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Fearlessness powers Diane English

'Murphy Brown' creator wins WGA Chayefsky honor

Screenwriter Diane English is known for creating strong female characters. The most famous: Murphy Brown — a smart, aggressive, independent broadcast journalist played by Candice Bergen in the Emmy-winning CBS sitcom of the same name that ran from 1988-98.

“Diane is a terrific, fearless and funny writer who was never afraid to tackle any subject — from single motherhood to breast cancer survival — with wit, honesty and above all, humanity,” Bergen says.

Before creating “Murphy,” English wrote and produced ’80s CBS sitcoms, “Foley Square” and “My Sister Sam.” It was her work on the 1980 PBS feature film, “Lathe of Heaven,” that brought her to Hollywood and earned her a Writers Guild nom. She later won that award for “Murphy.”

English says her college major in playwriting helped develop her chops.

“You learn structure and character, and you don’t have anything but the proscenium,” she says. “You have to be creative. It’s the basics. You can’t be Picasso unless you know how to draw a real face, then you can turn it upside down.”

In the ’90s, English worked on more sitcoms, creating multiple Emmy-nominated “Love and War” (CBS), co-creating “Double Rush” (CBS) and “Ink” (CBS) and executive producing “Living in Captivity” (Fox).

It was her childhood years in Buffalo, N.Y., that honed her comedic side. “We didn’t have any money, and there was no shopping mall and it got dark at 3 o’clock,” she laughs. “Long, dark winters. One has to develop a sense of humor to cope.”

Like her creation Murphy Brown, English is not afraid to venture into new territory. She made her directorial debut with an all-female cast feature film “The Women” in 2008 from a screenplay she adapted from Clare Boothe Luce’s 1936 play and George Cukor’s 1939 film. She will direct “Timbuktu,” now casting, from a screenplay she adapted.

English doesn’t discount returning to TV one day, saying, “I miss the camaraderie of the writers’ room.”

More from the WGA Awards:
WGA quietly girds for next negotations
Steven Zaillian | Diane English | Susannah Grant | Seth Freeman | Mike Scully

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