There are as many power lists in New York as there are Uber drivers. Most celebrate long-standing legends like Harvey Weinstein, Barbara Walters, and Michael Bloomberg. But there’s a new league of movers and shakers upending the entertainment business in Manhattan and beyond. These trailblazers tend to be more digitally savvy, entrepreneurial, and unafraid to ruffle feathers.
Courtesy of Kate McKinnon/Seth Meyers/Keri Russell
By: Bill Clinton
I’m glad Chelsea chose to be a New Yorker. It gives Hillary and me more time with her, Marc, and their children, and our grandchildren are growing up in one of the world’s most diverse, exciting, creative communities. New York is perfect for her: People celebrate our diversity and cherish our common humanity, lift each other up and push each other forward.
For a youngish editor, Ben Smith has been around the block and around it again: The Indianapolis Star, The Baltic Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Sun, The Observer, The News, Politico, and a raft of city blogs. I say that not because it is unusual for a journalist of Ben’s generation or even mine, but because for years, it now seems, he was circling a runway that was unknown even to him. The internet in its 2.0 iteration, the age of virality, provided it.
I first met Leslie Jones at “SNL.” She was a new writer and I was a terrified first-time host being shuttled from office to office to hear pitches. Every conversation was a blur of clever puns and Harvard-dude ingenuity (not knocking that approach, but it was different than mine). When I sat down in Leslie’s office, my entire body breathed a sigh of relief: She was open about her own anxieties but so funny it didn’t matter, and she pitched a sketch in which I played Jesus’ prospective publicist.
In the last week, Ivanka opened a $200-million hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, unveiled a legislative policy to benefit working families, and managed to do the first day of school drop-offs and pick-ups for our children — all before Wednesday.
In 2002, I saw Michelle Williams in a Mike Leigh play called “Smelling a Rat.” She was very young. She hobbled onto the stage in very high heels — platforms, maybe — saying in a really good and extremely strange English accent, “Daddy? Daddy?” I thought she was great. It was a bizarre, hugely bold characterization. You don’t often see a pretty blond ingenue commit that fully to such an odd character turn. You rarely see anyone paint a character in such colorful strokes while remaining emotionally truthful. It seemed as though the character was out of her mind, not the actor.
Don and I first met years ago — I gave him jazz for once making fun of me on the air, and he teased me for being too sensitive. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. He watches my show and I watch his sometimes, and we’ll text each other during the commercial breaks with thoughts on the news or the guests.
I love going out to dinner in New York City. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing since I came into the league. Getting a big group of friends or teammates together for a good meal surrounded by the energy of the city — there’s nothing like it. And I love what my good friend Jeff and his partners, Rich and Mario, are doing with their restaurants that are about more than just food: It’s about the experience. Good vibe, good food, and good people — that’s what I’m looking for. And his spots get it right every time.
Lena Dunham texts me every morning the minute she wakes up to make sure I’m alive. That might seem insane to you. I’m not completely sure why she does it. It might be love. It might be a morbid curiosity. It might be her OCD.
I admire women who manage to balance family and keep their careers moving forward. I just think there’s so much more that goes into that for a woman than there is for a guy. I watched Megyn Kelly on TV during various periods of her pregnancies, still getting up, going to work, being prepared.
One of the things we’re most proud of at CBS is how “This Morning” has brought hard news back in the morning, and in a very inviting way. If you watch that show from 7a.m. to the first local break, you can leave the house feeling up-to-date on the most important news you need for the day.
She’s not new to my list! From the day I met Savannah, I knew there was something special about her. She was wide-eyed yet whip smart, confidant yet klutzy, she had a razor-sharp wit but never used it as a shield to hide her true self and deeper feelings. She was the real deal in every way.
With her sharp-elbowed analysis of political events, she has become the network’s biggest star. Her show’s recipe calls for painstakingly detailed fact-checking and reporting, which has lent her added credibility in a news cycle dominated by sound bites.
Courtesy of Rachel Maddow
Anchor, NBC News
Holt brought stability back to “NBC Nightly News” after a choppy period in the wake of Brian Williams’ dramatic 2015 exit. He has managed to fend off rivals — including ABC’s David Muir — by doubling down on news and traveling for big scoops to score a first-place finish in the ratings.
Courtesy of Lester Holt
Anchor, “Good Morning America”
His messy TV divorce from Kelly Ripa made headlines, but Strahan’s affable persona made sure it didn’t cost him any fans. In fact, his star continues to rise at ABC, where he shares top billing on “GMA.” The retired New York Giants defensive end is putting that skill to good use, trying to keep rival “Today” from gaining ground in the morning-show race.
Courtesy of Michael Strahan
Host, “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”
This former “Daily Show” correspondent has taken the late-night field by storm with a weekly TBS program that holds nothing back. Bee’s foul-mouthed rants routinely go viral as viewers rely on her caustic humor to vent their built-up frustration over the polarized political landscape.
Courtesy of Samantha Bee
Showrunner, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
The executive who helped create “Morning Joe” and “CBS This Morning” is being counted on to rescue “The Late Show” at CBS. He’s trying to close the gap with Jimmy Fallon through a focus on daily headlines and such strategies as sending Colbert to the recent national party conventions.
Courtesy of Chris Licht
CEO, Thrillist Media Group
Lerer was a decade ahead of his time when he launched Thrillist in 2004 as a collection of food and travel sites. Now the business has finally caught up with him, and he just got a $54 million investment from German media company Axel Springer. “It sort of feels like 10 years post-launch, Thrillist is an ‘overnight’ success,” says Lerer.
Courtesy of Ben Leher
Head of content, Vice Media
Everyone knows that Vice is the food-fight guest at the big-media dinner table. Founder Shane Smith may get most of the ink, but it’s Hunter who helps the company keep its edge, by overseeing Vice’s video and editorial arms.
Courtesy of Ciel Hunter
Philippe Von Borries and Justin Stefano
Co-CEOs and founders, Refinery29
From its origins in a Brooklyn apartment, female-focused Refinery29 has bloomed into a global digital-media operation with 400-plus employees. Its growth and focus on original video productions have pulled traditional media companies into its orbit: Turner Broadcasting led a $45 million financing round this summer, joining existing investors including WPP, Hearst, and Scripps Networks Interactive.
Courtesy of Philippe Von Borries and Justin Stefano
With “The Humans,” a hilarious look at class divisions in New York, Karam landed his first Tony and announced himself as perhaps the pre-eminent playwright of his generation. His new Broadway adaptation of “The Cherry Orchard,” starring Diane Lane, opens next month.
Courtesy of Stephen Karam
After portraying Harry Potter in the most successful movie franchise in history, Radcliffe embraced his weird side, becoming a true New York stage actor (“Privacy” was a hot ticket Off Broadway) and headlining indie films like “Swiss Army Man,” in which he infamously played a farting corpse.
Courtesy of Daniel Radcliffe
His steady hand helped turned “Hamilton” into a cultural juggernaut and made “Grease: Live” a viral sensation for Fox. Now he’s orchestrating the “Hamilton” productions in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and London. Look for his influence to continue to grow via a new deal at 20th Century Fox TV.
Courtesy of Thomas Kail
Tour de force
You know why he’s on the list: His out-there impulse to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton with a hip-hop mix resulted in the hottest Broadway ticket of the decade. The astonishing success of “Hamilton” has made Miranda among the most in-demand creatives; Disney snagged him early for three projects (and counting), including a starring gig in the “Mary Poppins” sequel.
Few agents have a better Great White Way Rolodex. His clients include “A View From the Bridge” director Ivo van Hove, “The Color Purple” star Cynthia Erivo, “Eclipsed” playwright (and “Walking Dead” star) Danai Gurira, and Diane Lane, who will star in a revival of “The Cherry Orchard.”
The man who brokers Lin-Manuel Miranda’s deals also represents Tony winners Thomas Kail and Stephen Karam. When Disney pulls off its planned “Frozen” stage musical, look for Buzzetti to be at the table, representing Oscar-winning composers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
Courtesy of John Buzzetti
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Raves from Venice and Toronto confirm the Oscar frontrunner status of “La La Land.” These songsmiths wrote the lyrics for most of those catchy tunes, after working on a stage adaptation of “A Christmas Story” and TV’s “Smash.” Their buzzy “Dear Evan Hansen” comes to Broadway this fall, and they’re going further into Hollywood by composing music for DreamWorks Animations’ “Trolls” and the upcoming Hugh Jackman movie musical “The Greatest Showman on Earth.”
Courtesy of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Sarah Kate Ellis
She helped save the media advocacy organization from financial ruin. Then she was a thorn in Vladimir Putin’s side, drawing attention to the plight of LGBTQ Russians during the Sochi Olympics. Closer to home: Ellis successfully fought to overturn the longtime ban on gay participants in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The star of “The Americans” is at the top of her game as an actress, earning raves on the FX drama, which films in Brooklyn. This year, Emmy voters finally recognized her work with a best actress nomination. She navigated between her day job and her role in the Civil War big-screen drama “Free State of Jones” this year all while preparing for the arrival in June of son, Sam, a co-production with her boyfriend and “Americans” co-star, Matthew Rhys.
Courtesy of Keri Russell
Chairman/CEO, Turner Broadcasting
It’s been a busy few months for the leader of Time Warner’s biggest division. A resurgent CNN continues to build up its digital arsenal. TBS has moved into competitive gaming with ELeague, and TCM has entered the streaming arena. Martin is keeping his schedule full amid rumors that he’s a contender to succeed Jeff Bewkes as captain of the mothership.
Courtesy of John Martin
President of lifestyle networks, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment
The stylish Brit manages a portfolio of networks — Bravo, E! Entertainment, Esquire Network, Oxygen, and Sprout — that are equal parts sassy and trashy. Her latest endeavor was to push Bravo into the scripted-series realm with “The Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” and “Odd Mom Out.”
Courtesy of Frances Berwick
President and founder, Jax Media
He’s turned Jax into the production hub of choice for comedic stars looking to make content on a beer budget, with a client list that includes Amy Schumer, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson of “Broad City,” Jim Gaffigan, and Billy Eichner.
President, CBS News
The Eye has embraced the Internet Age under Rhodes’ leadership, after the launch last year of CBSN. Rhodes landed former “GMA” star Josh Elliott to be the public face of the 24-hour digital network. Even more impressive, after decades of languishing in the ratings, “CBS This Morning” finally has a pulse. It’s no surprise that the exec is on the Murdochs’ wish list to replace Roger Ailes.
Courtesy of David Rhodes
After six seasons on “Girls,” Driver made it to the big time with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” His work as the villainous Kylo Ren landed him on lunchboxes, but it’s his subtle turn as a bus driver with a poetic side in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” that impressed critics at Cannes. He’ll round out the year with Martin Scorsese’s “Silence.”
Courtesy of Adam Driver
CEO, Bleecker Street
The indie studio chief had one of the year’s biggest art-house hits with “Eye in the Sky,” a drone thriller that racked up nearly $20 million at the domestic box office. He also helped land an Oscar nomination for Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo.” This fall, he’ll try to fuel some awards heat for “Denial,” a courtroom drama that stars Rachel Weisz.
Courtesy of Andrew Karpen
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson
Show creators and actors
The faces behind Comedy Central’s sketch show “Broad City” are more than just funny women. Ilana and Abbi, who play exaggerated versions of themselves on the show, have become the poster girls for liberated, freewheeling feminism in New York City, their hometown.
Courtesy of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson
Not only did she write the new anthem for New York, “Empire State of Mind,” but the outspoken singer-songwriter brought attendees of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to their feet with a medley of her greatest hits. If Hillary Clinton wins, look for Keys to be a headliner at January’s inauguration.
Courtesy of Alicia Keys
Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker
Co-founders, Nine Stories
Gyllenhaal’s acting career has hit a creative peak, with critically acclaimed turns in “Nightcrawler,” “Southpaw,” and “Nocturnal Animals.” Now he’s teaming with Marker to produce projects for Nine Stories, including Denis Villeneuve’s “The Son,” Antoine Fuqua’s “The Man Who Made It Snow,” and a Broadway revival of “Burn This.”
Senior Correspondent, CNN
The “Reliable Sources” host has long owned the media beat, but he’s now become one of the breakout TV journalists of the 2016 election cycle. He’s held the press accountable in its coverage of both presidential candidates and led the analysis on Trump’s loose relationship with facts.
Courtesy of Brian Stelter
Host, “The Tonight Show”
After a 42-year hiatus in Los Angeles, Fallon was able to successfully bring “The Tonight Show” back to New York. He’s kept the NBC franchise at No. 1 in the ratings by challenging celebrites, from Tina Fey to Celine Dion, to games, skits, and sing-alongs.
Courtesy of Jimmy Fallon
Chief content officer, WME/IMG
The former CEO of Dick Clark Prods. and Six Flags has his work cut out for him, trying to integrate IMG’s fashion and sports representation into WME following the 2014 merger of the two agencies, and seeking out new revenue streams. If it works, the combined company could be the unrivaled king of the talent-agency landscape — a one-stop shop for artists, designers, and athletes.
Courtesy of Mark Shapiro
The documentary filmmaker recently examined Ol’ Blue Eyes in “Sinatra: All or Nothing at All” for HBO. Now he plans to turn “Zero Days,” an investigation into the computer malware the U.S. used on an Iranian nuclear facility, into a drama series. And he still found time to direct an episode of Showtime’s “Billions.”
Courtesy of Alex Gibney
After McKinnon won an Emmy for her work on “Saturday Night Live,” the subject of her best-known impersonation, Hillary Clinton, couldn’t resist tweeting out her congratulations. McKinnon is also branching into movies, with a scene-stealing role in last summer’s “Ghostbusters.”
Courtesy of Kate McKinnon
Founder, Thrive Capital
Thrive recently closed a new $700 million fund. Kushner previously made bank with stakes in Instagram, Warby Parker, and Slack. A Democrat, he has publicly steered clear of this year’s presidential battle despite his family ties to the GOP nominee. (He’s the brother of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared.)
As an agent who specializes in alternative TV programming, Lonker has been instrumental in packaging a smattering of buzzy projects, ranging from National Geographic’s “Mars” to the CNN docu-series “Race to the White House.” He’s also carved out a niche with traditional print brands, working with the likes of Condé Nast and New York magazine to develop TV programming.
Courtesy of Scott Lonker
Hilary Estey McLoughlin
Executive consultant, ABC News
The former Telepictures president has abandoned Los Angeles for New York, lending her producer chops to ABC News as an executive consultant. She helped steer the ratings turnaround on “The View” by bringing back Joy Behar and landing big political gets like Hillary Clinton. She also serves as an adviser for “Good Morning America.”
Courtesy of Hilary Estey McLoughlin
Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy
Founders/Producers, Parts & Labor
These no-frills producers have backed auteur-driven indies like “Beginners,” “The Witch,” and “Little Men.” Most recently, they boarded a seven-week road trip to oversee the unconventional shoot of Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey.”
Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy
After tackling Edward Snowden in Oscar-winning “Citizenfour,” Poitras returns to the world of hackers and state secrets: “Risk,” her latest film, focuses on WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.
Courtesy of Laura Poitras
New York City Film Commissioner
She’s been in the job for less than a year, but Menin is already earning respect from the filmmaking community for being more accessible than her predecessor, Cynthia Lopez. Menin is tasked with making sure studios see the city as an affordable place to work by talking up its film incentives.
Courtesy of Julie Menin
Producer/Partner, Anonymous Content
Sugar is fresh off a best picture Oscar victory for “Spotlight.” Expectations are high for “Collateral Beauty,” a Will Smith drama about a grieving ad executive. On the small screen, he’s helping to oversee a third season of “The Knick,” as well as “Maniac,” a new Netflix series from Cary Fukunaga that stars Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.
With a client list that includes Christoph Waltz, Cillian Murphy, and Patrick Stewart, Schweitzer navigates the worlds of film, television, and theater. It’s been a banner year for his talent: Cuba Gooding Jr. carried “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” Frank Langella won a Tony for “The Father,” and Rebecca Ferguson snagged star-making roles in “The Girl on the Train” and the upcoming “Mission: Impossible 6.”
Courtesy of Adam Schweitzer
Host, “Late Night With Seth Meyers”
Johnny Carson never let viewers know his political leanings, but Meyers doesn’t adhere to that rule. He has found new footing by throwing sharp jabs at Donald Trump. His “A Closer Look” segments are mini masterpieces of humor and political analysis, and his growing facility with chatting up guests has turned “Late Night” into a draw for authors, comedians, and alternative thinkers.