'Level 26' character to be incorporated into 'CSI'
Anthony Zuiker is introducing two of his children to each other.The creator and executive producer of “CSI” plans to incorporate the villain from his “Level 26” book series into a special episode of “CSI” — the first step in a cross-platform experiment that brings the producer’s interests closer together. Sqweegel, a character Zuiker created as a “forensic proof” serial killer, will match wits with the characters played by Laurence Fishburne and Marg Helgenberger in the Oct. 14 episode that features a guest shot from Ann-Margret. Daniel Browning Smith, whom the Guinness Book of World Records lists as the world’s most flexible man, will play the role, producing some eye-popping effects. And the violence level will be high. Zuiker told Daily Variety that he’s been immersed in the world of forensic science since 1998. “You can imagine the level of research I’ve had access to. I talk to a lot of law enforcement agencies,” he said. “I have a lot of information at my fingertips that the public doesn’t have. … With Sqweegel, ‘CSI’ has met its match.” The episode, penned by Zuiker (his first since returning to day-to-day work on the show), will air the same day the latest book in the series, “Level 26: Dark Prophecy,” is released. But that’s just the start of the campaign. A website offering further background on the character and a community for fans of the book to congregate is already open and has collected more than 100,000 members since the launch of the series’ first installment. Upon launch of the new book, the site will also feature a series of “cyber-bridges,” digital short films that tell a backstory tying in with the book’s plot. It’s a formula Zuiker used for the first book in the series, “Level 26: Dark Origins.” The concept was warmly received, and the book made the New York Times extended bestseller’s list. This time, though, instead of 20 out-of-context cyber-bridges, he says he plans a one-hour motion picture (featuring Justine Bateman) that will be cut into 10 or 11 pieces. Readers will unlock keys to each chapter, which can be watched on the site, as they read. And roughly two weeks after the book hits stores, Zuiker plans to launch an iPad application that contains the entire book — and several interactive extras. “The ideal consumption experience is really on something like the iPad,” he says. “Words pulse as you read them and you can flick your finger and a gunshot hole appears on the screen. It allows you to collect evidence that leads to a separate storyline.” The digi-novel app will also feature the entire collection of cyber-bridge shorts. Traditional readers, who prefer a straightforward experience, will be able to read the book via the app in standard form as well. The Sqweegel character was killed at the end of the first “Dark Origins” book, but hints were given that another was already lurking, setting up the sequel. The character, though, is a viciously violent one whose rituals aren’t the sort of thing one would expect to see in primetime. (The rituals include shaving every hair from his body and coating himself with butter before slithering into a full latex body suit and brutally torturing and killing people.) But Zuiker said fans of the book will be quite pleased to see how he transitions Sqweegel to television. “The visceral nature of the character has been honored from book one, to the TV show, to book two,” he said. “We didn’t compromise the artistic integrity of the character.”