Airing this Friday at 9/8c, the hour finds Gary Sinise’s Mac AWOL from the lab and instead lending his skills to help identify the remains of the more than 1,000 Trade Center fatalities still unaccounted for a full decade later. That understandably prompts Mac to flash back to the fateful day when he last saw his wife, Claire, but not before we first meet the beauty (played by Eureka‘s Jaime Ray Newman) who brought out the romantic within the otherwise rigid Detective Taylor.
Executive producer Zach Reiter shared with TVLine a look at the CBS procedural’s emotional season opener, as well as previewed what lies ahead for other members of the New York CSI lab.
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TVLINE | How long ago did you first lock onto the idea that 9/11 was a day you wanted the show to revisit?
I don’t think that we actually locked until the end of last season, although it is something that we’ve talked about for some time. Gary Sinise came to me and the other writers wanting to do something that revolved around 911 — specifically featuring the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance, which is a memorial to the 416 first responders who died on 9/11. Apparently they were about halfway through building it when they ran out of money, and Gary and his Lt. Dan Band were instrumental in helping to raise finds to complete the project. We had been kicking around ideas here and there, knowing that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was getting closer and closer, and it all seemed to come together in that moment of featuring that wall in the storyline.
TVLINE | What was most important to you when casting Mac’s wife, Claire?
It was incredibly important that we cast somebody who can bring out a side of Gary that maybe we haven’t seen in the last seven years. What’s kind of beautiful about seeing a flashback with him and Claire is not so much to see the woman that he was with and feel that heartbreak of knowing she passed away on that day, but more to see the smile on Mac’s face and the love that he had in those moments – and seeing how [losing her] that changed him. The personality you see — his sternness, the seriously conservative nature — is largely a product of how his life changed on that day.
TVLINE | Is revisiting that turning point going to free him in a way, take a weight off his soul?
No doubt. You’ll feel and you’ll know at the end of the episode that he derives a certain amount of closure from the [anniversary] — and from the specific act that he makes at the end of the day. I won’t give away what that is, but I hope that what we convey is that he’s gotten a bit of closure and is able to move on, in many ways — in his job, in everyday life, and towards the end of the season in a way that he’s able to open up and have a relationship that is more meaningful than maybe some of the past ones he had, because these walls were up.
TVLINE | Beyond what Mac goes through in the premiere, are there any other back stories you want to explore this season?
One we intend to explore is Jo’s. What we would like to delve into is some of what we gave you last season, with regards to why she left D.C. and decided to join the New York lab. There is the history of that case, the D.C. rapist, where she felt compelled by her legal obligation to disclose certain information, and in doing so it resulted in the acquittal of a rapist. She went through a lot of grief and condemnation, and that caused her to maybe make the move, and some of that history comes back. The same way Mac gets a little closure with respect to his personal life, we’re hoping that Jo can get some closure with respect to this fairly traumatic, haunting event in her life.
TVLINE | What will be the biggest ripple effect of Danny being an NYPD sergeant?
It probably has to do with Lindsay. We’re very careful to not have any kind of frustrations that are born out of him having this new job, and they’re on different schedules. We didn’t want it to become whining, which can get very old very fast. Nobody out there wants to see this couple going, “Aww, I don’t see you enough!” Kill me now. Not fun. [His new job] creates a little bit of a wedge – there is some frustration – but it’s actually more fun to see how they deal with it and come out on top. Beyond that, without giving too much away, some of the stuff that happens with Danny is about how he left one family, and when you become a sergeant and supervise a certain number of uniformed officers they become your new family. What we explore is what he learns about his new family, how that differs from his [CSI] family, and how that weighs on his mind.
TVLINE | Danny’s new, female partner (played by Jeananne Goossen) – what are you going to do with her and what are you not going to with her? Fans of course assume the worst….
Of course they do. [Laughs] She plays his driver. We thought it would be very fascinating to see is Danny in a supervisory and teaching role. After all, he’s rash, he doesn’t always make the best decisions, and over the years we’ve often seen Mac chastise him. Mac has had to take him to the side and say, “What the hell’s the matter with you? You need to be smarter about this.” We wanted to see him in the role of now having to supervise younger cops who are making those mistakes, but always check himself and go, “I was that guy. I made those mistakes.” [His partner] fulfills that role, that dynamic.
TVLINE | She is pretty, though….
But still believable as a New York City police officer. Obviously because she’s female and pretty, and when you’re a sergeant’s driver you spend an inordinate amount of time sitting next to that person, it’s natural to assume that you develop a bond… and that bond might become more than just a bond. To be completely honest, Danny and Lindsay are going to be fine. They’re going to come out OK. [Exec producer] Pam Veasey said it best: “Are you going to see some sparks? No. But you may see a flare or two.”