Valentine's Day in Hollywood: Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone and 10 Other Top Power Couples Tell All
Bert and Jennifer Salke, Susanne and Greg Daniels and other industry duos sound off on the benefits and occasionally awkward pitfalls of marrying your work.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
There isn't a line of dialogue in a script for Episodes that partners David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik haven't mutually approved. There isn't an episode of Mad Men that Andre Jacquemetton has written without collaborating with his wife, Maria. And while Parks and Recreation showrunner Mike Schur and his wife, New Girl writer J.J. Philbin, don't have plans to team on a series, there doesn't exist a project he has tackled on which she hasn't been asked to weigh in. Such are the perks (and duties) of being married to a fellow writer, producer or creative executive. But as revealed in the following conversations with Hollywood's top power couples -- agents, producers, writers, execs and talent -- not every relationship thrives on mixing business with pleasure. The Office showrunner Greg Daniels keeps his wife, MTV programming president Susanne Daniels, in the dark about plans to wrap up his long-running NBC comedy. "He said to me, 'It's not a good idea to tell you because you might tell somebody,' " she recalls. And after a brief and messy stint working together at 20th Century Fox TV, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke and her Fox 21 studio-chief husband, Bert, refuse to have work-related conversations after they walk through their front door. "Honestly," she says, "people are shocked about the things that we haven't told each other."
Ben Falcone & Melissa McCarthy
Actors, Identity Thief/Bridesmaids
The cliche of "the couple who plays together, stays together" is proving true this January day as McCarthy and Falcone arrive, ready to make use of the costumes, wigs and plethora of props they requested for what otherwise would have been a traditional portrait shoot. "We were going to do a glamorous shot, and we just kept going back to, 'We should do some bad characters.' We spent so much time with Groundlings that this is our neutral," jokes McCarthy, 42, hot off a monster $34.6 million domestic opening for her latest film, Identity Thief, and news of three movies in development through the couple's newly launched production company, On the Day.
She and her husband met in a comedy writing class at the L.A.-based Groundlings improv company in 1998. To hear her tell it, she and Falcone, who married in 2005, have been making each other laugh since they first teamed to write a skit about a Bob Seger-themed holiday, fittingly titled All Seger's Eve. "We just howled," recalls Falcone, 39, who quickly is reminded of another early collaboration for a Groundlings show. "We were Christian singers bringing the religion back to songs," he chuckles, with the mother of their two young children adding, "We were putting the 'Christ' back in Christmas." Ask them who is the funnier one in the marriage, and -- as if on cue -- they point to each other. "He's funnier and smarter; I'm just loud," she declares, while Falcone retorts: "No way. I'm the boring structure guy. She's the fun one."
J.J. Philbin & Mike Schur
Writer-producer, New Girl, and co-creator, Parks and Recreation
Although Parks and Recreation showrunner Schur is convinced that working on the same series as his comedy-writer wife, Philbin, would be a "terrible idea," he insists they read nearly everything the other writes. "We usually start by saying, 'That is the worst idea that I've ever heard.' That's the baseline, just to keep the other person humble," jokes Schur, 37, of the feedback they often give, recalling how Philbin -- then his girlfriend -- was among the only people with whom he shared his Curb Your Enthusiasm spec script when he decided to leave Saturday Night Live for Los Angeles nearly a decade ago.
And though their relationship is not regular fodder, they'll appear in each other's scripts on occasion. In fact, a first-season episode of New Girl centered on the character Nick's fear of the barber, which was inspired by Schur's phobia. "Mike is terrified of the small talk he has to have with barbers," explains Philbin. The pair met in 1998, when he was an SNL writer and she was a writer's assistant on the show. A year or so later, they were dating. "We kept it a secret, even though there was nothing scandalous about it," she says. By 2005, the two were married and since have added two children and several series, including The Office (him) and Heroes (her), to their résumés. While their comedic styles are not too dissimilar, their approach is vastly different. "Mike is unflappable, and I'm a ball of anxiety," says Philbin, daughter of TV veteran Regis Philbin. Her husband explains, "My firm belief is that the worst thing you can do in any situation is panic." The comment has Philbin laughing: "And my firm belief is always panic."
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