Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
The saying goes, "Write what you know." For Brixius and Wallem, that meant channeling shared experience with drug addiction and recovery into their dramedy starring Emmy winner Edie Falco as a philandering, pill-popping nurse. Says Minnesota native Brixius, 48: "We went through years of addiction and recovery. We have enough distance and perspective that a lot of it is pretty funny to me." The former romantic partners have overseen the only current comedy on cable to score a lead actress Emmy nomination two years in a row, and the exposure has helped Jackie remain a critical hit, earning a total of 10 Emmy noms since its June 2009 debut. Wallem, 50, who grew up in Rockford, Ill., had bit parts as an actress in Sleepless in Seattle andSeinfeld (in a memorable 1994 episode, she played the waitress who refused to serve Elaine the "big salad") before landing as a writer on the CBS comedy Cybill from 1995 to 1998. She says her approach to showrunning is to "have fun, praise the people you work with and don't be an asshole. You set the tone. Get rid of toxic energy the moment it appears."