What makes a great TV showrunner or producer? What do you wish you knew when you first started out about the ups and downs of TV production that you know now? What film or series inspired you to work in television?
These were some of the questions answered by five of today’s top TV showrunners and producers when they joined Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2021 Emmy nominees. Watch our full group chat with Courtney Lilly (“black-ish”), Robin Thede (“A Black Lady Sketch Show”), Eric Kripke (“The Boys”), Linda Berman (“Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia”) and San Heng (“RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked”) above. Click on each name above to view each person’s individual interview.
“It’s taking the time to listen to people,” Lilly reveals when asked what makes a great showrunner. “Especially in the last year, you’re making television during a pandemic. You need to take the time to make sure your crew, your actors and everybody felt safe,” he says. Thede agrees wholeheartedly, proclaiming that one word above everything else should be paramount: “Empathy,” she says. “I think to be a good boss, you’ve got to meet people where they are emotionally, and not coddle people, because I don’t think people want that either. I think people want you to be a strong leader who makes good decisions, but they also want somebody who’s going to understand when they come and say today’s not a good day for me.”
“It’s managing your team so that they’re fired up,” Kripke adds. “They work harder on this than they work on anything in their lives. They see you way more than they see their own families. It needs to be like a positive, respectful, fun place to work. So, anything you can do to facilitate that.” He is also adamant that a leader in any environment is there to look after their team. “I’m a big believer in how you absorb criticism and you deflect praise. You always make sure that when someone, when the studio or network loves something, you really make sure you bring that person forward. Who’s responsible for it. And if they hate something, then it’s your fault and you have to apologize.”
“I think the only thing I can add is that I, I love what I do. And so I make sure that I bring that,” Berman says. “I try to lead by example, I’m trying to always be positive.” Heng agrees, noting that “it’s really important to build a really strong team to build trust amongst the crew, but also amongst your talent,” she says.
Before his work on “black-ish,” Lilly was best known as a writer on the Emmy-winning “Arrested Development” and the WGA-nominated “Everybody Hates Chris.” This is his fourth Emmy nomination for “black-ish,” having earned three consecutive nominations as a producer from 2016 to 2018 in the Best Comedy Series category. Thede made a name for herself as head writer on “The Queen Latifah Show” and as part of the writing team on “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” before moving on to her own late-night variety talk show “The Rundown with Robin Thede” and now her current HBO variety sketch series “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” for which she has three Emmy nominations – two as producer (2020 and 2021) in the Best Variety Sketch Series category and a third for writing.
Kripke has a wealth of experience producing and writing genre television, like the long-running CW hit “Supernatural” and his current Amazon blockbuster “The Boys,” for which he received a WGA nomination earlier this year before the show broke through at the Emmys with five nominations including for Best Drama Series. Berman has been producing television for three decades on films and miniseries such as “Stolen by My Mother: The Kamiyah Mobley Story” and the DGA and WGA-nominated “Madoff,” with her latest project, “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” earning the veteran producer her first Emmy nomination. Heng is celebrating the fifth consecutive Emmy nomination this year for “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked” in the Best Unstructured Reality Program category. She’s also a veteran TV producer, having served as producer on reality TV series “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars,” “Little Women: LA” and “The Real Housewives of DC.”
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