Monday, Aug. 11, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Rolodex in hand, writer David Weddle walked off the set of the hot science fiction show “Battlestar Galactica” last month and across the TV lot to his new gig, writing for “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” He was so nervous he broke a sweat.
Happily, CSI producers sent him from the Burbank studios to Vegas for inspiration. He toured the coroner’s office, shadowing real crime scene investigators before returning home to Malibu. Weddle talked to the Sun about the experience.
So, how’s the view at the coroner’s office?
I was scared I was going to vomit or pass out. It was creepy but fascinating. I saw them cleaning bullet holes, looking at wounds. It was haunting for me. It’s facing your greatest nightmare. I’m glad I did it, but when it was over, I wasn’t asking anybody to bring on more bodies.
You shadowed Metro Crime Scene Investigator Daniel Holstein, the basis for CSI character Gil Grissom. How does reality compare?
There were things I thought writers made up that he actually did, and I was amazed by that. I get affected by the stories. We found someone dead in their Fremont Street apartment and you wonder, How does life end up like this? Who was he? What did he aspire to before it all ended in this room?
“Battlestar Galactica” is famous for using its surface plot to tacitly explore larger issues — is there a deeper theme to what you saw spending the day with real CSI techs?
We went through all the bad things that people like me normally just drive by. But police dwell there, knee deep in it, every day. They see broken people, horrible crimes, things middle class people don’t think about. I feel sympathy for people who are washed up in these swamps, and wonder if we could have done a better job helping.
Can you address larger issues in “CSI” the same way you did with “Battlestar”?
I think they do deal with many issues. Solving of a crime is a window into subcultures and portions of society that we don’t normally want to look at. The show offers the opportunity to engage with the cool science, to solve the crime, or to look into deeper themes that emerge. Either way is fine.
How will your writing process change, from science fiction to crime drama?
In science fiction you can write about anything, the canvas is unlimited. With “CSI,” you don’t have that same unlimited canvas. But there are stories more tied to the here and now that I have never gotten to tell before, and I’m excited by that.
Change is hard — are you nervous?
Coming to “CSI” was scary. I have a tremendous amount to learn. I have fear about failing and not being able to do it, but one thing I have learned is that anything worth doing is going to scare you.