You may not know the name D.J. Reiter, but if you’re one of the millions of fans of the hit CBS prime time drama, “Numb3rs”, chances are you know his work. No, D.J. Reiter isn’t an actor, and you haven’t seen his face in a single episode. However, D.J. worked as a researcher for “Numb3rs” for two seasons, and also served a very prominent role on-screen during his time with the series. Read on to find out just which episodes you’ll “see” D.J. in, and in what capacity! Also, find out just how much of the math on “Numb3rs” is real, and what goes into crafting each episode from a researcher’s standpoint.
Interview With D.J. Reiter, Of Hit CBS Series, “Numb3rs”
Jennifer Waite: Hi, D.J.! Thanks for agreeing to this interview!
D.J. Reiter: Hi, Jenn. Thanks for asking about “Numb3rs”! I’m so happy to talk about one of the best experiences of my entire life!
Jennifer Waite: You were a researcher for the CBS show “Numb3rs” up until a few months ago, when season six wrapped. Can you explain to me a bit about what your job entailed, and tell me how long you worked for the show?
D.J. Reiter: I started working on “Numb3rs” at the beginning of Season 4. The “Numb3rs” Research department consisted of myself and Head Researcher, Matt Kolokoff. Matt and I worked together with the writing staff to ensure that every aspect of a script was real, or as real as we could possibly make it in the context of a hour-long procedural drama.
A good portion of our research was Internet based, however there were many times when Matt or I would have to reach out to an expert in various fields, which was not limited to such areas as chess, explosives, and chemicals!
One of my favorite stories to tell about my job on “Numb3rs” is that, during Season 5, we had an episode about a train crash. I had to learn everything you could possibly want to know about trains: how they crash, what happens when they crash, who is in charge, the operations of a 21st-century train, how much of train control is computerized and how much of it is still human operated. It was indeed, “Everything you wanted to learn about trains, but were afraid to ask!”
During this research I found that there was a limit on that sort of information
JW: Sometimes you just never know where the best information will come from! Did you have a lot of opportunities to get to know any of the on-screen cast members, such as Judd Hirsch, David Krumholtz, Rob Morrow or Diane Farr?
D.J.: One of the aspects of my job that I really treasured was that I got to experience every aspect of the “Numb3rs” production; I noted above that I worked hand in hand with the writers as a researcher, but I also got the opportunity to be on set; as I served as the “handwriting” for many of the characters.
During my interview for the research position, “Numb3rs” Co-Creator, Cheryl Heuton, asked me, “So how’s your handwriting?” That’s not a question you usually expect to be asked during a job interview, and I blurted out, “Oh, its pretty good!”
During the last three seasons of ‘Numb3rs”, anything that appeared on a blackboard, white board, clear glass board or any other writing surface was my handwriting. Initially, my handwriting was just for David Krumholtz’s character, Charlie Eppes. As the seasons progressed, I also provided the handwriting for Navi Rawat’s character, Amita Ramanujan, and Peter MacNicol’s character, Larry Fleinhardt.
Being the “handwriting” for those characters, I got the opportunity not only to interact on set with them, but also with the other actors and crew members. Truth be told, before I started working on “Numb3rs” I never thought I had good handwriting. Turns out I was wrong!
JW: I will be re-watching episodes now, looking for any blackboard scenes! Now, the basic premise of the television series, “Numb3rs”, centers around the characters using complex mathematics as a tool for solving crimes. How much of that math is real, and how much of it is conveniently added later to “make” the story work?
D.J.: First and foremost, the math that is used on the show is real. Every algorithm and theory — all absolutely 100% real! There was a line used in the pilot episode of “Numb3rs”: “We all use math every day.” That ideal was applied to every episode.
Matt and I worked hand in hand with a team of math consultants from Wolfram Research and with Professor Gary Lorden of CalTech. These guys are true geniuses! I was constantly in awe of how these very complex math theories/concepts came so easily to them! They assisted Matt and I to ensure that what “Numb3rs” writers wanted to do with a particular episode meshed with appropriate math concepts.
Additionally, Matt and I created a math addendum for every episode. The addendum consisted of a scene-by-scene break down of what math concepts were being used in a particular episode and moreover what was going to be depicted in a scene that involved math — in terms of equations, graphs, charts and the like.
JW: Wow! That sounds like a lot of in-depth planning each week. “Numb3rs” began airing in 2004, and the series turned out to be the most popular show during its time-slot for the first several seasons. However, “Numb3rs” is currently thought to be on the CBS chopping block following a weaker fifth season, and a shortened sixth season. Can you confirm or deny that the series has been canceled?
D.J..: Talk about a loaded question! Ha! I don’t feel at all that season five was considered to be a “weaker season.” In terms of story lines and episodes, I feel that Season 5 was one of the strongest. If you’re going on ratings, “Numb3rs” consistently ensured that CBS consistently won Friday nights. We were usually the #1 show in our time slot. To answer the question though, I cannot confirm or deny that “Numb3rs” has been canceled.
JW: Fair enough! I had to ask. Is there anything else in particular you think fans of “Numb3rs” would find interesting that they probably don’t already know? Any interesting or funny stories you’d like to share?
D.J.: What I would like all of the “Numb3rs” fans to know is that I could not have asked for a better experience. Coming into the job, I had never worked on a television show before, so I did not really know what to expect. But I was welcomed into the “Numb3rs” family — and that’s what it really is, a family. I was not on set every day, but the times when I would be; to write out equations on a blackboard, or to create a graph, for example, I was never treated and never felt like an outsider. I loved being at “Numb3rs” and in turn, they loved having there!
JW: And fans loved watching; in fact, they still do! Thanks for the inside scoop, D.J.! I appreciate it!
D.J.: My pleasure, Jenn. Like I said at the start of the interview, it truly has been one of the best experiences of my life!