Grae Matter

On a moonlit night in New York City, detective Kate Beckett and mystery novelist Richard Castle investigate a murder.

While examining the body, the beautiful and alluring Beckett notices that someone has written on the victim’s cheek, “Your out of time.”

Castle is piqued. “I’m just saying whoever killed her also murdered the English language,” he observes dryly in the opening scene of “The Double Down,” an episode of ABC’s mystery drama “Castle,” written and produced by David Grae ’89.

“I wanted to make it clear that Castle has a pet peeve with how people use language, because he’s a novelist,” says the Los Angeles-based Grae, 43, now co-executive producer.

In “Castle,” which returned this fall for a fourth season, the title character helps the NYPD — in particular, Beckett — solve crimes, all the while garnering gritty material to help create his next mystery book’s protagonist.

In the early episodes Beckett didn’t like Castle, but his unique insights helped solve many cases, much as Angela Lansbury’s mystery novelist Jessica Fletcher did on “Murder, She Wrote.” As the series has progressed, their mutual respect evolved into a sexual tension that so far has resisted the usual television outcome — much to the vexation of impatient fans.

So what keeps things fresh and exciting between Castle and Beckett? According to admirers, it’s great writing and acting.

“Each week, there are an intriguing murder mystery and likable characters. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic are so believable as Castle and Beckett: the pain-in-the-ass-Lothario-mystery-writer bad boy and the buttoned-up police detective,” says Grae. “I think the most important thing is to keep the characters true to themselves, yet still surprising, compelling, interesting, likable and funny.”

Susan Sullivan, who plays Castle’s mother, has high praise for Grae. “David captures not only my character’s voice, but also her underlying conflicts and desires. It is the contradictions that make a character fun to play,” says Sullivan.

Originally an actor, Grae was one class shy of completing a theater major at Brandeis, where he co-founded two improv groups: the Bare Essentials and Free Beer. After graduation, he acted in his native New York, wrote screenplays and co-founded the celebrated Gotham Writers’ Workshop.

“But I’d gotten bored with acting. I realized I enjoyed putting words in other people’s mouths more than I liked actually getting up there and saying other people’s words,” says Grae.

His big break came in 2003 with “Joan of Arcadia,” a quirky dramatic series in which a high school girl (played by Amber  Tamblyn) often spoke with God, who appeared in different human guises to drag her into important and often dramatic life lessons. “Joan” boasted a star-studded cast that also included Mary  Steenburgen, Joe Mantegna and Jason Ritter and — like “Castle” — inspired a devoted following.

“It’s amazing when all the elements come together the way they should — the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Grae explains. “Everyone adds to the final product. I think we very consistently put out a high–quality, entertaining show — that’s why I think we’re sticking around.”               

— Kurt Anthony Krug

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