: Great question. I'll be sure to answer it next season. Now THERE'S your cliffhanger. OK, gotta get back to the UnSub who's waiting in my office. Thanks for all the questions. Keep watching!