'Walking Dead,' 'Once Upon a Time' and 'Person of Interest': Inside L.A.'s Nerdiest Offices
Yes, that’s a compliment when talking about these Comic-Con-bound creators of some of Hollywood’s most coveted content, all of whom keep their geek chic on display.
This story first appeared in the July 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis
Creators/executive producers, Once Upon a Time
Horowitz and Kitsis, who met 20 years ago in a screenwriting class at the University of Wisconsin, remember their first writing space: a dental office. The duo -- who will be at Comic-Con for ABC’s fairy-tale adventure Once Upon a Time and Disney XD’s animated Tron: Uprising -- are best known for their work on Lost and the 2010 film Tron: Legacy but got their start on a Madison, Wis., public-access show, Hot Tonight. “It was produced by a dentist, and we would have writers meetings in this dental conference room. He would run in, take his mask off and say, ‘I got a sponsor this week!’ ” recalls Kitsis, 41. Now they are ensconced in two offices on Burbank’s Walt Disney Studios lot, and much as Lost was about dual realities, their individual spaces are similar but different, almost in an alternate-universe way. Each room has pieces fromLost, Tron and their other passion -- music -- but with slight variations, right down to their mouse pads, which display photos of their kids (they have three children between them). The duo write mostly in the 40-year-old Horowitz’s room, where he types as Kitsis paces, but the brainstorming happens in Kitsis’ office, pictured here. “There’s such back-and-forth that we literally could not tell you who came up with what line or idea,” says Horowitz. “We’re like one person, much to the chagrin of our wives.” -- Borys Kit
Writer-creator-star, The Guild; founder, Geek & Sundry
“I don’t know how people work in a sterile, white office,” says Day, 33, of her DIY home office on Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile, a converted garage that doubles as a production studio. A nerd Oprah of the Internet, Day created and owns The Guild, a web series loosely based on her gaming experience that recently wrapped its fifth season with partners Microsoft and Xbox Live. In April, the Alabama native added network executive to her résumé when she launched the YouTube channel Geek & Sundry, which features seven series Day oversees. Heading into her fifth Comic-Con, Day has gone from peddling bookmarks for her then-unknown series to being lauded by fans and peers. Among them: Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in which Day had a minor role), who, inspired by Guild, created his own Emmy-winning musical web series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, in which Day also co-starred. “That’s the payoff for working behind a computer 11 months out of the year: I get the reward of having fans tell me face to face that they like me,” she says. As she juggles the demands of Geek & Sundry, including writing, filming, acting and promoting her properties, Day -- after saving up “for years” -- finally has her dream office: “All the hats I wear have to translate in this space. There’s nothing that this space couldn’t potentially be.” -- Lesley Goldberg
Jonathan Nolan & Greg Plageman
Creator and showrunner, Person of Interest
The first time Nolan saw Comic-Con, it was -- as it had been for so many before him -- from inside a Stormtrooper helmet. His older brother and collaborator, Christopher Nolan, had instructed him to go incognito at a 2007 guerrilla promotion for The Dark Knight, which Jonathan co-wrote, along with the sequel. “No one is going to f---ing recognize me,” says Jonathan, now 36 and married. “I’m a writer.” Four years later, he debuted his CBS thriller, Person of Interest, to a packed crowd alongside showrunner Plageman, 42 and married with kids. The duo credit the positive reception with helping them shape the top-rated drama’s first season. “There’s this incredibly violent scene in the pilot, and everybody went bananas and then started laughing” at a lighter moment that followed, says Plageman, previously an executive producer on CBS’ Cold Case. “I thought, ‘Here is the tone of our show.’ I’d always done shows that have been on for a while and were kinda set in stone.” Nolan, whose office tchotchkes draw from comic books and Person’s surveillance themes, has his hand in all aspects of the show, including a Mark Englert-designed poster being given away in San Diego. “I’ve always been interested in trailers, posters, websites,” he says. “I came from independent film; we did all that stuff ourselves.” -- Michael O’Connell
Writer/creator/executive producer, The Walking Dead
Kirkman thought he’d be homeless a month after his first Comic-Con in 2000, which he attended to promote his short-lived comic title Battle Pope. That was before the now-33-year-old Kentucky native created Image Comics’ The Walking Dead, a monthly black-and-white zombie-apocalypse survival tale that AMC adapted for TV and averaged a record 6.9 million viewers during its second season. The wildly popular series -- in March, Dead editions occupied all 10 slots on The New York Times graphic novel best-seller list -- led to Kirkman becoming a partner in Image Comics; the CEO of his own comics imprint, Skybound; and a Dead executive producer. These days, he has more than 10 comic-book titles in circulation, and his crime caper Thief of Thieves is in development at AMC. “I just bounce around like a schizophrenic fool who doesn’t know what he’s doing on any given day,” says the mild-mannered Kirkman from his Skybound office in Culver City, where he works when not in the Dead writers room in Los Angeles. (He travels to the series’ sweltering Atlanta set when episodes he has penned are being filmed.) With the third season set to bow in October, Kirkman, married with two children, ages 3 and 6, is busy prepping for Dead’s invasion of Comic-Con, where he’ll push merchandise tied to the series’ 100th issue and host a handful of comics events, one of which takes place in San Diego’s Petco Park: an interactive zombie obstacle course, naturally. -- L.G.