Dee Dee Myers on Leaving D.C. for Warner Bros., Meeting Kevin Tsujihara and New PR Priorities (Q&A)
The former White House press secretary and "West Wing" consultant is Warners' new corporate spokesperson, leaving a "less optimistic" Beltway to move closer to the Dodgers.
Dee Dee Myers, 52, is leaving a career in politics -- she served as White House press secretary during the Clinton administration and has been serving as a D.C. consultant and commentator ever since -- to become corporate spokesperson for Warner Bros. The studio announced Wednesday that she will become its executive vp worldwide corporate communications and public affairs, reporting to CEO Kevin Tsujihara, on Sept. 2. As she prepares for the move west with her husband, Todd S. Purdum, a writer for Politico and Vanity Fair, and their two teenage children, Myers spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about trading Washington politics for the world of movies and TV.
So why have you decided to make such a big change, taking this new job at Warners?
First of all, I think it’s an exciting time in the entertainment business. I think Warner Bros. is a great company. It’s a historic company. I spent a fair amount of time on the lot when I worked on the TV show West Wing [as a consultant], so I felt I had some feel and affinity for it. Then I met Kevin [Tsujihara] and he seemed like such an interesting guy, who has a great vision for the company at this time. So it all came together and seemed like a great opportunity.
When did you first meet Kevin, and how quickly did this come together?
I first met him in December through mutual friends. Because of my business consulting in Washington, I was certainly interested in meeting him. My current company, Glover Park Group, has done some work with all the studios over the years. We met in December, and the conversation evolved from there. One thing led to another and here we are.
So what will your priorities be?
I’m going to take a little time to think about it. I’m certainly not prepared to answer that here on announcement day. Broadly, I see it as telling the Warner Bros. story and working with the great team that has been there and that Kevin has assembled to do that. Warners is the biggest studio, produces more television than anyone else, is number one in home entertainment. Being part of a great tradition telling that story and looking ahead and meeting the challenges of a changing marketplace and a changing entertainment environment will all be part of what is compelling about it and what attracted me to the job.
Do you expect to be spending time in Washington, since there are governmental issues that can affect Warners?
I don’t think I’ll be spending a lot of time here. I hope I have the opportunity to come back because I love Washington and I have a lot of friends here. But primarily I’ll be in Los Angeles and other places around the world. Warners has a Washington office that handles [those sort of issues]. My primary responsibilities will be external communications, philanthropy, corporate responsibility.
How different do you expect handling public relations in Hollywood will be from what you've been doing in Washington?
The nature of the businesses are different, even though there is quite a bit of overlap. In Washington, the primary product is policy and politics. No one entity has too much control over those things, so it can be frustrating and policy can get truncated in the process. Entertainment has personalities and the studios get to make movies and produce television every year. But there are a lot of similarities, although the product is different. You also have two businesses that are very dynamic, you have complex issues with a lot of stakeholders, the environment changes fast, and you have a very interested, very vigilant press corps in both places. I feel really good about the changes at Warner Bros. now. I think there are great people there to help me navigate those changes through the challenges going forward.
Did you decide to leave Washington because you decided that Washington is currently less fun?
Well, look this is not the most optimistic time in Washington, but I always believe what goes on here is important. So it’s less about leaving Washington than it is about doing something that is very, very interesting. And I’m moving 3,000 miles closer to Dodger Stadium. I was born in Rhode Island -- I was a Navy brat -- but we moved to Valencia when I was in second grade and I lived there through high school until I went to Santa Clara College in the Bay Area. So I very much consider myself a Californian.
Have you kept up with current movies and TV?
I love movies and TV. I probably watch less TV than I would if I didn’t have school-age kids. But movies and TV are very much part of our national culture. People are always talking about it, commenting on it. To be part of the conversation is one of the things I like about [the new job].
How do you rate The West Wing against the new shows about Washington like Scandal and House of Cards?
Well, there’s no doubt West Wing is the best ever. I’ll tell you what’s special about West Wing. House of Cards is a great show, and House of Cards and Scandal have been really successful shows about politics, but the thing that is unique about The West Wing, it is an optimistic, idealistic, but also realistic view of how it works. One of the things that made me proud when I worked on the show, it presented a complex picture of how things worked. We had a Democratic president, but one of the things Aaron Sorkin insisted on when there was an argument is that the other side’s argument had to be real. You had to put the best argument possible forward because if you win a rigged fight, it’s not a real win. And sometimes the characters lost. The characters weren’t perfect, but they were good people, and at the end of the day they were there to try to make the country a better place. I don’t think anybody else has done that nearly as well or has really tried to do it in the case of Scandal and certainly House of Cards. I think there’s plenty of room for both, but that’s what I love about West Wing and why I think it holds up so well. How’s that for a West Wing commercial? But I am really proud to have worked on that show.
You officially start Sept. 2. How will you be spending the summer?
Sell a house, buy a house, move. I hope to spend some time around Warner Bros. learning everything I can about everything. We have commitments here through early July, so sometime after that we’ll move and do all the hideous stuff that goes with moving. But I’m really looking forward to joining the Warner Bros. team.