×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Emmy-Nominated Writers Talk Actors, Research & Changing Story Arcs at Sublime Primetime 2016

It was the television writers’ turn in the spotlight at the Writers Guild of America West’s Sublime Primetime event Thursday night, which was moderated by “Better Call Saul’s” Bob Odenkirk.

An assembly of TV scribes from across Emmy writing categories assembled at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills for a freewheeling forum on the work that earned them nominations this year.  The event, introduced by WGAW president Howard Rodman and Variety‘s Debra Birnbaum, was presented by the Writers Guild of America West, the Writers Guild Foundation, and Variety.

Each of the scribes recounted various issues they encountered in their series over the past season. “The Americans” showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields noted that many of their notoriously long-simmering plot lines finally reached a boil after four seasons — a welcome payoff for patient viewers (prompting Odenkirk to quip, “This is what I was thinking: ‘Oh my God, this show’s slower than mine!'”) and that they think they’ll get to every plot and character point they intend to when the series concludes in two seasons.

“We tend to move through more story than we expect to,” said Fields, “but so far this season is breaking in the right places.”

UnReal” co-creator and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro recounted how her “breakdown” after several seasons of working on “The Bachelor” led her to move back to Oregon from L.A. where she focused on creating the short film that inspired the show. “Being a feminist working on ‘The Bachelor’ was sort of like a vegan working in a slaughterhouse, and so it felt like that’s what I had to talk about,” she said.

After seasoned showrunner Marti Noxon signed on to help Shapiro develop the show for TV, she brought the lessons she’d learned about anti-hero casting as a consultant on “Mad Men.” She credited “UnReal” leads Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer for adding depth to the material.

Related Content Emmys: When the Run Is Limited, Basic Cable Writers & Directors Go Big

Key and Peele” writer Alex Rubens had similar praise for how his series’ stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele with whom he also wrote the feature film “Keanu,” could elevate any material to a more hilarious place. “Over the course of the entire series I thought there were one or two sketches that were kind of bad. When they came on TV, I was really bracing myself for them–and then they were really funny,” he said. “So I was like ‘Oh–we [writers] don’t matter!’”

“When you have characters who are really compromised in what they’re doing every day, you have to have actors who have likability – they’ve got to have soul,” said Noxon. “Both of those actresses are so strong we were really able to compromise them.”

When an audience member’s question about writing for the opposite gender was raised, prompting a flip on some conventional wisdoms, Shapiro pointed out that she is frequently teased by her staff that her male characters are weak to the point that she asked her friends to put her together with groups of their male friends in order to better understand them. “You guys have feelings about things, right?” she said.

Amid early career war stories about working with producers who wouldn’t even pony up a $1 option, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” writers Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander revealed how David Schwimmer, their choice to play Simpson’s friend and confidante Robert Kardashian, prompted them to write the character in a considerably more compelling fashion.

“I will give points to David Schwimmer,” said Alexander. “He was challenging us: ‘What do you have for me?’ I get it – I’m the friend and I’m loyal and all that. What else?’” Alexander admitted the early conversation “provoked” the duo, who promised to call the actor back with a response. “It really pushed us to do a lot more with the Kardashian arc, in terms of him being the moral compass and the one character who’s completely selfless and comes to regret what he’s gotten into,” he said.

“We looked on YouTube at the moment of the verdict, when he’s standing next to O.J., and when it’s not guilty you see Kardashian’s face fall,” Alexander continued. “And we thought, ‘Wo – he stuck with him for that whole year, but he didn’t want to be there. We made much more of a meal out of Kardashian’s turmoil than we would have if David hadn’t provoked us.”

“Veep” writers Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck also participated in the panel discussion along with “The Simpsons” scribe Carolyn Omine.

More Scene

  • Dylan O'Brien, Justin Theroux, Angela Bassett,

    Travis Knight on Getting the Call to Direct ‘Bumblebee’: ‘Did You Guys Get The Right Number?’

    “Bumblebee” director Travis Knight admits he couldn’t believe it when Paramount Studios and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura called him two years ago, asking him to helm the upcoming “Transformers” movie. “My initial question was, ‘Did you guys get the right number?'” Knight joked at Sunday’s premiere of “Bumblebee” at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. “You’ve seen [...]

  • Director Peter JacksonWarner Bros. Pictures THEY

    Peter Jackson Talks Transition From 'Hobbit' Movies to World War I Documentary

    Peter Jackson remains a bit astounded at his transition four years ago from the Shire of Middle Earth to the French battlefields of World War I. Jackson introduced his documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” Friday night at the Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood, four weeks after it aired on Armistice Day on the BBC. [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • Children's Defense Fund

    Angela Bassett, Conan O'Brien Honor Young Students at Children's Defense Fund Gala

    Awards season may be right around the corner, but on Thursday, Hollywood took a break from the glitz and glam to celebrate five high school students who have excelled academically despite facing extreme adversity both at home and in the classroom. The 29th annual Beat the Odds Awards ceremony at the Skirball Cultural Center featured [...]

  • Dolly Parton attends the world premiere

    Dolly Parton Hopes to Perform 'Dumplin'' Song at the Golden Globes

    It’s not easy to upstage Jennifer Aniston. But everyone at Thursday night’s premiere of her new Netflix flick, “Dumplin’,” seemed to be singing the praises of Dolly Parton, who earlier in the day received a Golden Globe nomination for “Girl in the Movies,” one of half a dozen new songs she wrote for the film. [...]

  • Lena WaitheVariety's Power of Women, Arrivals,

    Who Lena Waithe Thinks Should Replace Kevin Hart as Oscar Host

    Lena Waithe thinks Kevin Hart could have handled his Oscar debacle in a much better way. “I kind of wish that he would have taken a moment to let it be a teachable moment and to say, ‘Hey, what I said wasn’t right and I want to make that right,’ not just to keep the [...]

  • Christie Brinkley32nd Annual Footwear News Achievement

    Christie Brinkley at 64: 'Women My Age Cannot Allow the Numbers to Define Them'

    Christie Brinkley may be turning 65 next year, but don’t you dare try to tell her what she should — or shouldn’t — wear. “I think women my age cannot allow the numbers to define them. We need to constantly redefine the number,” Brinkley told Variety on Tuesday at the Footwear News Achievement Awards in New [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content