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November 5, 2015
Emmys: Sibling Writers Compete as 'Mad Men,' 'Breaking Bad' Vie for Top Drama
Sister-and-brother scribes face off as their respective hit shows search for a win.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's August Emmy stand-alone issue.
Last year's Super Bowl featured the battle of the Harbaugh brothers. This year's Emmys will showcase its own sibling rivalry with a face-off between the Mastrases.
It is little-known that longtime Mad Men writer Maria Jacquemetton (nee Mastras) is the older sister of Breaking Bad scribe George Mastras. Come Emmy night, the two Wellesley, Mass., natives will be cheering on their respective series, which will go head-to-head for outstanding drama honors.
Although Jacquemetton left Mad Men in March in favor of a multimillion-dollar overall deal at Warner Bros., her allegiances still rest with the Matthew Weiner-created series that has won Emmy drama honors four times (she is a 2013 nominee for her role as executive producer). Mastras also is competing in the best drama writing category for his episode "Dead Freight."
"I don't actively try to hide that we are brother and sister, but people don't know because our names are different," says Jacquemetton, who shares a surname with her husband and writing partner, Andre Jacquemetton. In fact, even around the halls of AMC, which airs both shows, the pair's relationship often is news to higher-ups. Jacquemetton remembers one day talking to former AMC exec Jeremy Elice, who was hands-on in the development of Breaking Bad, about her little brother. "He was like, 'Wait, who's your brother?' " she recalls.
The fact that the siblings both ended up on critically lauded AMC shows is simply a coincidence. Jacquemetton took a more traditional path to elite TV writer status. After graduating from Boston University in 1983, she worked for a brief time in local TV in Boston before a group of classmates urged her to head west, where writer jobs were plentiful. She landed a job as Richard Lovett's assistant at CAA and began writing at night. Not long after, she nabbed a spot in the prestigious Disney ABC Writing Program, which opened doors to a series of TV gigs before she eventually hit it big with Mad Men, for which she has been nominated for three writing Emmys (though not this year).
Mastras, on the other hand, took a more circuitous path. The Yale graduate headed to UCLA for law school then bounced back to the East Coast to work at a law firm on Wall Street. But he soon followed his sister to Los Angeles, taking an offer at a Century City firm that specialized in celebrity clients' legal woes, before moving to Warner Bros.' business affairs department. "I figured if I could move a little closer to the business side of entertainment, not just celebrities who get in trouble, then I might be a little closer to the creative side, so I could establish what I'd always sort of aspired to," he explains. But Mastras burned out as a lawyer. He quit his job and literally bought a one-way ticket to China. After traveling for 18 months, he returned to L.A. and also won a spot in the Disney ABC Writing Program.
"Maria was my inspiration -- I sort of figured if Maria could do it, I could do it, then maybe …" he says. He then found a TV agent as well as a book agent, who sold a novel he'd written while traveling, Fidali's Way, to Scribner. After a handful of short-lived TV writing gigs, Mastras landed at Breaking Bad.
Although Jacquemetton is pulling for Mad Men to wrest its fifth drama Emmy, she thinks it's time for Mastras to nab a statuette. "They so deserve it," she says. "Of course I want Mad Men to win because it's the show that I worked on, but I wouldn't be upset. I would really be thrilled if Breaking Bad won."