Where are you from and what inspired you to become a television writer?
I’ve lived in New York City for all of my Big Girl life, but grew up as an only child on an Iowa ranch gazing woebegone across the plains waiting for Clint Eastwood to gallop by with a warrant and sore need for someone to ride second saddle. In other words, I was short on companions and television characters were my best friends. Watching The A-Team and reruns of M*A*S*H were times when my family and other families sat together and laughed. The stiff upper-lips of the Heartland, typically forbidden to show emotion, and all-business Dads and Moms tired from long hours, could sit down and cope for a while. Hawkeye’s wise cracks expose the ludicrousness of war AND the ludicrousness of life. This line between comedy and drama is why I wanted to be a television writer. The genius of M*A*S*H is that war, or failing relationships, or lost jobs or extra shifts for decreased pensions is exactly the place where comedy is most needed, most apt, most counted on. When I am powerless to do anything else, at least I can hope to make’em laugh.
What Spec did you write to get into the workshop?
I wrote a 30 Rock spec with my writing partner, Frank Angones.
Who is your all time favorite television character and why?
Deadwood’s Al Swearengen, like Hawkeye Pierce and Archie Bunker, has that special sexy disdain for authority. These are the guys with innate wit and gut instincts who cry “up yours!” at any attempt to clip their wings—and they get away with it because they’re smarter than the dimwits around them. But, the secret is that they love those dimwits. And, love them wildly. At first glance, Al’s a scoundrel; he’s a murderer and a criminal who will cut a throat if it needs cut. But, scratch the surface and you see the violence is not arbitrary. It comes from a man whose capacity to love is so great that he will sacrifice anything to protect those he loves, even if they are fools. Especially if they are fools. Al hasn’t been given the best tools. But he uses these tools, broken and misguided as they are, out of immense love. He is redemptive. For me, the artistry in a character like Al, whom we can love and hate so fiercely, belongs on the wall of a museum.