Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tess Gerritsen Talks About Writing and Rizzoli & Isles

Photo by Henry + Mac
I had the privilege of meeting Tess Gerritsen at The Big Thrill hosted by the Boston Public Library last night. Although the conversations were brief, they were also insightful. Here are some of the highlights.

Rizzoli & Isles Novels vs. Television:

When asked about the differences in television Jane & Maura compared to the books, she said of course they were very different characters. She knew they would be different when she learned Angie Harmon had been cast. An ex model is not the way Jane of the novels is described. But Tess has embraced it and seemed genuinely fine with the fact that her characters have been changed. She did say that at first fans of the novels didn't approve of the characterizations on the television show. However, that was not a problem in the reverse. More and more fans of the television series have become fans of the books, hence her readership has gone up. Luckily there are a lot of people who can easily separate the two, loving them both no matter the differences.

I'm not sure how this came up, but in talking about the show Tess said that neither Jane nor Maura would get married in the television series. She seemed to know this for certain and stated that "the show is about their friendship." If you add a spouse into the mix you change the dynamic of the show.

On Writing:

Tess gave an example of her writing style. She had read a story in the paper about a "dead" woman waking up in the morgue and thought that would make a great plot point, so she wrote it. Then she thought about what would happen next. Well, the medical examiner would have her rushed to the hospital. Then what would happen? Step by step Tess answered that question, not knowing where it would lead. That story was the beginning of The Sinner. When she started it Tess had no idea who the woman was nor how she wound up in the morgue. She found out as she continued writing. She did say that when you write organically like that (no outline, nor complete plot before hand) she has to go back once the first draft is complete. There can be holes in the story, or in the connective tissue that leads from point a to b to c. So she must fix any issues there were with "connecting the dots."

When asked about how much research she does, Tess said she looks for more then just facts and figures. She's looking for the most disturbing information about whatever subject it may be. An example is when she was doing research at NASA. Sure she needed to know how a shuttle operated, but more so what stuck for her was that there is a 1 in 50 chance that something will go horribly wrong in a shuttle launch, and that there is a person who's sole job is to blow the shuttle out of the sky should the launch go so wrong that it's coming back down to Earth. These disturbing details are what make us think and feel, not what button you push to fly the shuttle.

Oh and last but definitely not least, a random question was what was her favorite animal. Tess' favorite animal is a donkey. She used to own four of them.

The event as a whole was okay. There were four authors and they were all very generous with their time both before and after the panel discussion. My only complaint was that said panel discussion was supposed to be the "main event" yet it was very short, not even 45 minutes. With all the questions that were collected I would think they could have gone the full hour or longer. 

Having said that, Tess was very out going and generous with her time. I was glad I got a chance to meet and talk with her.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Janet Tamaro talks about actor input

Question from H'eather Rizziggleose:

Are the cast members given any input on the scripts? Do they ever ask for different dialogue or disagree with something that's been written?

 Janet's response:
I think of the actors as my partners. We've been doing this together for nearly three years. Because so much time and effort goes into each script (weeks and weeks), by the time they get the script, it's pretty close to what you see on screen. They're very respectful of my/my writers' process – as I am of theirs. If there is dialogue or action that is "bumping" them (Hollywood talk for, "This doesn't make sense"), we will have a conversation and sort it out.

Source: Creator's Corner

Sasha Alexander Interview - TV Choice - minor Spoilers

My comments are in yellow.

From TV Choice:
Sasha Alexander and Angie Harmon have brought writer Tess Gerritsen’s smart medical examiner Maura Isles and tough Boston detective Jane Rizzoli to life on the small screen. Now the second series of Rizzoli & Isles heads towards a dramatic climax that threatens the pair’s close friendship…

TVChoice speaks to Sasha Alexander, whose credits include NCIS and Dawson’s Creek, about the show, dead bodies, Sophia Loren and being dubbed in foreign languages…
The first season of Rizzoli & Isles ended in a hail of bullets. Is there another cliff hanger ending to this series?
There is.
What was the reaction to that in America?
People were really shocked because it was intense. But I think that they were mostly worried about, and most interested in seeing during season three, how this will affect Maura and Jane moving forward.
Jacqueline Bissett returns to play your mum Constance Isles in the final episode. What’s it like working with her?
Oh she is so amazing. She is so beautiful and hasn’t had a load of plastic surgery done to her face. I looked at her and said, ‘God you haven’t done anything to yourself.’ She’s just beautiful, smart and really funny. We’ve had a really good time. She hasn’t done a lot of television so it’s been fun to have her around. I like the storyline we’ve had to do, the mother-daughter relationship, which is unique to see on this type of show.
I love that Jacqueline Bissett is allowing herself to actually AGE! She looks beautiful with lines and wrinkles. She actually looks *gasp* real! ;)
The third season of Rizzoli & Isles starts during June in America. Have you any inkling about what’s going to happen?
We have some inkling but not too much.
Rizzoli & IslesSo they like to keep you in suspense as well?
Yeah. But I will tell you that from Maura’s perspective, I feel like the situation she’s in at the end of season two really changes her. I think it deepens the relationship with Jane. I think that there is definitely going to be love interest involved this year. The crimes are continuing to be very strong and it’s overall really growing in direction. I’m feeling that there is a lot of synergy between all the characters, there’s a lot happening personally and in work.
Although Rizzoli & Isles isn’t as graphic as CSI, did you go to any real autopsies as research for playing Maura?
I did. When I worked on NCIS I went to some autopsies for that. Also, working with David McCallum who plays Ducky, I was able to sit in on a lot of stuff and watch him. So I knew what the job entailed. It was a question of how do I make that my own, and how do I make this feminine, fashionable, educated woman believable as this scientific brainiac?
We do have a real-life detective on the show as our technical adviser, Detective Russell Grant, and he will be there and help me through the scenes in terms of understanding what tools I would use, how I would hold them, what I would do.
I’m actually planning on going back in a month or so to visit a new facility that they have in Los Angeles.
I think it's awesome that she's going back for more research.
Are there any anecdotes from filming you’d like to share?
In the autopsy rooms we have actors playing dead, but it’s not easy, it’s really hard because you can’t move anything. We were laughing not long ago because they had cast one of the dead bodies and he only had nine toes, and the costume person put a pair of flip flops on him. We were like, ‘Why are there flip flops?’
We laugh a lot and there are so many things to get very grossed out about. We’re like two girls in a locker room.
Rizzoli & IslesDo you laugh much on set or try to make each other laugh?
Oh yeah. It’s my ultimate goal to make Angie Harmon laugh almost in every scene. Absolutely. If I can’t make her laugh we’re not having a good day, and I think vice versa. We’re like kids sometimes and laugh about really immature things, and it makes the other adults feel rather uncomfortable because we’re being completely, ridiculously silly.
We laugh about all sorts of stuff. I once had to take photographs of a man’s chest. I had to draw on the chest and take pictures, and I realised I had just been taking pictures of the man’s nipples. I would show Angie the photos in the middle of the scene and it would be a close up of this man’s nipples, and we would start laughing. It can be very crass and very silly.
If we were an English show then we could really push the envelope much more with a lot of the comedy and a lot of the grossness because I feel like in the States they have to keep it safe. But in the UK we could really be much more crass and people would just think it’s completely normal and funny. You guys have an amazing sense of humour.
Rizzoli & Isles has been tremendously popular. Is it nice to have a hit show where the two lead characters are female, which is a rarity in television?
Absolutely. There hasn’t really been a show that has had that besides Cagney & Lacey. I think that’s what people have responded to. It’s a male-dominated world this crime genre and to see two very strong female characters, who are very different and represent two very different types of women, in a very positive way, is fantastic. I’m very proud of the fact that it represents women in a very positive light.
A lot of shows are very samey, so it’s nice to have something a bit different…
Yeah I totally agree. That’s what I responded to initially. I liked the characters and that it wasn’t pretentious. It had a murder-mystery feeling about it that I really liked, and then add to that the characters. We know about their lives, we know about them, and then you have somebody to really connect to.
Maura and Jane are from Tess Gerritsen’s books. It was interesting to see how they were going to be adapted for the small screen, and it’s worked really well…
Thank you. I think that they have done a great job. You can never adapt something exactly from a book whether it’s television, movies, or whatever, and be dead on, but you can certainly have your interpretation. Hopefully it is within the tone and the same perspective as the books. It’s always difficult — a book is a book and we’re making 15 episodes a year and Tess has written, what, nine books? So they are going to have to expand on it. But I think we should make a movie and we can take one of Tess’ fabulous books and bring it to the big screen.
Sasha's willing to do an R&I movie! Let's get that info to the people who can make it happen. ;) It wouldn't be able to actually be like one of Tess' novels because the characters are different, but I never got a Xena movie so... ;)
Rizzoli & IslesYou’re a mum of two (Lucia, five, and Leonardo, 16 months). How difficult is it juggling work, learning scripts, and a new baby?
You do get half a year to yourself, so that helps, but when we are shooting it is challenging for Angie and myself. Angie has three children and they live on the other side of the country in North Carolina, and we shoot in Los Angeles. I live in LA so I’m lucky because my family is here, but it is tough. We work on average 12 to 15 hour days.
We had a favourite moment when Angie and I were shooting a scene where we had to be very dirty in a beaten up car, water was coming in, and we were in a dangerous situation. It was a very unglamorous moment and Angie looked at me and said, ‘Mommy I want to be an actress!’ People don’t realise how unglamorous it can be, and it is a lot of work. It makes the weekends family time. My friends have to understand I don’t really have any time for myself or to go out that much. It’s work and it’s family while I’m shooting.
That scene was leaked not long ago. If you like spoilers and want to read it go here.
You produce as well as act. When you’re away from Rizzoli & Isles do you plunge yourself into other projects or are you taking a little step back because of the baby?
The producing stuff — I have a couple of film projects I have been working on. One that I’m writing. One that I’m doing with my husband, Edoardo Ponti. When I’m not shooting the show I’m working on those.
This past year I didn’t want to do a movie or anything because I had just had the baby and went right back to work about six weeks later, so I really needed a break and I just wanted to be with my baby and family and recover. Six months is a lot of work and when you’re done you just don’t want to do anything. It depends also on the project. If something comes along that’s really exciting and I feel like I can’t not do, I’ll speak to my husband and figure out what makes sense for us because he’s a director. We try to always have one of us at home.
She's writing! Very cool. Hope that project comes to fruition for her. I would love to see her in another movie. Preferably a dark, serious drama or thriller.Sasha tweeted she would love to go darker, so here's hoping.
Talking of your husband Edoardo, isn't Sophia Loren your mother-in-law? Are you always asking her anecdotes about Hollywood?
Ha Ha! Not so much any more, but there are always great stories. How can you not asking about everyone and everything? She was in a very different time and she is fascinated by how quickly we work now. When she did movies she would have months to prepare. It was different. But she has the utmost respect for me and my work and I'm very lucky — she's amazing. I complain to her and she'll laugh and help me out.
Rizzoli & IslesYou came to England to study with the RSC and Cecily Barry when you were younger. What do you remember about your time in London?
I was in high school so I didn’t venture off a whole lot but I remember it being really cold. I didn’t have one in LA but I remember needing a coat and a scarf. But it was beautiful.
I love London. It’s my husband Edoardo’s favourite city and we love it. We talk about the possibility of moving there some time in the future, so we’re big fans of the UK. I love everything about London — I love the people, the energy, the fashion, the restaurants, the buildings. I always say to people when they go to Europe you have to go there.
Is it true you are learning French at the moment so that you can apply for French citizenship?
Yes. My husband is a French citizen, he was born and raised in Geneva and Paris, and so are my children. After a certain amount of years I could become one as well, and I feel if I’m going to be, then I should certainly speak the language. I’m not sure if they will give me one if I don’t!
You already speak Italian, Croatian, Serbian and English, so when they come to release the Rizzoli & Isles DVDs in those countries you don’t need to get someone to dub your voice, you can do it yourself!
I wish I could because they always choose somebody whose voice is much higher than mine. All my friends in Europe that watch the French one say that the voice really doesn’t have my tone and I heard that Angie’s as well in German is so high, and she’s got a very deep voice, so it’s kind of funny when you don’t get to do it yourself.
I do know the woman in Italy though. I actually chose her, I said, ‘She’s going to do me.’ It’s a very difficult experience. The voice has so much to do with a person’s character. What you hear can entirely change your perspective on the show so it’s interesting to me when somebody is chosen that hasn’t at all got the right tone.