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How ‘American Dreams,’ Tonya Harding Inspire ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Boss Liz Tigelaar’s Office Style

Liz Tigelaar Little Fires Everywhere Showrunner
Michael Buckner/Variety

Liz Tigelaar’s “Little Fires Everywhere” writers’ room was on the Paramount lot, a central point between herself and many of her Eastside writers. But when the show wrapped, she wanted to move her space closer to home in Venice Beach. Her new location, into which she moved in January, is now only blocks from the beach, as well as her son’s school. The second-floor space includes a balcony where she, her writers and her dog Frites can collaborate. “I’ve been all over for so many years of my career, but now I just feel like I get to work at home,” she says.

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Artist of Another Kind
Tigelaar doesn’t just write and produce, she also likes to paint, and back in 2005 she was starting to play with texture and using different materials in her pieces. That was also when “American Dreams,” a period drama on which she was a writer, got canceled. The writers’ room had a wall full of Post-Its of quotes from the show and their room itself, and she took them with her, using the words as inspiration for a painting that now hangs across from her desk. “The quotes still make me laugh, and I’ve worked with many ‘American Dreams’ writers since then and we still say so many of these quotes out loud,” she says. “Although, some of them are questionable in a post-#MeToo era.”

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The Next Generation of Artists
The wall to the right of Tigelaar’s desk is a gallery for her son Wilder, featuring photographs of him, as well as his drawings and letters to her. Currently, she is displaying pieces he made for her when she started production on “Little Fires Everywhere,” which was the first time she was away from him since he was born. “I’m always usually there in the morning or to put him down at night,” she says, “so he would make me pictures to bring to my office.” Wilder often visited set — and was even an extra — and she says, “Yes, he acted but he’s also a writer, and he’s writing a movie series called ‘Bounce,’ ‘Bounce 1,’ ‘Bounce 2’ and ‘Bounce 11.’”

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Ice Queen
When Tigelaar was a senior in high school, she bonded with her father over deciding to root for Tonya Harding in the 1994 Olympic Games “just to piss off my mom,” she says. Years later Tigelaar, Amy Talkington and Rosa Handelman wrote a six-episode limited series about Harding as a feminist icon. “It was the idea that skaters have to look a certain way and she didn’t fit a certain mold, but also the idea that violence begets violence,” she says. “I think we saw it with a lot of compassion. This person who allegedly did this bad thing could still be a hero.” The show ended up not moving forward, but Tigelaar’s interest in Harding had only deepened, and has now led to novelty gifts, such as a set of Harding coasters that sit on her coffee table.

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Let There Be Light
The bong lamp on the table behind Tigelaar’s desk was a key prop — “its own little character,” she says — on the set of the first show she created, “Life Unexpected,” which ran two seasons on the CW beginning in 2010. Producing director Gary Fleder came up with the idea of the DIY light source in the character Baze’s loft. Baze was an overgrown manchild who learned he had a teenage daughter in the pilot episode. That daughter moved in with him and was suspended for selling the lamp to a classmate. When the show wrapped, the lamp was one of only a few things Tigelaar took from the set.

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Messy Motivation
Just outside Tigelaar’s private office, hanging above the conference table in the common area, is a framed motivational poster of an orangutan that reads “Hang in there, baby.” After scouring the internet for “something that felt like it would have hung in the breakroom of one of my shitty high school jobs,” Tigelaar says, she found this on eBay. “It struck me as perfect because the words were right, but it’s an orangutan instead of a cat and it has its legs spread in a graphic way and the punctuation, to hang in a writers’ office, is off in a way that’s completely upsetting. It’s supposed to make you feel better, but it ends up making you feel worse.”