When Trump got elected, TV writers found new purpose
Posted June 10
After the election of Donald Trump, "House of Cards" creator Beau Willimon had to dramatically shift his view of what the future looked like in his next work fiction.
Willimon had been developing and conceiving his next show, "The First" for Hulu, for two years at that point. The series, abut the first human mission to Mars, is set 15-20 years in the future.
After November 2016, he said, he knew the world in which his show was set had to be very different that what he had initially imagined.
"I believe every story is political, whether it's about politics or not," he said during a panel about Trump's affect on scripted television at the ATX TV Festival in Austin, Texas. "Oftentimes, if you're working on something that isn't overtly political you're not necessarily talking about it in that context, even if your political beliefs and world view are seeping into every word you write. And I think now, my general sense of the writers I know is that we're hyper aware that even if you're not doing a political show -- no matter what genre or what characters [you're writing] -- that there are political implications in every narrative choice you make."
Javier Grillo-Marxuach knows this to be true.
The writer, whose credits include "Lost" and "Charmed," is currently writing a "Dark Crystal" prequel for Netflix.
He sees the series, titled "Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance," as a show about "universal themes."
"I think the themes we've been writing about the whole time -- which is, like, standing up to power, standing up to authority, not accepting geographical narratives about why authority deserves its authority -- all of those things are baked into the DNA of what we write anyway," he said.
Grillo-Marxuach, who has cut his teeth in the business writing on genre TV shows, said "writing about current events in metaphor is not unknown territory."
"For me especially writing in this genre so much, much of what I write about is the relationship of people to power," he said. "So that part of it really stays consistent."
For Julie Plec, creator of "The Vampire Diaries," the election came with a feeling of added responsibility.
"It feels like if day-to-day culture is saying it's okay to not be inclusive, it's okay to not be tolerant, it's okay to be bigoted, then your responsibility as a storyteller feels like if you disagree with that, you have to double down on making it okay in your storytelling to be inclusive and tolerant and not okay to be a bigot," she said. "The weight of that is always hanging in a good way."
"Royal Pains" creator Michael Rauch, "Casual" executive producer Liz Tigelaa and "Queen Sugar" executive producer Paul Garnes rounded out the panelist lineup, all of whom were critical of Trump.
Willimon acknowledge the left-leaning panel, but told the audience to consider "why artists tend to be more liberal than not."
"I think it's because these tend to be people who have read a lot, whether they went to school a lot, that empathize with other people, that are curious about the world. And ultimately when you write, you're doing so out of some sort of moral compass of, 'This is what the world is, and let me what the world can be, for better or worse,'" he said. "It's a necessary and noble craft to tell stories. It's what allows us to understand ourselves."
He added: "[Writers[ start because they have a desperate need to communicate with other human beings. And the only way our president attempts to do that is in 140 characters or less between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m."
The ATX TV Festival takes place in Austin through Sunday.