Modern Day Sherlock

Interview: David Rambo

December 02, 2006

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Interview by Shane Saunders
Modern Day Sherlock's very own Shane Saunders had the oppurtunity to interview CSI writer David Rambo, who has been with the show since season four. As you will find in the interview, David explains projects he was doing before the show, how he got the concept for "Butterflied" and a spoiler for this season. Some spoilers inside!
MODERN DAY SHERLOCK: To refresh viewers minds, your first episode on the show was "Butterflied." What projects were you doing before you began the show?
DAVID RAMBO: The call to write a freelance script for CSI: came out of the blue.  William Petersen [Gil Grissom],  who came from a theatre background, wanted to bring a playwright into the show's writing mix.  He called friends from the Steppenwolf Theatre who were now running the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, which had produced one of my plays and for whom I was writing another.  I was happily going around the country for productions of my plays, and to teach and give workshops on playwriting with no expectation to work in television.  The Geffen people gave Billy my name.  The producers read some of my plays, called me in for a meeting, and the next week I was in the writer's room sitting in on the story break for "Jackpot."  In fact, if you look at the special features on the Season Three DVDs, the camera crew shot some footage of that break, and I'm there being very, very quiet at the writer's table.
MODERN DAY SHERLOCK: "Butterflied" was surely a hit. How did you get a concept for this episode and why choose this episode to be your very first?
DAVID RAMBO: Like most episodes, this one came from sitting down with the writers and kicking lots of ideas around.  The initial idea was to write a two-character episode for Grissom and Catherine that would essentially be a filmed two-character play, but it didn't feel like a CSI: episode.  We ended up taking details from two real-life cases that our tech advisers had familiarity with.  What I tried to do in the script was to make Grissom's journey a forensic expedition into his own heart.  The idea of having the victim look exactly like Sara Sidle came from the director, Richard Lewis.  It was a brilliant way to illustrate what was going on there.  At the end of the season, a writing spot opened up on the staff when CSI: New York was getting started, and Carol Mendelsohn asked if I'd be interested in it.  I've been with CSI: ever since.
MODERN DAY SHERLOCK: You've worked on a theater project before. Are we to expect anymore projects from you in the near future?
DAVID RAMBO: Yes.  I have a new play, The Ice-Breaker that has been produced in San Francisco, Indianapolis and Boston this year, and opens at the Laguna Playhouse in Southern California in February.  This is one of the scripts that the CSI producers read before hiring me.
MODERN DAY SHERLOCK: Back to CSI. How do the writers keep fresh storylines on the show without recycling same storylines from past episodes?
DAVID RAMBO: The way it usually goes is this: someone proposes a basic story.  Someone else says, "Oh we kind of did that in [name of episode]."  Then, someone says, "Okay, but what if.."  Those are the magic words: what if.  And just when we think we've done it all, we'll see a story in the news, or heard about a new forensic technique, and our minds start racing.  Most of the kinkiest stories are the ones inspired by real life cases. 
MODERN DAY SHERLOCK: How did you get into writing? Do you use any special techniques to help you write for the show?
DAVID RAMBO: I started writing because I didn't know how not to.  I actually avoided it most of my life.  I'd been an actor, then gave that up to go into business, but I found that was writing dialogue and plots when I wasn't even aware that I was writing.  Finally, I tried my hand at a play.  One play led to another.  And another. 
As for special techniques, we are all terribly dependent on the superb research provided to us from experts and other sources.  Some of us write with music playing.  Some write in the office.  I prefer to write at home, with ear plugs to block out any noise.
MODERN DAY SHERLOCK: Was there an episode so far that was most enjoyable to write? If so, what made it enjoyable.
DAVID RAMBO: I loved writing "Who Shot Sherlock?" because I started by reading the entire Conan Doyle canon of Sherlock Holmes stories and novels.  We worked very hard to create that distinct world of the obsessive detective fiction fan.  It also had a kind of romance about it, and I really love the finished product.  Also, I'd have to say that writing "Kiss-Kiss, Bye-Bye" was one of the happiest times I've ever had on the show.  I loved mining the style and violence of Old Vegas, and allowing the audience to discover that through Greg Sanders' experience.
MODERN DAY SHERLOCK: And finally, can you give Modern Day Sherlock visitors an exclusive peek on what is in store ahead?
DAVID RAMBO: I hate spoilers and teases.  But I will say that we've just filmed two of the episodes that Liev Schreiber is doing for us, and they're very exciting.  All of our regular cast have been really terrific in these episodes as the CSI: team has to deal with an outsider coming to work with them.  I think everybody's heard that Grissom is going on a teaching sabbatical, but viewers, especially "Butterflied" fans, should watch closely during episode 711, "Leaving Las Vegas" -- Grissom sends Sara a special gift. 
Shane Saunders is the owner and webmaster of Modern Day Sherlock.