How did you land in your first writers room?
I was an assistant on a couple of shows and ended up being the writers PA (lowest level assistant) on season one of JUSTIFIED, so when season one was winding down, I asked the showrunner, Graham Yost, if he’d read a couple of my sample pilots. He really liked one of them and said I could be the in-room writers assistant for season 2, and possibly even get a freelance script. I did not end up having to take that step, however, because one of the Staff Writers (the lowest level writers) chose not to return to the show, which meant there was an open spot, and Graham gave that spot to me!
Have you found that as you’ve risen in ranks the amount you are writing has decreased or increased with your new responsibilities?
My writing responsibilities increase with rank. I often help lower level writes with their scripts or even rewrite them, depending on the show. When I was showrunning, I rewrote every script to some degree.
What strategies do you implement for dealing with disagreements in the room?
When it’s someone else’s show and I’m not running the room, I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to manage disagreements. If I feel it’s wasting time I sometimes try to help the two parties find a middle ground just like I would in any other situation. If I’m one of the people having the disagreement, I just state my case and whoever is in charge makes the decision, once again just like in any other job. If it’s my show or I’m running the room, the disagreement is irrelevant because I’m the one making the final decision.
Do you have a series you wish you could have written on?
X-Files would have been fun I suppose, but for me it’s mostly about the people I’m working with, not the show itself. I have to spend all day in a room with my co-workers, so that’s going to be my priority.
Were you a fan of Elmore Leonard before joining Justified? How important was his writing as the show progressed and became it’s own thing?
I had only read one Elmore story before joining JUSTIFIED. Elmore Leonard’s writing was the guiding light of the show. Perhaps from the outside it looks like the show became its own thing, but we ALWAYS used Elmore’s style, characters, and stories as our North Star.
How do you create a consistent voice for characters when several writers are involved in the writing process?
Showrunners take a pass on every script to ensure this happens. A skilled TV writer learns the character voices after a few scripts and needs to be rewritten less and less. With JUSTIFIED, the voice was very specific – drawn directly from Elmore Leonard’s work – which made it easier.
Questions submissions have been edited for length and clarity.
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