MIAMI – Who says educational television is dead? Rex Linn has learned a lot of stuff since joining the cast of “CSI: Miami.” Right at the top of the list: When his acting career is over – as it could be any minute; more on that in a few paragraphs – he’ll go to work emptying garbage or patching potholes or just about anything but being a crime-scene investigator.
“We romanticize it in the show,” says Linn, who plays Detective Frank Tripp on CBS’ loving tribute to South Florida psychosis and homicide. “But it’s tricky work. And it’s gross, too.”
Linn has done more scenes than he can count with headless torsos and shark-gnawed limbs, but the day it really got to be too much, he and series star David Caruso (playing Lt. Horatio Caine) were supposed to discover the bullet-riddled corpse of a teenage boy in an abandoned cemetery.
“His head is bloody and there’s maggots all over his face and mouth – “real’ maggots – and I don’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t get my lines out,” Linn recalls, not at all fondly. “All I had to do was lean over and say, “Looks like an exit wound,’ but every time, I’d start laughing.”
Linn, Caruso and the rest of the “CSI: Miami” cast have just wrapped up a week of shooting. Most of the show is produced in Southern California, but about five episodes a year are done in South Florida to catch what Caruso (who actually lives in Miami) calls “the power of the city, the seduction of the city.”
“The real fans know the difference between the episodes shot in studios and those done on location,” Caruso says. “It’s obvious to them.”
So there they were recently, imposing law and order on the anarchic, rapacious mayhem of the Brickell neighborhood’s condo canyons for an especially grisly season finale that will spill across two episodes on May 15 and 22.
Though the Mala Noche street gang was basically leaving Brickell knee-deep in corpses, the real nemesis of the “CSI” team seemed to be the passing airliners that disrupted scene after scene while the actors wilted in 90-degree heat.
“Any time you have a noise or an interruption or something that startles an actor, you’ve gotta start over,” said Duane Clark, the director, slightly hoarse from yelling “Cut!” so many times. Finally he gave up and announced that any futzed-up dialogue would be rerecorded (“looped,” in TV jargon) in the studio. “We stop for no man or plane!” Clark shouted. “We go, plane or shine.”
That was fine with Linn, whose shiny pate was visibly pinkening under the sun.
Linn’s one-time appearance as a cop whose suspicious wife hired a floozy to see if he could be tempted, grew into nine episodes the first season, 13 the second, 19 the third, and finally a regular this year. He has already started laying the groundwork for an expanded role next season – he gave Frank Tripp a divorce.
“I just took off my wedding ring and started doing scenes without it,” Linn confides. “Toward the end of the first episode, a producer noticed it. “Where’s your ring?’ she asked me. “I’m divorced,’ I told her. “I moved out of the house into an apartment.’ “Umm, maybe you should put the ring back on and we’ll try to work around what we’ve already shot,’ she said. I told her, “That’s a lot of footage to work around – I’ve been shooting seven days without it.’ And nothing more was ever said.”
But Rex, isn’t that kind of risky? wonders a reporter. What if you make the writers mad? Aren’t you afraid they’ll, say, have a sniper shoot you? The question makes Linn go a little pale – unknown to the reporter, there is a sniper in the “CSI: Miami” season finale, and at least one cast member ends the year in a pine box.
“I try to do everything I can to stay on the show,” Linn swears. “I love the show. But yeah, there are those paranoid moments when you open up a script and say, “God, I hope I don’t get run over by a milk truck this week.”‘
Aside from snipers and milk trucks, “CSI” cast members must worry about reporters, who are always trying to snake something incriminating out of them. Caruso, for his part, gave away what passes for a state secret in the “CSI” universe when he revealed that next season, “My jurisdiction widens and we begin our fifth season internationally.”