Showrunners 2012: 'The Vampire Diaries'' Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec
From their obsessive rituals (Peppermint Patties! Oatmeal! Bruce Springsteen!) to the parts of their jobs they hate most (killing characters off, dealing with agents), TV's most influential writer-producers featured on The Hollywood Reporter's annual list of the Top 50 Showrunners come clean about the people, things and quirky habits that keep them -- and their shows -- alive.
Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec, The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
The TV show that inspired me to write:
Plec: I watched soap operas religiously when I was a kid; I used to sneak them in when I was in elementary school with my cousin, who was my babysitter. In junior high, when we got our first VCR, I used to tape four soaps a day. I was a diehard General Hospital fan from when I was nine to 25.
My big break:
Plec: I didn’t get paid to write professionally until my first episode of Kyle XY, which was the fourth episode of the first season
My TV mentor:
Plec: Prior to working for Kevin Williamson, I was so in love with the shows Zwick and Herskovitz produced, like My So-Called Life, Once & Again. I loved David E. Kelley, everything he did from Ally McBeal to The Practice. Greg Berlanti, one of my closest friends from college, and who was a staff writer on Dawson’s Creek the year I worked on the show, he and I would – on the weekends – watch Ally and The Practice.
My proudest accomplishment this year:
Plec: When it got to season three, we thought, "Gosh, we really did it well for two years and now’s the time to maybe rest a little" but instead, we wanted to work harder because we wanted it to be even better. When it’s all said and done, as we go into our fourth season, there’s not a single episode of Vampire Diaries where I would hang my head low.
My toughest scene to write:
Plec: Episode eight [of season three] about the Originals, “Ordinary People,” was difficult because you don’t realize – until you sit down to tell the origin story of a whole species – just how hard it is to decide what story it is you want to tell. We struggled to pull that episode together on the page and we did it in about five minutes. We were starting episode eight and we did not have a script that was complete the day we started shooting it so we had to write around the clock to make sure production could keep shooting.
The most absurd note I've ever gotten:
Plec: On Kyle XY, one day we get the note "Kyle needs to be more of a superhero" and the next day, it’s "Why is this so comic book?" The next day, it’s "We need to write towards guys" and the following day, "Where’s all the stuff girls will like?"
I'd rather delegate:
Plec: The part of the job I don’t particularly care of is unfortunately the part of the job that can’t really be delegated: being in the room and breaking story. You could poll 100 showrunners and at least 70 of them would say the same thing. Damon Lindelof said to me a couple years ago after I told him Kevin and I needed someone that’s good at that: "Hate to break it to you Julie, I needed the same thing. You are that person." That is where you are at your most insecure, when you’re staring at a blank white board.
How I break through writer's block:
Plec: I’ve established two things. If it’s not working, it’s because it’s wrong. Not being afraid to throw it out and start over – even when you’re on deadline – is often the better way to go. The other, for me, is instituting the eight-hour sleep turnaround. No matter how late I work or am up writing, I get eight hours of sleep. It’s kept me sane, it’s kept me healthy and I haven’t had a complete mental breakdown, though I’ve certainly come close.
If I could add any writer to my staff, it would be:
Plec: My friend Liz Tigelaar, who is one of the most vibrant personalities and hilarious wonderful women.
The show I'm embarrassed to admit I watch:
Plec: I think nothing’s better for a good cry than Fox's So You Think You Can Dance. Sometimes it tells a better story in a four-minute dance piece than other television shows.
The three things I need in order to write:
Plec: A case of ice-cold Diet Coke, my Bose noise-canceling headphones and Pandora with my eclectic playlist, from Snow Patrol to Adele to Josh Groban to Explosions in the Sky.