Ryan Murphy learned the ropes of writing as a journalist, and that deadline-driven training has served him well as a mulithyphenate working in film, TV and perhaps theater soon.
At a QandA sesh Tuesday at the PromaxBDA confab in Los Angeles, the showrunner reflected on his career trajectory and offered some insight into his upcoming moves.
During his days as a journo, Murphy said that “After I had interviewed Cher five times, I was like, ‘I think I need to do something else.'” However, the stress of the deadline-driven reporter environment instilled in Murphy a strong writer’s work ethic. Because of that, he says he now “never has writer’s block” because as a journalist he was told, “if you can’t deliver three stories a day, you don’t get paid.”
When it comes to pitching, Murphy said the key to his success is that he “never goes in and says what the show is about.” The audience at PromaxBDA laughed, but Murphy emphasized, “I talk about the theme first. For ‘Glee,’ I said I want to write about underdogs, and optimism, and a blue-sky show…and a musical. By the time I got to ‘musical,’ they were hooked. For ‘American Horror Story’ I said, ‘I want to write about infidelity…oh, and it’s horror.'” Murphy is also able to land A-list talent simply “expressing a strong passion for that actor’s work.”
Currently, Murphy is neck deep in projects, often working weekends, and has dreams of directing on Broadway. The writer quipped, “For the first time in my life I’m curious about Adderall.” His newest skein and first go at a half hour comedy. NBC’s “The New Normal,” is based on his own personal experience, and noted, “When you see the show, a lot of it has happened to me.” Murphy also mentioned using his own life as inspiration for his other series such as “Glee” and “Nip/Tuck.”
Overall, Murphy enjoys penning women’s roles, as he says “with women, it’s more easy as a writer to access emotional stuff.” But when asked about the challenges of television, Murphy initially joked that the “first thing that came to mind is good lighting!” However, upon some reflection, he stated, “Sometimes an audience doesn’t like to see a character evolve.” He as a creative head, then, must walk a “fine line” while progressing a storyline and pleasing his ever-growing fan base.
As for the evolution of the “Glee” storyline, Murphy doesn’t have the plot entirely sorted out but has already planned the final scene of the series. “It involves Lea,” he teased for the audience, and then smiled, giving nothing else away.