I was asked by ABC Television and Disney Studios to create a skull, life-size skull photographs and facial drawings for use as “forensic” props on the television series Body of Proof with Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan. These photos show the scope of the project and how it actually appeared on the show. The Season 3 Finale episode (#313) was called “Daddy Issues”. It was written by Corey Miller, directed by John Terlesky and produced by Matthew Gross.
This is a shot taken on the set, courtesy of writer Corey Miller. An important element of the plot dealt with the dental morphology of an “unidentified victim”. As part of the consultation I did with the writer, I suggested that this dental detail would be a useful tool to add authenticity to the props I was preparing. I then modified an existing skull to add a large space between the maxillary central incisors called a diastema. This was done by individually sculpting the teeth and painting them in a naturalistic way. A corresponding photo of this gap-toothed “victim’s” skull was also created with the assistance of Dreamfly Creations.
A close-up of the gap-toothed dentition is shown. This fictitious “victim” needed the assistance of 2-dimensional facial reconstruction to aid with his identification! I assembled drawing boards for two different stages of filming. A life-size photo of the skull is overlaid with transparent vellum so that drawings can be done over the skull. I set up a partially complete drawing as well as the finished drawing so it could be shot in stages. This is a forensic art procedure that I developed in the early 1980s while working for the Texas Department of Public Safety. I am grateful to say that it has been used to identify many hundreds of actual homicide victims. I taught the method for over twenty years at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. I continue to teach this effective, direct method at the Scottsdale Artists’ School in Arizona.
This beautiful rainy shot was created by cinematographer Patrick Cady to showcase actress Jeri Ryan portraying Dr. Kate Murphy. As we have seen in previous episodes, Kate is a pathologist, but her first love is forensic art!
Various action shots show Kate diligently drawing. Jeri is so skillful and convincing at doing this “forensic art” that her fans on Twitter have actually asked her if she did the drawings and sculptures herself!
For actual forensic cases, anatomical formulas are used to develop the various facial features, whether drawing or sculpting the facial reconstruction. It is really gratifying when the producers of a scripted television program make such great efforts to authentically present forensic art and facial identification procedures.
It is always fun for me when a copy of my textbook, Forensic Art and Illustration, is used on the set in a shot. Thanks to Property Master Chris Call for that!
This is a cool view of how it all looks to those talented people involved in the hands-on production of the show.
One of my favorite comments in this episode is when actor Windell Middlebrooks (Curtis) gently pats the skull and says, “You’re in good hands, Mr. Doe.”
This shows the moment when Dana Delany (as Dr. Megan Hunt) sees Kate’s drawing and makes a mental connection that leads to his identification. She says, “That is the same guy!” And that’s just how forensic art is supposed to work!
This is the young actor, Daniel Blaine, whose face I used as a basis for the aged “facial reconstruction”. I gave input for the casting choice of this actor and he was selected because his face had distinctive bony elements that could be emphasized in the “reconstruction” drawing. He does not have the gappy teeth in real life, by the way. To really understand all of these plot elements, you have to watch the episode! I don’t want to be too much of a spoiler!