‘CSI: NY‘ had to rethink its plan for Season 7 when Melina Kanakaredes opted to vacate the role of Stella, setting the stage for Sela Ward (‘Sisters’) to join the cast as a new investigator, Jo Danville. That, coupled with a new Friday time slot, presented the CBS crime drama with an opportunity to court first-time viewers while looking at Mac’s team through the new arrival’s eyes. But to do that, at least one planned arc had to get pushed to the backburner.
As ‘CSI: NY’ launches its new season this Friday at 9/8c, executive producer Pam Veasey spoke with Fancast about subbing Sela for Stella, the rough road ahead for Mac (played by Gary Sinise), and a new love story on the horizon.
So here you are, getting ready to tackle a new Friday time slot. Do you plan to make some “noise” to get people’s attention?
When we first were announced for Friday, we were thinking, “Yeah, let’s throw a party!” When I was in college or at school, I was home at Friday night at 9, but I had the TV on as I was getting ready to go out. So, we want to be the show that people are watching before they go out. After all, ‘Miami Vice’ used to keep us home on Friday nights.
Is there a particular theme you’re working off of this season?
We had one, though it changed. Our last-minute cast change kind of uprooted some things we were going to carry over with Danny and Lindsay, and some interesting things with Mac and relationships. But once we got Sela, we decided that with a new person coming in, let’s get to know our people again, through her eyes. So that is sort of our theme.
What sort of journey will Mac be on then?
Mac is going through the “worthy adversary” phase of his career where he goes toe-to-toe with higher ups, formidable criminals, or people who test his judgment – that happens in the top of the season, and then we’ll segue into something else. For example, Edward James Olmos (‘Battlestar Galactica’) plays a criminal that Mac put away many years ago, in Episode 4. [Also, five-time Emmy winner John Larroquette will play a Deputy Chief of Detectives with whom Mac butts heads; see news story.] What we had planned [was an arc about] relationships. We had ended last season with Claire Forlani and Madchen Amick [playing love interests Peyton and Aubrey]. Madchen may still recur, but Claire ended up getting a show (Starz’s ‘Camelot’).
As you create Jo Danville, how would you say she differs from Stella in her approach to work?
Stella was a born New Yorker – fast-paced, a very decisive and aggressive thinker, very definitive. Jo is much more psychological and not as forthcoming; she will show it on her face before she gives you an answer. Stella was a lot about the science, the ballistics; Jo is a lot about the victims and what she can perceive. “If I never looked at the science, what I can tell about this person? The soles of her shoes means she walks to work, the fragrance of this girl says a man gave it to her, because it’s floral…” She much more analyzes the personalities. Jo’s also from the South, so she has a different cadence – she’s laid back, she talks slower, and we like that about her. Stella had great humor, but Jo is an initiator – she likes to say things and see what people react to. And Stella was very neat and prepared, but Jo is messy. She’s disorganized, but she is smart.
Do you feel you provide enough closure with regards to Stella? [In the season premiere, it is subtly established that she moved to New Orleans to head a CSI unit there.]
We as writers and producers don’t think so, but we sort of don’t have a choice. We’d love Melina to come back at some point, but I don’t think that’s possible. It’s not impossible, but I don’t think it will happen.
I joked with Gary Sinise that you effectively planted the seed for a new spin-off, ‘CSI: New Orleans.’
We did, didn’t we? We have a very sentimental affection for New Orleans, as a writing staff, and we love Melina and her character, so we thought she should go to the most appropriate place. I did not go to the network or ['CSI' franchise creator] Anthony Zuiker and say, “Can we please start ‘CSI: New Orleans’?” but I do know that when they created ‘New York’ they had considered New Orleans.
What larger purpose might Shane Casey’s reign of terror serve for Lindsay and Danny (Anna Belknap and Carmine Giovinazzo)?
Initially it speaks more to Lindsay and who she’s become, what she feels, and how valuable family is to her. After that, we wrap it up. Edward Furlong (Shane) was great for us for two years, but after Lindsay finds herself, we move on.
Is she off her game at all as a result of what happened?
A tad – not so much with her job but in trying to deal with what occurred [in the season finale/opening scene of Season 7]. But Danny helps her through it.
And Flack (Eddie Cahill), his demons are all behind him? It has been well over a year now since Detective Angell died.
Yeah, he’s over it. We’ve got to get him back to being fun, and maybe find him somebody. Everybody wants a relationship, but we’re going to start with Hill Harper.
Oh, Hawkes is getting some action?
We hope he will. It wont be in the first 10 [episodes], but it will be in the back of the season. Were gonna find him some love!