WGA Awards nominees roundtable: ‘Bad Sisters,’ ‘Hacks,’ ‘Severance,’ ‘The Staircase,’ ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’
“I had been with ‘The Staircase’ on my own going crazy for a very long time. And so it was great to watch other people become obsessed with it, and sort of like poison everybody else in the room and become the thing they can’t stop thinking about. So I really enjoyed that space,” says Antonio Campos about what it’s like to collaborate with other writers compared to writing solo. We talked to Campos along with Sharon Horgan (“Bad Sisters”), Jen Statsky (“Hacks”), Dan Erickson (“Severance”) and Al Yankovic (“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”) as part of our “Meet the Experts” Writers Guild Award nominees panel. Watch our roundtable discussion above. Click each person’s name to watch an individual solo chat.
Erickson had a similar experience, starting “Severance” on his own before a writers room was assembled. But teaming up with others takes time to adapt to. “It’s scary. It’s really vulnerable,” he admits. Your ideas are like “your child,” so sometimes “you get defensive,” but “that’s also where so many of the best ideas come from.”
Writers rooms are less common in the UK and Ireland, where they tend to produce shorter seasons and there are fewer cooks in the kitchen, so Horgan is “even more astounded that it works.” The collaboration she found especially rewarding was with Rob Delaney on the comedy series “Catastrophe”: “It was the tiniest writers room of all time. It was me and him and our writers’ assistant and that was the greatest. I never wanted to jump out of that.”
Statsky has worked in a variety of ways and can see the benefits of different configurations: “Sometimes it’s incredibly helpful to have a bunch of brains around you, and then other times you just need to like narrow in.” She’s worked in a writers room with 14 people, “which is crazy,” and now “Hacks” has seven or eight. But she wonders, “Sharon, do you guys over there think we’re babies because we can’t do it alone?”
Horgan assures her, “We’re the babies because we make six half hours. I still can’t get my brain around [22-episode seasons].”
“I’m used to writing on my own,” says Yankovic, who pens his own music but co-wrote “Weird” with Eric Appel. He credits his friend Thomas Lennon (who appears in “Weird”) and Lennon’s writing partner Robert Ben Garant with the magic formula: “You write the outline together … and then we just divided it up.” So “we got to write together, but on our own. It was very comfortable.”
It goes to show that there are as many ways to write television as there is television to write.