Stephanie SenGupta favorite flavor of ice cream is Godiva's Belgian Dark Chocolate.
Stephanie SenGupta: (on the Santa Mug that moves between Goren and Eames desk on Law & Order: Criminal Intent) The Santa Mug was a gift to Eames from her dad, who was also a cop. It was his old eggnog mug. Goren likes it and won it from her once in a bet. She then won it back. It goes back and forth between their desks depending on which one of them has most recently won it in a bet.
Stephanie SenGupta: (on her favorite episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent) "The Faithful" will probably always be my favorite because it was my first produced episode of television. My favorite overall CI episode changes depending on the day.
Stephanie SenGupta: (on co-authoring Mandatory Injustice: Case Histories of Women Convicted under New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws?) Yes, I did write them. I worked for the Correctional Association's Juvenile Rights Project while I was at NYU, and wrote those case histories for their Women In Prison Project when the person initially hired to write them bowed out. The writer on the project before me had identified the women who were to be profiled. I went to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility to interview each of them, then wrote up the case histories. The idea was to humanize the women profiled and draw attention to some of the inequities wrought by New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws. Sadly, their stories are just a tip of the iceberg.
My interest in the criminal justice system began when I was a kid, and is the result of my growing up in a biracial, politically active household. When I graduated from college it was quickly apparent that making a living as a playwright wasn't in the stars for me. I went to law school because I wanted to provide high quality legal representation to indigent criminal defendants.
Stephanie SenGupta: (on growing up and going to school) I was born in Washington, D.C., and spent a good chunk of my childhood in Minneapolis, MN. I got my B.A. in political philosophy from Carleton College, my J.D. from Washington & Lee University and my M.F.A. in playwriting from NYU's Tisch School. I practiced law in Brooklyn, NY before going for my M.F.A. I was a trial attorney with the Juvenile Rights Division of The Legal Aid Society of New York City, where I represented children in abuse/neglect cases as well as in criminal cases – everything from fare beats to homicides.
Stephanie SenGupta: (on Goren's backstory in Law & Order: Criminal Intent) Goren's hypervigilance is something that is part of his character due to his backstory. The traumatic impact of having a schizophrenic primary caretaker is something René emphasized from before we ever began writing episodes. In fact, while we were writing the character and backstory "Bible" for Goren, Dr. Park Dietz came to our office and advised us on how that might impact the character's development in numerous ways, including his hypervigilance to affect. Goren's hypervigilance to scents is a product of his father's trauma-inducing behavior, as he frequently smelled alcohol and other women on his father's clothes. Goren's childhood environment was constantly and traumatically unstable, and it did involve sporadic acts of physical violence.
Stephanie SenGupta: (on consulting with experts and advisers while writing for Law & Order: Criminal Intent) I consult with the experts at the story-breaking phase on an as-needed basis. In one episode I may spend a lot of time talking to our forensic pathologist, and then I might not speak to him again until several episodes later. The one exception is that I always have at least one conversation with Dr. Dietz, the forensic psychiatrist who consults for the show, as early in the story-breaking process as possible.
Stephanie SenGupta: (on writing stories written from the headlines) Each writer on the show works separately with René, and we all have our own unique processes. René assigns the stories, and he's always pretty clear that the "headline" is simply a starting point.
I approach all my CI scripts in exactly the same way because I'm anal, and because having a ritual helps get me in the mood. Once assigned a "headline" or story, I write up a brief memo to René concerning what I think the story is about thematically. He reads it, comments and once we're on the same page about theme, we start breaking the story. I'll start by coming up with what I call a "Sample Teaser" and René reads that before we meet for the first time. Then we have a story meeting and beat out the Real Teaser (which typically bears little resemblance to the Sample). Then I come up with a "Sample Act I" and we do it all again until we have a complete beat sheet. The Samples are just jumping off points for the beginning of a dialogue and it works well for me and for the way René and I work together.
Once the story's all beat out, I write a first draft of the script and give it to René. He reads it, makes notes on the draft, faxes it back to me for a rewrite, which I then turn back in to René. René then does a final polish on the script and it's published to the production office, the network and studio.
Stephanie SenGupta: (on her Bengali background) Yes, I'm half Indian. My dad's from Kolkata, in West Bengal. My mother's American, with French ancestry.
Stephanie SenGupta: (if she has a background in psychology) Nope. But Criminal Intent has given me a crash course in it. Dr. Park Dietz, who's a consultant for the show, gave me a reading list when the show first started, and that helped me immensely.
Stephanie SenGupta: (on her future writing plans) At the moment, my dream is to finish the Criminal Intent script I'm currently working on. Beyond that, I hope to be able to continue writing quality television.
I'd still be writing, and would do whatever was necessary to support my writing habit. There's a great quote from Preston Sturges: "When the last dime is gone, I'll sit on the curb with a pencil and a ten-cent notebook, and start the whole thing over again." That'd be me
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