Jennifer Turner started out wanting to be a banker but instead has built a Wonder Woman career in television production and in health advocacy.
Along with her impressive list of jobs — currently as executive VP of Sony Pictures Television’s TriStar Television studio — her academic credits include a Ph.D. in public health and behavioral science from Rutgers University, an MBA from Stanford University and a BA from the Wharton School of Business.
She joined Sony Pictures Television by consulting on the hit NBC series The Blacklist and then, as SPT’s senior VP of scripted programming, she oversaw creative for shows including The Good Doctor, The Boys and Woke. She was promoted to her current role at TriStar this past January.
Her first jobs in television (after a stint on the trading floor at Goldman Sachs) were at The Walt Disney Co., working with the ABC daytime soaps General Hospital and Port Charles. She was promoted at ABC to director of current programming, working on shows such as Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy.
She moved to NBCUniversal as VP of drama programming, managing creative for Friday Night Lights and Crossing Jordan, before becoming VP of licensing and strategic partnerships for NBCU, helping to find new revenue streams for Bravo and Oxygen properties, like Top Chef-branded cookware.
An interest in health and fitness that stemmed partly from seeing an obesity problem among residents of East Harlem, New York, took her away from TV for a while. She founded Mad Cool Fitness, an inclusive, multicultural healthy lifestyle brand that uses holistic, behavior-based wellness initiatives to foster long-term healthy lifestyle change in everyday people.
“I wanted to start a company that helped people learn how to be healthy,” she said.
For Turner, these disparate roles in media and health advocacy have a common theme.
“On the face of it, it looks like the two different faces of Jennifer Turner,” she said. “But really looking at both of them together, when I think about who I am and what I’m about, I’m really about empowerment. I’m about empowerment in health. I’m about empowerment in stories and storytelling. I’m about empowerment in education.”
She started taking classes toward a public-health doctorate at Rutgers, and her dissertation evaluated a school-based childhood obesity prevention program. In the process, she learned a lot about the challenges facing charter schools. That led her to connect with Jersey City Global Charter School.
Nadira Jack, chief school administrator at the school, said Turner’s help with the staff and students at her school has been invaluable.
Turner came into the school and did an overall health and wellness assessment, Jack said. “And then from that, she just volunteered her time to do these, as she called it, mad cool fitness sessions with our kids and our staff and it has been amazing.
“She would come in and talk to [students] about things like their self-image, body image, relationship-building,” Jack said. “Our students absolutely loved it, because they were getting to connect with a member from the community and they were able to ask very honest and candid questions. She shared her personal experiences with us, which was extremely valuable to our kids to see that, hey, you know, if, if Dr. Turner can do this then, so can I.”
An Innovative Storyteller
Turner’s vision for TriStar as an independent boutique studio — home to such shows as On Becoming a God in Central Florida, Good Girls Revolt and The Afterparty — is to be perceived as “first and foremost, artist forward, super-premium, cinematic, innovative. And I would say as a part of innovation and telling new stories that would include diverse writers and talent, as well as stories that feature female protagonists.”
But not exclusively: one of the shows TriStar has in development is Straight Man, the next AMC project for (Sony’s) Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk. “We’re all still in the Bob Odenkirk business, which is a good business to be in,” she said.
Aside from her work with the charter school, Turner’s spare time activities include playing the violin (she trained in violin and dance). “I basically play for my dog now,” she said with a laugh. “He likes to howl!” ▪️
Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.
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