Fox's Dana Walden and NBC's Jennifer Salke Talk 'This Is Us' and Reveal Their Power Couple Nickname: "Jana"

WIE Power 100 - Dana Walden and Jennifer Salke -Photographed by Coral von Zumwalt - H 2016
Photographed by Coral von Zumwalt

The former Fox colleagues and now competitors — and sometime collaborators — remain close: "Not having her here every day has made me much more productive," jokes Walden.

The list of parallels between Walden and Salke is uncannily long. The same age (52), they both grew up around Studio City and attended neighboring girls schools.

Those facts might not be so extraordinary had the two not ended up on such wildly similar career paths — Walden, the chairman and CEO of Fox TV Group, and Salke, the president of NBC Entertainment. "Jen's daughter, Georgia, started calling us 'Jana,' " explains Walden, "because we're kind of the same lady."

Jen's daughter is familiar with their similitude because, on top of being former colleagues at 20th TV (where Salke was executive vp creative affairs until departing for NBC in 2011) and frequent collaborators (freshman breakout This Is Us), the two dynamos are very close friends. "We travel together," says Salke. "Our children sort of treat each other like cousins."

This Is Us, a 20th drama airing on NBC, has been a particular cause of celebration for Walden and Salke. The pair, who previously collaborated on enduring hits such as Glee and Modern Family, had yet to find a true breakout together in their current roles. Season-to-date, This Is Us is easily the No. 1 new show of the fall — and the third-highest-rated scripted series across all of broadcast. (Only veteran heavyweights The Big Bang Theory and Empire fare better.) 

It's been five years since Walden and Salke worked in the same office, but their occasional competitor status hasn't dampened their relationship. In fact, it's bettered their careers. Explains Walden with a grin, "Not having her here every day has made me much more productive."

A version of this story first appeared in the 2016 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.