TV Producers on Trump Presidency: ‘It’s a Traumatic Event for the Country’

Donald Trump

AUSTIN, Texas — A day after the nation was captivated by the James Comey hearings, some of TV’s top producers gathered at the ATX Television Festival to discuss the effects of Trump’s presidency on their storytelling.

The “Television in a Trumped Up America” panel, which was moderated by Michael Schneider, IndieWire’s executive editor and Variety’s editor-at-large, featured Javier Grillo-Marxuach (“The Middleman”), Michael Rauch (“Royal Pains,” “Instinct”), Julie Plec (“The Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals”), Beau Willimon (“House of Cards,” “The First”), Liz Tigelaar (“Casual”), and Paul Garnes (“Queen Sugar,” “Underground”).

“It’s become a negotiation in terms of what you’re able to do as an artist creatively in terms of being able to hold a mirror up to society,” said Willimon. “But that process is not immediate. It takes time.” He added, “Whether you support Trump or not, it’s still a traumatic event for the country in terms of the schisms. We will be contending with those ripples for decades to come.”

The producers acknowledged that the surprise results of the election impacted the stories they’d planned to tell, many of which were already well underway. For “Casual,” it meant changing the storyline for Laura (Tara-Lynne-Barr). “It definitely impacted Laura’s story,” said Tigelaar. “We decided with her we were going to go a more political route. These characters don’t shy away from their opinions…. We were able to create for Laura a more political backdrop, which we would not have occurred to us to do if that hadn’t happened.”

Garnes, who works on WGN’s “Underground,” said, “It caused us to reframe what the show was.” He also talked about the monologue that Aisha Hinds performs in the episode “Minty” as Harriet Tubman. “The election influenced (executive producer) Misha’s tone in that monologue…Are you a citizen or are you a soldier?”

He also referenced the other show he works on, “Queen Sugar.” Added Garnes, “One of my EPs on ‘Queen Sugar’ thought she should run for president, and that’s Oprah.”

Plec said the election spurred her to abandon a storyline that fans would have wanted but which had a female character getting beaten up by a male character. The script came in the day after the election, she recounted. “We killed the love story that day,” she said. “Your conscious can’t advocate that kind of violence and lean into that.”

The producers said the political activism spurred up by the election had a clear impact on the Writers Guild negotiations back in May.

“In a lot of our meetings leading up, it was very much in the context of a Trump America, as organized labor, that there was a political moment here,” said Willimon, who serves on the council for the guild. “The only way things happen is when you stand up for yourself. This was not a time in our nation’s history to sit down and be quiet and hope for the best. Nothing happens unless you make it happen. Those conversations happening within the union are not ones that have been happening to that level in years past….There’s a charged political consciousness happening among the screenwriters and television writers that you’re going to see percolating into almost everything you watch.”

Grillo-Marxauch agreed. “There’s a direct correlation between the quality of the deal we got from management and the election of Donald Trump,” he said. “A lot of that displaced anger led to us saying authorize that strike vote by 96 percent. People were generally looking for someone to stick it to, who’d been sticking it to us. And I do believe that the militancy that the guild showed is directly influenced by that. And that’s going to wind up on TV screens at some point.”

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  1. Star says:

    Whine on.

  2. Kevin Stevens says:

    Seriously, if only I could get laid more than one time a month I would stop watching these horrible movies and tv shows these idiots make. I can’t stand Liberal Hollywood. Talk about being hypocrites. Hey, I am all for them partying and spending their money to support important causes, but don’t belittle common sense Americans into your dumbness. Obviously, I would change my tune if Adriana Lima would just agree to let me spritz her with baby oil.

  3. Lex says:

    The new ‘Ghostbusters’ movie was a traumatic event for me and I didn’t even see the thing it was so terrible. No doubt, lives would of been saved if they had put out an actually good film. :)

  4. Matt says:

    So, there will be more left wing regressive propaganda inserted into entertainment in a vain attempt to influence what these pretentious D-bags view as the mindless masses. What the hell is wrong with these people (or things since they seem to have abandoned humanity a long time ago)?

    90% of entertainment and news is already inundated with this BS and it didn’t help them one bit in the election, so they double down in the hopes that they can whip their comrades into a blind fury. The problem is that their comrades have been blind and furious for years and all they have to show for it are violent protests, bumper stickers, and the weakening of the first amendment on college campuses across America. Great job there, morons. Newsflash: no one cares about the political views of actors, musicians, screenwriters, producers, and studio heads. Their job is to entertain us, not act as the Joseph Goebbels of the establishment. They are not experts and many of them are flat out uneducated since they took theater classes instead of political science, American History, or Ethics. Rationality has disappeared in la la land, Madison Avenue, and the swamps of Washington.

    Opportunities abound for the true rebel culture in America: actual conservatism and libertarianism. Some bright entrepreneur is going to make a killing by providing entertainment to the half of the country that Hollywood hates. We fight against the actual establishment (the ones stealing money out of your pockets in order to give more power to their corrupt elements in our government and bureaucracy), while the brain dead support A-fa (standing for Actual fascists because their actions speak much louder than their oxymoronic name) and other regressive groups that align closer to Bolsheviks than the Founding Fathers.

  5. Kaboom! says:

    It’s not a traumatic event for the country. It’s only an traumatic event for Hollywood and the Newsmedia. The mistake they are making is not realizing that the rest of America is tuning out and turning them off. Realization will only happen when the advertisers figure out their money is being wasted and reduce their expenditures.

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