Killed Characters, Fired Bosses and Canceled Shows: TV’s Top Drama Showrunners Tell All
The Hollywood Reporter
Matthew Belloni, Stacey Wilson
This story originally appears in the June 4 Emmys Watch special issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
On a sunny morning in early May, six of television’s busiest showrunners enjoyed that rarest of luxuries: two hours away from writers rooms, sets and, most frightening, blank computer screens. Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), 45, Howard Gordon (Homeland), 51, Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal), 42, Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead), 44, Veena Sud (The Killing), 45, and Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), 52, run some of the most powerful and critically lauded drama series on TV. In a candid discussion about the pressures of their jobs, The Hollywood Reporter heard how some have killed off popular characters, how Mazzara coped with replacing his boss Frank Darabont, the rave reviews Gilligan receives from addicts for his spot-on meth recipes and Gordon’s struggle — shared by the others — to live a life despite “being perpetually haunted by these stories.”
THR: What has been your most challenging moment with an actor?
Gordon: Where’s this running? (Laughter.)
Gilligan: I remember a good learning moment for me. It was on The X-Files, and I had written the scene where Gillian Anderson was about to get an ice-pick lobotomy by this crazy guy who’d strapped her to a dentist chair. I wrote that she was coming out of some deep anesthetic, and the scene needed to be scary. But I’m like, “This is not scary, because she’s not scared. She is drugged!” So I had to ask them to reshoot it. She was very upset with me. I don’t blame her. I sent her flowers. I learned from that that you got to be careful what you put on the page.