There is a familiar face in the CSI writers room this summer, series creator Anthony Zuiker, who has returned to the mothership series. A decade ago, Zuiker was an young writer with no TV credits when he created CSI and was paired with showrunners Carol Mendelsohn and Ann Donahue. He had hands-on involvement on the CBS show for the first 4 years, first alongside Mendelsohn and Donahue and then alongside Mendelsohn who became the series’ sole showrunner in 2002 when Donahue took over the reins of spinoff CSI: Miami. Two years later, Zuiker moved over to spinoff CSI: NY, which he ran the first season. For the past several years, he had taken a back seat in the day-to-day operations on the 3 CSI series while developing new projects under his deal with CBS TV Studios and pursuing other projects, such as his digi-novel Level 26: Dark Origins. That changed earlier this summer when he called Mendelsohn and told her he wanted to return to the mothership series. The last script for the CSI franchise that had Zuiker’s name on it was CSI:NY‘s Run Silent, Run Deep in 2006 but he has done uncredited work on other episodes since then. The last CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode he was credited on as a co-writer was the 2-episode arc in 2005 based on an idea and directed by Quentin Tarantino. (Zuiker co-wrote the episodes with Mendelsohn and former CSI executive producer Naren Shankar). Back then, CSI was at the zenith of its popularity and was toplined by William Petersen. Today, the crime drama’s age is visible in its declining ratings, and it has a new leading man, Laurence Fishburne. I asked Las Vegas native Zuiker about the reasons for his return and CSI‘s upcoming 11th season.
Deadline Hollywood: Why did you decide to go back to CSI full-time?
Anthony Zuiker: The main reason I went back to CSI is to write with my partner in crime Carol Mendelsohn. Over the first five seasons, we’ve written many, many scripts together. We have so much fun writing the show. And when I went off to develop, I really missed the day-to-day action of writing episodic television. I’m still developing this season, but wanted write with Carol again. Her and I create magic when we write together.
DH: Why did you pick the mothership series?
AZ: It’s where it all started. I love the cast. I think the addition of Laurence Fishburne was a fantastic choice. I really wanted to write for him along with Marg (Helgenberger), George (Eads), Paul (Guilgoyle), and Eric (Szmanda). I’ve been in Vegas for 42 years. The town has evolved so much. There’s just so much to write about when it comes to the 2010 Vegas.
DH: How does it feel to be back in the writers room?
AZ: Being back in the writers room is a real treat. It’s like I never left. Some old faces. Some new. Carol and I are working on all of the scripts together. One of them is about a “forensic proof killer.” The villain called “Sqweegel” is from my best-selling novel Level 26: Dark Origins. It’s the first time in history that a villain from a novel has appeared on national television by the same creator, a literary/broadcast cross-over if you will. It stars Ann-Margret and is scary as hell.
DH: CSI’s ratings have been declining in the past couple of years. What are you doing to reinvigorate the series in the upcoming 11th season?
AZ: Today, CSI is watched by 73.8 million people (worldwide) a week. That’s amazing. This season is going to be explosive. Justin Bieber stars in the premiere. We have a shark in a pool. A day club gone wild. We’re doing an episode about a vampire and werewolf convention. The shows are going to be fun, Vegas-centric, and very character-driven.
DH: Given Helgenberger’s statements that she plans to leave CSI after next season, could this be CSI’s final season?
AZ: Marg Helgenberger is one of the finest actresses in the world. We hope she never leaves the show. She is the heart and soul of the franchise.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.