Shop talk: Clyde Phillips

Outgoing 'Dexter' boss thankful for dream job

Shop Talk with Showrunners
Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse | Tina Fey and Robert Carlock | Brad Falchuk | Jeff Schaffer | Alan Ball | Vince Gilligan | Steven Levitan | Greg Daniels | Robert King | Clyde Phillips

Your hardest decision as showrunner?
When you have to fire somebody. It’s always the worst moment for a showrunner.

Your favorite moment as a showrunner?
When you’re in the groove. When first draft scripts come in in great shape. When first cuts come in in great shape. Suddenly you’re a genius … ’til you’re not.

Your biggest fight with the network?
Actually, it wasn’t a fight. We had a script we thought was ready to shoot. Then the network called with huge notes, wanting huge changes. Turns out, after all the bitching and moaning, they were right, and we ended up with one of our best episodes. But it was a long, tough weekend for all of us who had to turn that script around.

What’s your reaction when you’re recognized by a fan of show?
The first thing I always ask is, ‘How did you hear of “Dexter”?’ It’s so gratifying to be working so hard, to be putting your ego and self on the line and to have it lauded. Also, as a writer, I’m used to working in relative obscurity, so to actually be recognized is surprising, maybe even humbling.

Your best collaborative moment on the set or with a network?
Working with Michael C. Hall. He’s so talented and committed. Every time he has a note on a scene, the script just gets better. Sure, sometimes it’s just a matter of tweaking something to make it sound better, sometimes it’s more — but his instincts are infallible. He lives inside Dexter’s skin year after year, and if something doesn’t ring true for him, we listen.

Your favorite “happy accident” in writing or producing the show?
It’s not any one specific thing. When I’m writing and struggling with a scene, I’ll often just put my legal pad down (yes, I still write in longhand) and wait for the characters (whose voices I can hear in my head after four years) to speak to me. Thank God, they always do. And thank God, I listen.

“I wanted to give up when …”
Even when things are their darkest, even when you just want to get in the car and never come back, it’s still the best job in the world. There was one particularly hard day when I just wanted to chuck it all. I was walking back from the stage to my office (we shoot at Sunset Gower), and there up on the hill was the Hollywood sign. I stopped to appreciate it and where I was in my career and in my life … and went up to my office and dealt with whatever was plaguing me that day.

Which shows have influenced your show?
We’re sort of in a new golden age of television, standing on the shoulders of the giants of the first golden age. Personally, I’ve been affected by the aggressive and honest storytelling of wonderful shows like “The Wire,” “The Shield” and “Sopranos.”

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