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SCAD aTV Fest: Women Showrunners Share Struggles

The Equalizer on CBS
(Image credit: CBS)

Panel “Wonder Women: Showrunners” saw females in prominent places in Hollywood share what they’ve learned during their time in the business. Part of SCAD aTV Fest, “Wonder Women” detailed the challenge of producing shows during the pandemic, particularly for women in leadership positions. Michelle King, showrunner on CBS drama Evil and CBS All Access drama The Good Fight, said people did not want to hear from her that production was shutting down as the pandemic grew last year. 

“They did not want to hear that from a woman,” she said. “That female voice did not carry.”

Show staffers were much happier to get the news from a man, King added: “When men were saying it, suddenly they were bringing the wisdom of Solomon.”

Terri Edda Miller, who runs CBS drama The Equalizer with Andrew Marlowe, spoke of people often directing concerns or questions to Marlowe, even when she is standing next to him. “My choices are just as important as his,” she said. “What I have to say in some avenues is more important because I’m in that place more than he is.”

Also on the panel were Jenny Lumet, co-showrunner on CBS drama Clarice, and Alycia Rossiter, who produces To Tell the Truth and Supermarket Sweep, among others. Lumet spoke of “a million microaggressions a day” for a woman of color when producing a series. “You’re constantly fighting a system that is so intrinsically stacked against you,” she said, while adding that CBS has “really stepped up.”

“I feel as if they’re trying to make a meaningful change,” Lumet said. 

Clarice premieres February 11. 

Miller said she got tougher every time she encountered an unjust dismissal. “My reaction to it was just to bear down and get more fierce,” she said. “It was never to cower. It was always to try harder.”

King said women today are in a much better position than when she broke in. She mentioned being sent to pick up a package of cocaine by a boss. “Things my friends and I thought were normal were not so normal,” said King. 

Rossiter shared about the challenge, and benefit, of casting for unscripted shows. “My cast is the whole world. I don’t have to find a talented actor or actress,” she said. “I have to find a human being who’s interesting.”

Asked about her first big break, which saw Jonathan Demme direct her screenplay Rachel Getting Married, Lumet said, “I’m female, I’m a woman of color. There were not any examples.”

Being related to famous people--her father is director Sidney Lumet--helped. So did “internet stalking” Demme, said Lumet.  

Miller mentioned getting a Nicholl fellowship for screenwriting. “I always tell people who are looking to make it, apply to contests,” she said. 

She said getting The Equalizer up and running amidst the pandemic was “probably one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced.” Shooting the pilot was a couple days ahead when everything was shut down and everyone went home. CBS picked up the series before the pilot was shot, and it premiered after the Super Bowl.

“It just feels like a miracle,” said Miller.