So Many Questions: Tina Huang says playing a scientist on ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ makes her more interested in forensics
When you play a senior criminalist on television, it’s hard to resist analyzing the real-life cases that pop up in the daily news.
Just ask actress Tina Huang, who plays Susie Chang on the TNT drama, “Rizzoli & Isles.” The series, which premiered its sixth season June 16, follows detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) as they solve intricate crimes plaguing the Boston area.
Unlike her roles as Dr. Linda Chu on ABC’s “General Hospital” and Lily Park in Nickelodeon’s “Hollywood Heights,” this one required Huang to get a little down and dirty with some serious scientific terminology. After all those takes, “I can say gas chromatography pretty good,” she says with a laugh.
Question: How often do you find yourself trying to determine causes of death in real-life crimes?
Answer: Actually, it’s funny. Because of the show, I met a medical examiner, and she took me to the crime lab over in downtown L.A., and I saw the forensics labs there. Since then, all I do is try to figure out why that crime happened, how it happened. The most recent one was I looked up the case of the two 16-year-olds who took their friend out in the woods and stabbed her to death. Why would they do that? They didn’t have a motivation. The motivation was that they basically didn’t want to be her friend anymore. I do wonder about all that. My husband is also a scientist, so he’s always telling me what I’m doing wrong. I’m taking off my gloves wrong, I’m cross-contaminating everything. I’m basically the worst.
Q: Did you become familiar with real-life crime labs to prep for your role?
A: Yeah. I actually thought that all these shows were really flashy and high tech. But this new center in L.A. is really high tech. Going there was really cool and eye-opening to see that everything we do on TV is really substantiated in reality. And because my husband’s a scientist, I spent a lot of time in his lab and learning how to pronounce things, which is probably the most challenging thing and embarrassing enough. When they yell action, the science terms are really difficult to get out of your lips.
Q: Is there someone on set who gives you a breakdown of the forensics technology you’re using and why?
A: On some shows, they have a medical consultant. We actually don’t have one. We do have an ex-detective from Boston PD. And usually the props guys do a lot of research coming in, but we don’t have one designated medical consultant.
Q: Is that intimidating?
A: It is, but everyone’s so cool on set that if I have questions, everyone just pulls together and figures out what is the most realistic thing. We get to fudge some things for TV. You usually don’t get results in 40 minutes or an hour.
Q: What would surprise people about the science of forensics?
A: Well, maybe it wouldn’t surprise people, but like archaeology, it seems so romanticized and exciting but, actually, it’s painstaking work. It’s very methodical and detail-oriented. It’s not like one machine spits out an answer.