PBS 'Masterpiece' Exec Producer Rebecca Eaton Steps Down After 35 Years

Rebecca Eaton AND Susanne Simpson-Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of PBS

Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of PBS' long-running Masterpeice, is stepping aside after 35 years.

Susanne Simpson will take over as executive producer of the drama series after serving as deputy executive producer for the past dozen years. Eaton will transition to the role of executive producer at large, with a focus on developing new projects and fundraising for the Masterpiece Trust.

"There is no one better prepared than Susanne to succeed Rebecca," says John Bredar, vp programming at WGBH Boston, which produces Masterpiece. "And Masterpiece will continue to benefit from Rebecca's sharp-eyed sense of story and character and her unique ability to connect with funders who support the series. In this competitive TV landscape, we are fortunate to have Susanne and Rebecca — two of the most talented executives working in drama today — taking Masterpiece into the future."

Said Simpson, "It's an incredible honor to be taking over a series with Masterpiece's unique history — one that has created a devoted audience for British drama. For 12 years, I've worked closely with Rebecca Eaton, and I'm so grateful for her, and WGBH's, support. With the wealth of great drama coming from our U.K. partners, it's a thrilling time to be working at Masterpiece."

Eaton has been EP of Masterpiece since 1985, the majority of the drama franchise's life (it will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021). Over that time it has won 62 Emmys, 16 Peabody Awards and two Oscar nominations. She also relaunched the franchise in 2008 — which brought hits like Downton Abbey and Sherlock — and established the Masterpiece Trust in 2011 to help ensure the series' future.

"For me, an Anglophile bookworm and the daughter of an English professor and an actress, Masterpiece has been my ideal professional home," said Eaton. "I relish working with my British colleagues, the people who actually make and sell these fabulous programs, and I am convinced that Masterpiece is still vital today because of the steadfast support of PBS, our funders and, most importantly, our famously loyal viewers."

Simpson joined Masterpiece in 2007, and in that time has been responsible for shows such as Sherlock, Wolf Hall and Victoria. She also oversaw all aspects of Downton Abbey's U.S. broadcast, helping the show become the most watched drama ever on PBS. Simpson also executive produces the Masterpiece Studio podcast.