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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.
The show that inspired me to write:
Rhimes: All the books that I read growing up that made me want to become a writer. I’d planned to be Toni Morrison. The only problem is, that job is taken — Toni Morrison is busy being Toni Morrison.
My TV mentor:
Beers: I have had some really wonderful supporters. Suzanne Patmore Gibbs encouraged me to work in television — she was the one who suggested meeting Shonda Rhimes, so I have a lot to thank her for! And Channing Dungey is another person who has always been an incredible advocate and friend.
My big break:
Rhimes: I sold a spec pilot call Human Seeking Same. It was a romantic comedy and it enabled me to quit my day job.
My proudest accomplishment this year:
Beers: Getting Scandal up and running and being brought back for a second season.
My toughest scene to write last year:
Rhimes: My toughest scene was in the season one finale of Scandal: The scene where Mellie (Bellamy Young) yells at Olivia (Kerry Washington) and says that she is taking her husband back. I’d spent the whole season standing in Olivia’s shoes, seeing the world from her point of view and that was the first moment that I really needed to tap into compassion for Mellie. Everything about who Mellie really is, her pain, was revealed in that scene.
The most absurd note I’ve ever gotten:
Beers: Regarding Grey’s Anatomy‘s Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo): “Women will not relate to a woman who has a one-night stand the night before her first day of work.”
The one aspect of my job as showrunner that I’d rather delegate:
Beers: Anything that has to do with live tweeting or product integration. I also worked on one video game in my time here so that is another thing better left to those with a talent for it.
If I could add one writer to my writers room, it would be:
Rhimes: Norman Lear, on any one of my shows.
The show I’m embarrassed to admit I watch:
Beers: Storage Wars. You just always hope there is something really great in those piles of stuff.
The three things I need to write:
Rhimes: Ice water, headphones and the right music.
My preferred method for breaking through writers block:
Rhimes: I lie on the floor of my office and contemplate fleeing the country. I do this often. Almost daily. But, at some point, I always get sick of lying on the floor whining so I just get up and start writing. It usually only takes about five minutes of really bad writing to break through the writers’ block and start writing something decent.
If I could scrub one credit from my resume, it would be:
Beers: I already did! There is little or no record of my short stint acting (very badly) in dinner theater … until now.
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