Inside CSI: NY's Nearly-Silent Artist-ic Episode, What It Means for Flack, Mac and the Messers
Tonight’s installment of CSI: NY (CBS, 9/8c) will reveal a whole new side to the long-running procedural: a silent one.
Written by executive producer Pam Veasey, the impactful hour — an homage of sorts to 2012 Oscar fave The Artist — explores the aftermath of a shooting at a political rally that leaves Lindsay badly injured. The first half of the investigation, however, is sans dialogue, and is instead narrated seamlessly by an array of songs from alt-rock band Green Day‘s current and forthcoming albums.
“I loved the challenge of writing this,” Veasey gushes to TVLine, adding with a laugh, “I felt like a rock star, honestly. I was just ‘hanging with Green Day.’ I had their music and I was writing my show!”
Here, Veasey shares even more details about the process of writing such a unique installment of the series, and reveals what developments stem from it for your favorite CSIs — Messers included.
TVLINE | Talk about writing an episode that, for nearly the entire first half-hour, is silent.
It was definitely more of a challenge than I had anticipated, because as a writer on procedural you’re so dependent on dialogue conveying the plot of the story. So, when I started, I realized that I really had to evoke emotion; I had to let the audience see something, feel something and get caught up in it so they wouldn’t miss the dialogue. That’s really what the [start of the episode] is all about, trying to figure out what [everyone] is thinking… And then when I moved to [writing] the second act, it was about what they were feeling. If I could get the audience to feel something, then they would take the ride with us.
TVLINE | How do you feel about your actors’ silent performances?
Our actors did tremendously. They just sold it! They really invested in conveying what they felt by using their face and their body language… They really sold: “I’m going to express what I would normally say by showing you how I feel.”
TVLINE | How did the decision to narrate the episode with Green Day’s music come about? And did the songs dictate the story or vice versa?
I already had a thought of what I wanted to write, script-wise, but I didn’t have the scenes written by the time I heard music. I called [CBS TV Studios' SVP of Music] Amy Osler and told her that I wanted to only use music for the first half of an episode, but that I wanted only one band or solo artist who had an album coming out. I didn’t want the words to tell the story so specifically — I believe that visuals tell one part of the story, and the music tells the other; they don’t repeat each other. Then she told me that Green Day was interested and their albums, “¡Uno!” “¡Dos!” and “¡Tre!” were coming out, and as I listened some of the songs, it just clicked. But I didn’t listen to the lyrics and build a scene. Rather, I used the mood of the music to tell me the tempo of the scene.
TVLINE | I had no idea this concept was yours alone. Was there a specific inspiration?
We all enjoyed The Artist, so I wondered if there was a way to do that on television. When we were pitching to get CSI: NY picked up for another season, I said that we were going to do our tribute to that. And once we got picked up, I said I was going to deliver that. I certainly couldn’t assign that difficult task to anyone else — I pitched it, I was going to write it. [Laughs] So, it really was about writing a compelling story where the visuals and the storytelling, for lack of a better phrase, took your breath away. I wanted it to feel non-stop.
TVLINE | This episode touches on some heavy issues, namely gun safety. Why give the weight of that story to Flack?
Because I think you’d expect it to be a Mac story. [Laughs] In the ninth season you want to see different shades and different levels of the characters that you’d grown to know. You want to see him get angry about something… It was great to share that story with Don Flack. It’s not something that he anticipates; it happens before his eyes.
TVLINE | We also learn in this episode that Mac is not as recovered from his shooting as we thought.
At the very end of last season — so that we could have a little bit of happiness and closure in case we didn’t come back [Laughs] — we jumped forward six months so that you knew Mac was fine. But when you get picked up, you say, “Should we tell a recovery story in a different way? Is there an aftermath to what he experienced?” Gary [Sinise] played this beautifully. Mac wants to face this challenge alone, so he’s not sharing the story with anyone… It was a perfect story in this episode because he’s alone in it. That was part of the theme.
TVLINE | And last but certainly not least, there’s the Messers. It’s a tough hour for Lindsay, but somehow there are still so many sweet moments for the fam.
We enjoy those moments. We’ve always done it, too, if you look back at their relationship and where it started. Their first interaction was a practical joke, where Danny was trying to get the upper hand on her. And there’s more to come! There’s so much more this season of their relationship. It’s not just being a work relationship, but them being a couple who’s really familiar, who share things, who laugh together, who are still in love, who contemplate the next step to their family. All of this is still ahead on the show. We write it because they’re great at it and the audience loves it… But we love it, too.