Primetime Emmy Elite: The Showrunners 2012

Writers of smallscreen’s most-honored series gathered for breakfast Sept. 21 to discuss the craft, and what keeps them up at night.

Julian Fellowes (and Gareth Neame)
“Downton Abbey”

Out of all the British upstairs-downstairs dramas in TV history, why do you think this one is possibly resonating better than any of them?
“I would say that ‘The Forsyte Saga’ in the 1960s, and ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ in the 1970s both had a similar nationwide response, and I am flattered that our show should be in such company. But maybe there is something about the insecurity that is in the air today, the recession, the euro wars, etc., that makes a seemingly more ordered time feel attractive. Of course, in actual fact, the decade of 1912 to 1922 was fraught with revolution and change, but it doesn’t look like that to us.”

 

Alex Gansa
“Homeland”

What lessons did you learn from the first season of “Homeland” that you take into season two?
“In a show like ‘Homeland,’ there are certain thriller tropes people expect to see. What we learned during the first season was to deliver them earlier than the audience expected. In the pilot, it looked like the surveillance would be a big element of the series, but then we shut it down after three episodes. Everyone knew Carrie and Brody would sleep together at some point, but it happened abruptly in the fifth episode, instead of being drawn out over a couple of seasons.”

 

Vince Gilligan
“Breaking Bad”

Is there a bittersweet feeling now that you’re heading into the final eight episodes of “Breaking Bad”?
“Yes, I’m dreading the end of the series, particularly the thought of not being around this wonderful cast and crew after so many years together. However, those bittersweet feelings don’t change the fact that every show eventually runs its course. It truly is time for ‘Breaking Bad’ to end.”

 

Jenni Konner
“Girls”

From a production standpoint, what was the biggest learning curve in putting “Girls” together its first season?
“I’ve found its very important to go into a season having scripts prepared and ready to shoot. Because Lena has so many jobs, we need the writing portion completed so Lena can focus on acting and directing. I should mention that we have never ever done this and never even come close. But it would be really awesome if we did. Fingers crossed for next year!”

 

Terence Winter
“Boardwalk Empire”

There are always so many compelling storylines running through “Boardwalk.” What is the biggest challenge in fitting them all in?
“For me the challenge isn’t fitting all the storylines in as much as it is the pacing. It always comes down to how much information to dole out and when, or when to pick up a particular story line again, or whether we can take a break from it for an episode or two. ”

 

Others showrunners attending the breakfast: Matthew Weiner, “Mad Men”; Steven Levitan, “Modern Family”; Armando Iannucci, “Veep”; and Jeff Schaffer, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

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