Friday, April 13, 2012
CM_SetReport Chat Transcript for Co-EP Breen Frazier 04-12-12
Breen Frazier: Hey, it's Breen in the room. Evening, everyone.
hope: Very touching and sad episode (knowing that this kind of slavery does exist in reality).Thank you for bringing up the topic. Question: In the last scene, how did Garcia end up with Morgan? Wasn't he in Chicago and she in Quantico?
BF: The magic act was that she flew (business class on a normal jet) because she felt he needed her by his side. I felt that to show that would ruin the "aw" of the moment.
crimminds19: Great episode!! Where did you get the inspiration for it?
BF: The inspiration started last year with E623, "Big Sea." We always knew Cindi was a story we would follow up on. I wanted to do a clown episode, and still do. But I ran up against the wall of, "Why does a clown have to dress like a clown to do terrible things?" Gacy didn't. He dressed up like a clown, but not when he was killing. Finally, pitching this to Erica Messer, I said, what if it's a Morgan episode? And he wants to ruin Morgan's life, so he takes Garcia and Cindi hostage. And Messer said, "I like half of that idea, guess which half." So then we realized, it's time to follow up on the Cindi story. The first question was, is she alive or dead? We left the door to that open at the end of last year. It felt like a cheat to have Morgan chase after his cousin's killer and then for Cindi to be dead after two episodes worth and eight years of backstory. So, okay, Cindi's alive. Why is she alive? Where has she been? It felt like, if she's related to Morgan, she'd be in line with the character of his sisters -- upright, solid, can stand up for herself. So, something must have happened to her that broke her. That got us into the world of Stockholm, of dominance, submission and the fine line between that and slavery. I dug into the Jaycee Dugard story and a couple other women-as-captive true life stories. That's when Ticona, our amazing researcher, pulled a book for me on Colleen Flynn. (I might have that name wrong.) She was a hitchhiker in the 70s, who was abducted off the road. The man who took her put her in a head box. He made her sign a contract after two to three years agreeing to a lifetime of servitude. Once he got her to sign it, then he could afford her some degree of freedom. One twist in the real-life case, the abductor was married and his wife was a passive part of the captivity. The Company as a bigger concept sort of grew out of the episode, but I've typed enough.
criminalmindsislife: Hey Breen, it's 02:00am here in scotland, i'd appreciate it if you could answer this, who's idea was it to have Paget and AJ being their flawless selfs during the interview?
BF: When we were breaking the episode, we knew that Act Two would end with Morgan catching Malcolm, but no Cindi. Then, Act Three Out would be Cindi walking into the station and saying, "Free my husband." So the body of Act 3 lent itself to a series of interrogation scenes that needed to escalate. Before Morgan and Malcolm had their showdown, we needed to set the stage for how smart and creepy Malcolm was. So a JJ/Prentiss Q&A got us there. And that turned out to be more fun to write than the Malcolm/Morgan one. Because Malcolm/Morgan basically had one turn in it. Morgan confronts Malcolm, Malcolm slips up, Morgan thinks Malcolm killed Cindi. But JJ/Prentiss vs. Malcolm has a bunch of turns in the scene. Malcolm's expecting Morgan. Surprise! The women walk in. The women are completely dismissive. They bait Malcolm into thinking this is about Cindi, they say it's about John Hitchens, which throws Malcolm off. Then, Malcolm turns the tables on THEM. And it doesn't hurt that there are three pro's who are chewing up each line and making me giggle on set as I'm watching it. It was one of those scenes where I was lucky to find it in the writing and really enjoy it. Of course the first draft was also 85 pages, so there was that trade-off.
Sydney: Lots of returning characters in the finale. What's the general feel for episodes 723 and 724?
BF: Action, action, action. Tears.
NittyMcNitpicker: Did they even have chef boyardee in containers like that back when Morgan was a kid?
BF: It's not Chef Boy-R-Dee on the label, but you're right, that is the idea. Here's what changed, it went from a normal can to a microwave safe container. But I ate Campell's Chicken and Rice soup out of a can growing up, and I now feed it to my kids in those plastic containers. I also ate Cinnamon and Spice oatmeal and I feed that to my kids when I can find it. So it's a detail that I pulled from my own life, as a kid and as a parent. It also gets to a bigger thematic point of the episode. Morgan thinks this case is about him. Garcia screams at him, "It's not about you!" When he confronts Malcolm, he says, "Cindi stole this as a message to me." He still thinks it's about him. But it's not. It's really about Cindi's son. And when Morgan steps outside of himself and realizes that, he breaks the case.
LaT: There was a moment where it seemed like Morgan and Hotch were going to have a conversation about Morgan lying to his family after that initial phone call, but that didn't happen. What was the impetus behind the "That's it?" "That's it," exchange vs. a fuller conversation.
BF: We talked about this a LOT in the writers' room. The best example I can give is the end of Kill Bill Vol. 2. You've watched two movies of kung-fu, setting the stage for this incredible fight. Then, Uma Thurman gives Keith Carradine the five-points-of-death punch there at the dining room table, and you're like, "Wait, that's it?" Yep, that's it. We've had a Hotch/Morgan tension the whole season. It started with the premiere, continued with Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and culminating here. Hotch lied to Morgan about Prentiss and Strauss, but now the shoe's on the other foot.' So, how does Hotch respond? And it felt like, he'd respond as a leader. He knows what it's like to be in this situation. Would he make a big stink about it or would he let it go and say, "This is what we have to do." There's another moment I'm thinking of, Season Two of Battlestar Galactica, where the wounded Adama takes control of the ship back from Tyrol. And Tyrol has made all these mistakes. And Adama says, basically, "No one understands unless they're in that position." I think Hotch is showing that to Morgan by not making a deal about this. One more thing, Thomas had a very important take on this. We didn't have to change any dialogue, but we talked about the scene. And he said, "I would respect Morgan's decision. He made whatever choices he had to make a year ago. I would assume he had his reasons. And Hotch would respect it and keep his focus on solving the case." So the goal was to resolve the season long Hotch/Morgan tension in a way that felt real, and was unexpected. And underplaying the moment felt like the right way to go.
Natalieee: Breen, now we've seen more of Morgan's family and JJ's family is next. Will it be possible to see an appearance of Penelope's brothers in the next season? We know they haven't talked in years but could there be a reconciliation?
BF: We haven't talked about that, but it's fertile ground. Garcia's family is the easiest and hardest family to get into, because Garcia is land-locked compared to the rest of the team. So it's easy to see how the brother could come visit. But then you don't want those scenes to feel like total satellite scenes where they don't add to the story.
NittyMcNitpicker: Were there any scenes you really wanted that couldn't be kept in because of the time?
BF: Oh man, this one was hard. We had a TIGHT 56-page script. We knew it was talky, but it didn't feel excessive. Nelson had to go prep, I think, Good Wife, before he could complete his cut, so he told me he'd have to hand off his cut early. It would basically be a refined editor's cut. So we have a 43-minute run time so CBS has time for commercials. The cut I got was 54 minutes. And it was GREAT. I mean, it was a thing of beauty. The story flew, but it also made room for all the small moments. Plot connected together like a Star Wars lego set. There was nothing left over. But we had to cut 12 minutes out. And Nitty, you might be doing the math, and going, "Don't you mean 11?" Nope, it was 12 to make room for the "previously on" recap. When you're cutting 12 minutes, you're not cutting lines or pauses in the speech. The only way to get it airable is to cut whole scenes. So the first thing to go was a whole B-subplot essentially, with Dominic and Suzy Maguire, the couple who Malcolm and Cindi find shelter with. In Act 2, Suzy and Cindi talk and Suzy jokes, "Look this is all a game, right?" This comes on the heels of the profile where we talk about how voluntary submissives understand this is a fantasy. And she's living proof of that. Cindi is like, "What? No! Do you know what the cabin is?" And Suzy starts to realize, "Wait, this woman is scared." Malcolm intervenes, says, "Let's go," and we pick Malcolm and Cindi up at the grocery store. Then, while Cindi's doing a little shoplifting, Garcia has directed Morgan and Rossi to Dominic and Suzy, via the contract wording. Which Dominic has posted as a PDF online. Dominic says, "Guys, this is all a misunderstanding. The Company is just role play." But Morgan starts to read Suzy. She's being submissive, but she clearly wants to talk. And Morgan says to her, "You know the difference between submission and slavery." Dominic snaps his fingers and says, "You don't have permission to talk." Morgan says, "You don't need permission to do the right thing." And Suzy cooperates with the case. Tells them where they're headed, tells them about the Cabin. Then Morgan and Rossi are on their way to the grocery store and we're back into last night's episode, as structured. I want to give a shout-out to the actress, Elizabeth Khouri, who turned in an incredible, heartbreaking performance as Suzy -- AND YOU NEVER GOT TO SEE IT. There's one more thing that we had to cut, which I can mention much quicker. The ending montage, after Morgan says to Cindi, "You ready?" starts back at the police station. And there are a bunch of moms in the bullpen, sitting with Yvonne and Sarah. And all the kids at the cabin come around the corner and we realize the moms have been freed from their jerk husbands and they get their reunion. They leave and we hold on a nervous Yvonne and Sarah -- where's Cindi? Then Morgan, Cindi and Anthony round the corner. The reason we cut that was because it was a 3-minute sequence, all shot in slow-motion (which I wrote into the script and demanded… very foolishly). And we just had to cut that scene -- every scene, really -- to its bare minimum to get it to time. Most of the time, I feel like cuts only strengthen the episode. This one, I don't. If I could put the full 54-minute episode on the DVD, I would.
penny: So many of us are wondering if Reid is even a main character anymore? He has storylines that get totally dropped and honestly he's not on the show much. Even if he is there, it seems like he doesn't have much to offer. Disappointing.
BF: That's a fair question, but I don't have much to say about it. Obviously, we love Matthew, I love writing for Reid. But you're right, the last major Reid episode was, what, "True Genius"? In terms of the back half of the season, the only defense I can give is that we had to keep him light in "Foundation" so he can prep "Heathridge Manor." This episode was a Morgan-centric episode, so he's in it, but it's not his star turn. For Season 8, we're breaking an episode that's Reid-centric and I have another one that I want to tell. So we haven't forgotten about him. He was just light in the back half of this season. The same way that Shemar was light in the front half.
catherine: Will it be possible to have another episode where one of the team's family is in the hands of the unsub, like Will or Diana?
BF: I can't answer your question directly without giving anything away. Just, you know, don't get too attached to Hotch's brother who we haven't mentioned since Season 1. What I can say is, I like doing those kind of episodes because the threat is genuine. We might just kill that character. Cindi was really in jeopardy last night. Same with Haley and Jack in Season 5.
NittyMcNitpicker: Are they having you do any of the audio commentary for episodes for the DVDs?
BF: Yeah, Sharon and Matthew will do "Heathridge Manor" together and Shemar and I will do "The Company."
FrenchSlappyChick: What about his headaches?
BF: Nothing by the end of this season.
Sergiocushion: i love you
catherine: Are you guys planning on having JJ or Garcia-centric episodes in the next season? They're like the underdogs of the show and the least explored characters
BF: Yes, I think we will see more of them in Season 8. I think Kim did a darn good job of exploring Garcia in "Hope," I think we did some good stuff with Garcia and Kevin which will be followed up on by the end of the season. One thing about JJ... The focus of her character growth this season has been about her as a profiler. I can't tell you how great it is to have her be an equal member of the team, doing and saying everything Hotch or Prentiss or even Morgan has (at least in terms of kicking butt in a fight).
Moonfairy: Lately the episodes have been focusing more on the unsubs and not as much on the team. Is it going to stay that way from now on?
BF: No, we talk about this all the time in the writers' room, too. Next year, we want to try to balance it out so the UnSub's hidden more.
Tracey_Lane: Is Beth going to be a part of the season finale with Hotch?
BF: Beth is in the Season Finale. Was going for a joke, but I dissuaded myself.
wheelsup4demily: So I really miss Morgan and Prentiss working together as partners... Is there a reason that doesn't happen anymore? And can we expect a little M&P awesomeness before the season ends???
BF: Definitely Morgan/Prentiss' awesomeness coming up. Honestly, sometimes it's just cast availability.
toloveandbelovedbyme: I have always wondered this, are you and the chat-admin in the same room right now?
BF: No. I'm doing this from home. My 17-month old is going crazy.
carol: Breen, since you wrote "Lauren", I want to know: Was it a plan since the beginning to "kill" Prentiss or was it only because Paget wanted Prentiss killed off the show (and it had to be fake because she had a chance of returing)? I mean, if you had to get rid of the character with no coming back and Paget hadn't said anything, would you still kill her or you would have given her a happy ending? Please answer this...
BF: It was a mix of both. Our hand was forced in writing Paget off the show. Paget's request was, "Kill me." CBS said, "Uh, not so fast." So we had to write an ending that explained her exit, felt like a death, could be handled by the team as a death, but still leave the door open for her return. If it were me, as your question was framed, I wouldn't have changed anything about the ending of "Lauren." After writing for this character, seeing Paget execute her, coming up with an arc in which she's stalked by Doyle, seeing her fight the good fight and knowing about Declan, when it was time to write her death scene and ultimate resurrection... I felt, "Prentiss deserves a happy ending." And the way Matthew shot that last scene of her walking away with the Eiffel Tower in the background makes my heart soar.
swon: Breen, you're the only one who can officially clarify: what was JJ referring to when she said "I don't need a man to tell me what to do" after Prentiss asked "Do you ever..." some think it's about her marrying Will, some think something else
BF: She was baiting Malcolm and mentioning her marriage status to Will, but she wasn't, repeat, WAS NOT, being literal. In terms of something else, my wife could probably get by without me.
fran24ksawtgpb: joke joke joke joke joke
BF: Here's the Hotch/Beth joke: don't get too attached to Beth in the finale. Hotch has a tendancy to lose the loves of his life to serial killers. Oh, and Beth's pregnant. With twins. Sad, really.
Marbs84: Will we get a Hotch/Prentiss moment also? I am thinking he will be the first to know about her departure right?
BF: Prentiss is getting some GOOD stuff in the finale. With everyone. There's a Hotch/Prentiss moment that's really perfect. Can't reveal what it is, though.
ell: It's been interesting to see Hotch be ... a little soft and open with his team.
BF: I think that's Thomas' choice. It's the evolution of the character over 7 years. Think about what he's been through: Gideon's gone. Rossi's back. Pretty much every character has been kidnapped, tortured and barely saved by the rest of the team. Including him. He's lost his wife. His son was almost killed. He had to fake a death to make sure Prentiss would be safe. Then he had to explain to his team why she's back. So, yeah, I think he's playing a little more emotional shorthand with the team. And I'm glad. It shows how people change over seven years.
NittyMcNitpicker: I know how I feel on the subject, but how do you feel about the idea of replacing Prentiss? Would you want to bring in a new character? Or would you prefer to keep it with fewer profilers so more time can be devoted to each of them?
BF: First, let me say, Paget is pretty much irreplaceable. I don't know how we're going to do it. We're discussing who the new character is, and my joke in the writers room is that, every day, it's a new TV actress who CBS is forcing on us. Lea Thompson. Cynthia Nixon. America Ferrera. And the joke is, whoever it is has her work cut out for her. Because this team is a family and you can't just jump into a family and have everyone (fans, included) embrace her (or him… or Lassie) with open arms. We did this the best with Prentiss, I think. We wrote the innate suspicion people had toward her into the character. I think the new team member will understand that she has to work to earn her place.
swon: How come Rossi never gets an unsub against him?
BF: 722 is all about that. It's one of my favorite episodes of the season. Shout out to my mom in the room. Getting a question now… hang on...
ell: When you're writing an episode, do you usually have so many requirements? I mean, it sounds like there were a lot of fingers in that pie (omg, with my analogies tonight). It must be tough to deal with when your trying to complete the script for a 42 minute episode
BF: Depends on the episode. This one was hard because we had to catch up on the episode from last year. It's a personal episode, which means there's a lot more personal moments you don't want to lose. For instance, the scene with Morgan in the car talking to Garcia. That was out of the episode for a little bit. But everyone felt, "No. That has to go back in." I've said this before but Lauren almost killed me because I was trying to get a TON of exposition into the 43 minute box.
wheelsup4demily: Hi Breen's mom! Well done!
BF: But then you have episodes like Uncanny Valley or Unknown Subject from this year where the story just breaks like butter. The mystery is perfectly balanced, we tell the story just right. It shouldn't be 44 minutes. So it's a constant balancing act. This one was a surprise because I thought we had the right amount of story, there might need to be some minimal cutting. But instead all the looks and pauses and tension just overwhelmed us in the editing room.
shhtheadultsaretalking: Favourite line of the whole episode?
BF: I know "Baby Girl, you be tripping" is a fave. But mine is "There's my hero." If you watch Shemar's performance as Kirsten puts her head down on his shoulder, he does some VERY subtle work. He just kind of… exhales a little. His whole body deflates. And you have this feeling of the knight who can lay down his sword and rest. So it's not the line as much as the moment that it represents. And, even though I had to cut it down, I am still very, VERY proud of this episode. My dad called me afterward and said, "It was so good! I liked it, but I don't know why." And I said, "Is it because there weren't any dead bodies or kids in jeopardy?" And he said, "THAT'S IT!" So, there's that. That's it for me too, guys! Thank you for tonight's chat. Before I go, I want to mention that we watched some of the fan video submissions are they are A-W-E-S-O-M-E-O.