- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
It’s hard to pinpoint the scariest part about writing WandaVision. There was the fact that I had never run a room before, or even been staffed on a TV show. There was the tonal high-wire act of the premise itself: a superhero sitcom that is also a meditation on grief. There was the pressure of creating one of the first original TV shows for Marvel Studios and the soon-to-be-launched Disney+ platform. And perhaps the most daunting element of all: My kids were ages 2 and 4 at the time I was hired. I had no idea how I was going to do this job. But there was no way I was turning it down.
Every showrunner I discreetly approached for a cheat sheet told me to run it how I wanted to run it. To my surprise and good fortune, my partners at Marvel felt the same way. Visions of a utopian working environment filled my head: a culture of respect and inclusion, big ideas and even bigger feelings, clarity of purpose, lots of laughing, and … a 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. workday.
It still makes me sweaty to see those hours in black and white. Trained as I was to demonstrate my commitment to work by pretending I had no commitments at home, I was sure my wonderful co-executive producer Mary Livanos would laugh me out of the building. She didn’t (she’s wonderful). But it was a gamble: Could we be focused and brilliant enough to meet our deadlines and still get home in time for dinner?
We turned our attention to staffing. My husband remarked that I was essentially selecting complete strangers to join me in a 15-passenger van on a road trip across the country. I’d better choose wisely. He was correct, and I did. When I read specs and took meetings, I had two criteria: an unusual POV and a kind soul. Nailed it with all 10 hires.
On day one, I wore my best sweater with the lightning bolts down the arms because I’m extra and I love a theme. It was difficult to keep my voice steady during my memorized opening remarks, and I’m fairly certain everyone could see my hands shaking. But the piece of advice in the forefront of my mind was this: “It’s not your job to have the best ideas in the room. It’s your job to be the keeper of the vision.” That I knew I could do.
The tone, the look, the feeling and even the sound of this series was already etched on the inside of my heart. I knew where it started and where it ended. But all the details — the precise rules of the world (Peter Cameron! Megan McDonnell!), the sitcom overlay (Mackenzie Dohr! Gretchen Enders! Chuck Hayward!), the narrative pivot points (Bobak Esfarjani! Cameron Squires! Clay Lapari!), and the nuance and poetry of Wanda’s grief (Laura Donney! Laura Monti!) — this was uncharted territory. And so we began.
Two and a half years later, I can now see that all the things that terrified me worked entirely in my favor. With no room experience of my own, I created my fantasy. With no precedent at Marvel Studios, I had their support to be daring in this first foray into television. And as it turns out, being a mother was my best asset on this job. It made me organized, commanding, empathetic and nurturing. More than anything, it’s how I connected to Wanda. She’s a powerful woman under immense pressure who just wants to do right by her children. I know her fear, I know her anxiety, and I know her love.
I wish I could say that our room never worked past 4 p.m., but the truth is, there were a few planned all-nighters that I’m confident were enjoyed by all. (If you’re lucky enough to meet a WandaVision writer, ask them to sing “The Song.”) What I am proud of is the fact that the gamble paid off. The room was healthy and the work was good. It’s possible to have both. We made a show that resonated with audiences around the world, and most nights I still made it home in time for dinner.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day