The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Ashley Nicole Black: I’m Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 515 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Craig often does silly voices, but he could not do a voice that unique and brilliant. That is Ashley.
Ashley: I want someone to pause right there and be like wow Craig really perfected his woman voice.
John: We are listening to Ashley Nicole Black. We’re welcoming her back. She has two Emmy nominations in the same category for her work on the Black Lady Sketch Show and the Amber Ruffin Show. You might also recognize her name on a little program called Ted Lasso. Ashley Nicole Black, welcome back.
Ashley: Thanks for having me. A friend of mine was like congrats on the Emmy nominations or whatever, but I get really excited when you’re on Scriptnotes.
John: Well because you get to carry around Ashley Nicole Black in your ears, as you’re walking your dog, or as you’re washing your dishes.
Ashley: In the shower. Yeah.
John: But we can also of course see you on the Black Lady Sketch Show because you are one of the featured performers on that show. So I want to talk to you today about writing on that show knowing that you’re going to be performing on that show and what that’s like. I want to talk to you about the experience of joining Ted Lasso in the second season and figuring out how you find your place within a writer’s room that already exists. We have a lot of listener questions you can help us answer.
But mostly I want to respond or celebrate this best headline, we’ll put a link in the show notes, “Ashley Nicole Black, the double-nominated Emmy contender taking over TV comedy.”
John: You are taking over TV comedy, which I think is just remarkable. Because you look at the people who have done that before, but Larry David step aside. Ashley Nicole Black.
Ashley: It’s so funny because all of this work was done during COVID over Zoom in my apartment. And I just can’t imagine taking over anything from that West Hollywood apartment.
John: You’re busy managing your very cute dog and making it work. But what’s it been like doing press and also doing publicity for award stuff? It would be great if you got awards, if you didn’t get awards it’s absolutely fine, too, but it’s also kind of work, right? Just doing all of this press?
Ashley: It’s so much work. It’s like exhausting. It just adds so much time to the schedule. And a thing that happens, and I hope this happens to everybody listening, when something like this happens there’s a lot of press and then also at the same time everybody wants to meet you. So you’re trying to juggle your schedule of putting all these press things on the schedule, putting all these meetings on the schedule, and trying to do good enough work to live up to how people are talking about you, which is quite hyperbolic. Look, I can’t be late on this outline. There’s so many articles about how good I am. [laughs]
John: And then you have John emailing you at the last minute saying, hey, could you feel in for Craig this week on Scriptnotes. And so thank you so much for squeezing us in here. The last time we spoke with you I think you came on for the YouTube thing we did where we were talking through the ballot initiatives and trying to fill out our California ballots. So thank you for that. But we’re in an election season again, because there’s a whole bunch of WGA stuff happening. So let’s quickly move through this.
You saw that Fran Drescher was elected as president of SAG-AFTRA.
Ashley: Yes, I voted for Fran.
John: Yeah. Exciting for that. What I love about SAG is you always recognize the people who are in these offices. It’s like, oh, it’s the Nanny. And she’s now running this organization.
Ashley: Yes. I have to really discipline myself to look up their platforms and not just vote for the actors whose work I like.
John: It was kind of a contentious election where people were threatening to sue each other for libel and stuff. And, no, we don’t need that. But congratulations to Fran Drescher. As we talked about on the show all the guilds and unions seem to have some common issues that we’re all going to be focused on in these next round of negotiations. So, it’s great to have somebody in there who is at least talking about those issues. It’s exciting.
Ashley: Yeah. Very much so.
John: We have the WGA West elections are under way. So probably next week we’ll talk through some of the candidates for that. But we have follow up on the WGA East. So last week on the episode we talked about the WGA East election and the issues involved. And several folks reached out on Twitter and they did what folks on Twitter do which is have opinions based on things they saw on Twitter, which is just great. It’s a perfect system and nothing should ever change.
But two clarifications. They’re not really corrections but clarifications based on things we said on last week’s episode. Important to understand that digital writers, like the ones who are working for some of the shops the East is now representing, they’re doing work that it is not covered by the AMPTP contract. So when we talk about working for the studios and the big negotiations that we do with the studios these digital writers are not working under that contract. And because they’re not under that contract they’re also not part of the WGA health plan. So they will have health insurance through their employers which is different and negotiated separately. So I want to make sure everyone understands that they’re doing their own contracts with their own individual employers. It’s different than the big contract that gets negotiated every three years.
And then there’s this other question which I didn’t really want to weigh in on but people kept asking about which is could digital writers outnumber the traditional writers in the East based on how quickly they’re signing up new shops? Would writers working under individual contracts rather than the big contract outnumber the traditional writers? And it comes down to this question of how soon is soon. Eventually if you move forward in time it looks like the trends would go that way, but soon is a hard thing to define.
So, I think that’s really what this election is about. How quickly do you want that change to happen and do you think you need to restructure the organization? And that seems to be what the two sides who are running the two different slates are really discussing. So I want to make that clear that I’m not saying that it’s going to happen next year, or five years from now, but overall it seems like this election is about what shape we want the union to be in five years, ten years down the road. So I want to clarify those two things.
Ashley: Yeah. I think also it’s about do we vote for these things or does staff them unilaterally? And I think that that’s something that applies to more than just this situation. But I know that union members, we’re all writers. We’re busy writing. We don’t necessarily know everything the union is doing. And it’s like what things are worth us voting on as a union and choosing to do and what things are things that like the union can just do and we’re not involved in choosing it.
John: Such a great point. Because so much of what unions do is sort of day to day organizing and keeping stuff going. And it’s not things you’d be voting on regularly. And so be it individual members voting in these big elections or boards meeting, there’s a lot of just daily work that unions and guilds are doing and really picking a direction for where you want them to go. And so the choices that members make now in this election will impact what you’re setting as the agenda for these organizations.
Ashley: Yeah. I also want to point out, and sorry I didn’t listen to your episode last week, so maybe this is redundant, but when this election started I was really excited about some of the candidates that were running, like Lauren Ashley Smith, Greg Iwinski, who are both comedy variety writers, because comedy variety is really more heavily represented in the East than in the West. Comedy variety writers make way less money and now are also seeing their residuals disappear, and I’m not even being hyperbolic. It’s nuts how quickly. I mean, a $20K check has turned into a $20 check and that’s not even an exaggeration. And also of course we know there are so many gains that need to be made for writers of color, for screenwriters, all of those writers who are just not the typical television writer.
And we sort of started the election talking about those things, like how do we make gains for comedy variety writers, how do we make sure they’re making enough for health insurance, how do we get rid of some of this free writing that screenwriters are doing. And now the discourse has completely moved away from that. And I do feel like that’s a pattern in our guild that like there are certain types of writers, and screenwriters have been saying this for years and years, I’m not saying anything new, that their issue always gets pushed to the side when it’s time to have the conversation. So I do hope that we get back to sort of talking about our writers who need help making health insurance during a pandemic and how we’re going to make that happen.
John: Yeah. You’re really emphasizing the importance of kitchen table issues. The things that are really making a difference in the paychecks coming home. And your ability to sustain a career in this business versus the structural housekeeping concerns which, yes, they’re important, they’re 20 years down the road problems. But they’re not helping a member right now. So it’s great that you’re really emphasizing that we have to focus on what members need right at this moment.
John: Cool. Now Ashley I have a question for you, because I see you on Twitter, and your Twitter is fantastic and you’re funny and you make smart points. And I feel like your Twitter is better than my Twitter, but I don’t know that to be true, and maybe it’s that silent evidence. I’m not seeing all the really annoying people who are coming into your feed. But I want to talk to you about this practice that happened to me this past week which is someone replies to something and says like “care to comment @johnaugust?” Or they tag you into a conversation that you don’t feel like you want to be a part of, and yet you feel like ignoring that conversation is perilous, too, or that by not engaging you’re expressing apathy or that you don’t care.
I struggle with this. Do you have any guidance for me?
Ashley: Oh man. I think that’s so rude and I hate it. I think people should not do it. I think on Twitter if you’re talking about someone’s work or whatever I actually think that’s fine. Don’t at them. There’s no need for them to see that. If you want to tell your friends I didn’t like this movie, or whatever it is, you can do that without adding that person and making sure you hurt their feelings. And the thing that I think is even worse than that is when someone has done that, politely said I don’t like this movie, I don’t like this song, whatever it is, and then someone comes along and is like let me start a fight between the two of you by tagging someone. I don’t understand what your goal is. Presumably you’re following one of those people. You want to make them have a bad day. It’s just bad practice. Don’t do it.
The version of that that I get a lot is I’ll tweet my political opinions quite often and people will take my tweet and quote tweet it into the thread of a republican politician or like some white supremacist radio host or whatever. And I’m like first of all you would have to be delusional to think that someone who has lived their entire life as a conservative, has gotten elected to office as one, is going to read my tweet and be like “I rethink it all.” In what world? So all you’re doing is bringing me to the attention of the people who love to swarm and send mean tweets to people.
So what I have done is multiple times I have tweeted don’t do this, please don’t do it, I don’t like it, and explain why. And now having done that I feel really confident just blocking people because I put work into curating a really positive feed and I have really positive interactions with my followers. I mean, part of that is because most people come to me because of the shows I’ve been on, and all of those shows are really positive and fun and loving, so it’s like cool, chill people. And if you bring negativity into that space I don’t feel bad blocking people for that.
John: So help me out here, because I go through periods where I will mute people who are just so annoying to me, but I don’t know if muting is the right approach or blocking, because I feel blocking is a more assertive action that they know that you have actually blocked them. Talk me through some philosophies on muting and blocking. Because it seems like blocking makes so much sense when you’re being quoted into somebody else, because that’s a way to stop them from doing that. But give me some guidance here. I’d love it.
Ashley: I tend to mute people who are just annoying but they’re not hurting anybody. They’re not necessarily doing anything wrong, it’s just I feel annoyance from looking at your tweets and I can stop myself from having that feeling by muting you. But there’s nothing wrong with you. You aren’t doing anything wrong. And blocking is like you’re actively doing something that is going to bring negativity my way or even sometimes when I see people being negative to other people. There are certain accounts that just spend all day being mean to fat people on Twitter. And you don’t even have to do it to me. If I saw that you did it to someone else, blocked. Because it’s just like why? Why is this how you’re spending your time? Please go outside and take a walk and enjoy your life.
John: That seems like good advice. So what I’m taking from this is mute the people who are just annoying to you. Block the people who are actively doing bad in the world.
John: Great. I will take your advice and I’m going to move forward on that front. So thank you very much for that.
Next bit of follow up. So last week we had a guy named Ghosted who was really screwed over by these two WGA writers and Lance wrote in to say, “I’m a WGA member and in my experience the producers who have asked for the most free work have been WGA writers turned producers. On one particular project I did eight unpaid rewrites for an Oscar-nominated former WGA board member. The WGA talks a lot about producers who take advantage of writers, but I’ve never heard a conversation about WGA members taking advantage of other WGA writers. The WGA needs to have this conversation. There needs to be more internal accountability to have any credibility with non-writing producers.”
Oof. Yeah. And as I read this I can think of some writers turned producers who might have expectations that are not good or realistic, or might sort of have unhealthy numbers of rewrites and things that they’re asking for. Have you had this experience where you feel like sometimes WGA writers can be kind of crappy to other writers?
Ashley: Not in this context. This actually really shocks me that any writer would ask someone for unpaid rewrites because we all – well, I guess we didn’t all – I struggled on the way up. Some people maybe didn’t. But we all know what it means to need to pay the bills. But definitely I know a lot of writers have experienced, you know, bad experiences with showrunners, abusive behavior, stuff like that. And those people are our fellow writers. And it does make it hard to get redress sometimes because we’re in the same union, so it’s like who do you go to?
If you have a problem with a studio, if you’re not getting paid by a studio or a network you can go to the union and say they didn’t pay me, but when it’s another writer who is also in that union it is a problem that there’s kind of nowhere to go.
John: Yeah. On features there’s been one experience where I was a producer who was not writing on a project and the reason why there’s only been one of those experiences is because I didn’t love it. And I definitely knew how to talk to the writer and what I was looking for, but it was like being a pilot and not being allowed to touch the controls. I was trying to describe where I thought we needed to go, and if I could have just rewritten it myself I would have rewritten it myself. And to some degree I wonder if these WGA writers who are being dicks about other people’s writing is that they kind – they want to have the total control. They want to actually just be able to rewrite it, but they don’t actually want to do the work to rewrite it. So instead they’re just noting a person to death, or trying to get this other writer to write the way that they would write it. And that’s not healthy or good. That’s not how it needs to work. So that’s why you need to have contracts that you can actually enforce and you need to have – everyone needs to actually understand and remember that this writer who is doing this work for you is truly a writer and is truly trying to deliver their best work and you have to respect them for that and not ask for unrealistic free work out of them.
Ashley: Yeah. You’ve done this way more than me, so I wonder – ideally you would have a contract before you started writing, but between two writers I could see where you end up in a situation where you didn’t, be it felt rude to ask or whatever. But you should ask, right?
John: Yeah. In the Ghosted example there was a contract, but they were just ignoring the contract and asking for crazy, crazy stuff. But that sort of pre-contract stuff can be a problem where it’s like, oh, this is the WGA, the experienced writer is going to be overseeing this project, and here’s the newer writer who is going to be actually doing it. And in getting ready for the pitch the experienced writer might be asking for endless changes and dragging on, and on, and on before there’s actually a project being set up. That’s where I see some of the worst of this behavior because it’s not even really – it’s done sometimes with good intentions, like I really want this thing to get set up and so therefore I’m going to keep asking and keep asking and keep asking to refine this thing. But you always have to remember that you were once that writer who was doing the 19th version of this pitch document and that’s work that you’re not being able to do that’s actually paid.
So it’s remembering that. And I don’t know how the WGA enforces this any better other than just really establishing best practices for this is what free work is and this is why it’s a problem and how we stop it.
John: So let’s move to happier topics which is you got started, I know you did late night and comedy variety writing, but I really want to talk about sketches and sketches you’re doing for Black Lady Sketch Show because you are a writer on the show but you’re also a performer on the show. You are so funny on the show. And I imagine that some of the stuff that you’ve been funniest in have been sketches that you yourself created. And in writing in it you’re just sort of writing for yourself, but you also know who the other cast members are. So, at what point in coming up with each sketch do you have a sense of like OK I’m this character and everybody else is this character? How is the pitching process working for the sketches?
Can you talk me through a given sketch on your show how it comes to be and how you come to write it?
Ashley: Sure. Actually on this show which I think is unique in this way 90, 95% of sketches we don’t know who the cast is and we’re literally just pitching. I mean, obviously we know who our cast is, but it’s not cast. And we don’t write for, like the celebrities that come on, we don’t write specifically for them. So you’re really just pitching what you think would be the funniest idea or most relevant to what’s going on in society, whatever your sketch idea is. And it gets cast way down the line long after the writers are done with the process.
Very occasionally I will pitch sketches that are specifically for myself. And most of those are things that truly only I could play. Like the Invisible Spy is so much about what my body looks like that nobody else could play that part, except for Nicole Byer who plays my doppelgänger in the sketch.
John: Nemesis and sort of compatriot there. So for people who don’t know the conceit of this character is essentially you are a secret agent who is so good because everyone just ignores you. People don’t even notice that you’re there and so therefore you can do these secret things.
Ashley: Yeah. And that was really based on my real life experience. I’m the person who – it was so funny, I had forgotten this and just remembered recently, Gabrielle who is on the show and I were on a plane together. And the flight attendant reaches over me to hand Gabrielle a drink and forgets to ask me. It’s just like, oh my god, it just happened. It happens all the time. I am just invisible. And so you can take that negatively, but I just decided this is my super power. I could get away with anything. If I wanted to shoplift no one would ever stop me. And so, yeah, that was one that I wrote for myself because it is me.
But most of them it’s just like what is a funny thing and it’ll get cast later.
John: Focusing on Invisible Spy. So you have this conceit. What is the pitching process for this? For the first season you were probably in a real room, but do you come in with the whole concept, or here’s the one line and you’re working on as a room? What was that like?
Ashley: Ideally you come in with a whole concept. A beginning, middle, and an end. And sometimes I do. Sometimes sketches come to me in that way and I know what the whole sketch is going to be. But we have to pitch – basically on that show you come in in the morning and you pitch until you get a yes. So you could end up racing through ten ideas in one day if your first nine are nos. So by the time you get to that fifth or sixth idea that you maybe weren’t planning on pitching yet sometimes you do just have a beginning. And that room is so good at jumping in and helping you flesh out your idea. What if this happens? And what if that happens? And some of the things that people love the most in sketches I’ve written were additions from other people, because their brain just works differently from mine. But then you also have to kind of be solid and know that just because that suggestion is funny does it actually fit in this sketch? And so for me I try not to pitch anything until I know what I’m trying to say.
Because if you pitch an idea that’s just funny it’s very easy for it to get off track and kind of be unset Jell-O. But if you have a funny idea and you know what you’re trying to say about the world, or what you’re referencing, then when people are throwing in other ideas it’s easier to say yes to that one, no to that one, because I have a thesis in mind.
John: So something like this sketch you’ve pitched it, the room has responded positively, what are you first handing in? And at what point do you know which episode that will go into? Because right now it’s just existing as a free-floating sketch. It’s not tethered into anything else in an episode. So when do you know that it’s like, OK, this is a thing we’re shooting. I’ll be playing the central character. When does it get crystalized as that form?
Ashley: So we write a first draft of the sketch to like a whole sketch, and then usually you get notes, you may write it again, the whole room contributes to it. But then because this is an HBO show, it’s not like SNL, the writers are gone. So if I was just a writer I would never know what episode it was in until I watched it on television.
John: Oh wow.
Ashley: But as an actor we get a huge packet of all the sketches and we kind of audition for all the sketches and sometimes you hear someone else read and you’re like I’m not reading this. That’s her part. Let’s move on. And then we just shoot them all. So we don’t know how they’re going to put the episodes together. The only time we would see a sneak peek is if we did ADR and they try to avoid even doing ADR. So we truly don’t know what it is until we watch it on TV.
John: So talk about alts. Because clearly in some of these situations you might think of other stuff along the way. Are alts part of the initial sketch packet? Like here’s alternate lines for alternate jokes, or alternate ways out of this sketch. Is that already part of it, or is that work that’s done on the set while you’re shooting?
Ashley: Mostly on set. And then we always try to leave room to do an improv run. And a lot of times that’s where the best stuff comes from.
John: Now, contrast that to the work you’re doing on the Amber Ruffin Show, things like her great monologues on how did we get here. That’s incredibly tightly written. I mean, it clearly is an essay before it goes into it. But is there a room working on that? Or is it really one person, one pitch, one idea? How does something like that come together?
Ashley: So, this is a little strange because I only worked on that show during Covid. And I was in LA and that show is produced in New York. So there was a room, but I wasn’t in it. So the room would meet on Zoom. I get to do that. I was writing all alone in my apartment. So I would basically take a piece from beginning to end because I was writing them alone and just sending them in. And then same thing. See it on TV. You see what jokes they replaced and it’s a lovely surprise.
John: OK, so that was really just you were a freelance writer slipping something under the door and you sort of see what happens.
John: Wow. So it’s such a different experience. But talk to me about the experience of writing one of those pieces because it has to have a central thesis, a central theme, and it still has to be joke dense the whole time through. And are you thinking about what visuals go with it? If I were to read one of the things you submitted what would it look like? Is it just a column of text for Amber to be speaking or is it intercut with these are the visuals, this is the change, this is tone? What does that look like for a monologue like that?
Ashley: So, I still kind of work in the Full Frontal style, because that’s how I learned how to do it?
John: Full Frontal is the Samantha Bee Show you worked on, right?
Ashley: Yeah. You should clarify with that title. I still write without pants on.
So I usually start with a thesis statement or a hypothesis, something I think to be true, and then do a ton of research and make sure that it is true. And it is basically like writing an essay. Making an argument. Amber is very much an advocate for the way things should be more so than a complainer about the way things are. So it’s sort of like my thesis statement of like this is what’s happening and then me sort of projecting myself as Amber what should happen. Supporting that with research. And writing basically an essay, writing my way through it.
And we do pitch the graphics. I am not the best graphics pitcher. So I do put them in my script, but I know most of those are going to get replaced I am actually not the best visual thinker. But you do break up your text with where the graphics would be and what the jokes are. And the benefit to that is when you look at the full page you can really see how much room is between jokes because the graphics stand out so much. And you really try to do at least three, three to five jokes per page, and it’s very visually apparent where there’s a joke missing.
And if that’s the case I will put a joke there. I will shoehorn a joke because those pieces are so dense and sometimes they’re about such tough topics. You just have to have jokes to get through it. And so sometimes you’re like joking off of one word that was in the sentence before just because it’s time for a joke, no matter how hard it is to squeeze one in.
John: And to clarify when you’re say you’re breaking up the page to show the graphics, you’re just putting a description of the graphics? You’re not actually responsible for the Photoshopping of this is what the graphics would look like?
Ashley: Oh no, no.
John: So a whole other team does that. But I do find it interesting, if you even look at the progression of monologue desk bits from early on to where we are right now, and probably SNL was important to this, but you look at John Oliver, you look at Samantha Bee, and The Daily Show, the idea of we’re going to get a laugh right when that next graphic comes up, and it’s so prevalent now and you’re expecting that next graphic to always provide a punchline, to throw out a joke, or to set up that next thing.
And understanding the tension between OK these are the words but this is the graphic and the next pop has to be so different and it’s challenging to write because you don’t quite know what that next graphic is going to look like.
Ashley: Well you’re telling them what you want it to look like. And also the Full Frontal team, the graphics team, are also comedians, so they make the graphics really funny. And you also have the opportunity to go back and say, no, not that, do this.
But a lot of times it’s also clips, like news clips, and you’re writing the joke off the clip, so at Full Frontal they have a huge research team and they’ll send you a document of like 50 clips and you can pick one that has something you can make fun of, even if it’s like I’m going to make fun of the newscaster’s pony tail or whatever, just to get a joke off of something in this clip.
John: Great. So it’s almost like [unintelligible] you need something to plant your foot against so you can push up and get over that next little wall, that next point you’re actually trying to make. How challenging is it sometimes to remember that you’re trying to sell an argument and not just have it be joke-joke-joke? Because that would also be one of the problems I could imagine is that something could be so funny that you’re actually losing the thread. Does that happen?
Ashley: This is not a problem that I have because I started out as an academic and became a comedian. But I think it can be a problem that staffs have as a whole. And there usually is one person, either the head writer, or the writing supervisor who gets all of these jokes and then unfortunately sometimes has to reject some of them to make a point.
John: Great. Now so that’s writing for one performer, but you also got a chance this last season, since we last spoke with you I don’t think we even knew you were working on the second season of Ted Lasso. So can you talk to us about coming into a show in its second season? I think you were probably only in a virtual room? You never saw any of these people until the season had shot if I’m recalling correctly. So talk to us about the transition to coming into a real scripted normal show in its second season that was so successful and yet so delicate. What was that like? And what was the call for you to get in and work on the show?
Ashley: This is actually the second show – I also joined Bless This Mess in the second season. So I’m like a second season expert now.
Ashley: And it was actually pretty easy both times. I mean, with Ted Lasso there was that extra hiccup of it being Zoom. But the staff was just so cool and so friendly and inviting that whatever social nerves I had were released immediately. And the cool thing about being the only writer who joins, which I had that experience both times, is you’re the only person who only knows what the audience knows.
So in that beginning awkward period where you’re trying to figure out, OK, they added me to this room so they felt that they needed something. What is that thing? What’s the thing that I can provide? It takes maybe a couple weeks to figure that out. But in the interim the thing that you can provide is they have all of these memories of all these things they talked about or thought about doing or shot that didn’t make it in the show, and you only know what made it in the show. And it can actually be really helpful to be like, oh no, he said this. And I would find that I sometimes have a better memory for those things than them because I don’t remember all the things behind it.
John: Yeah. I can imagine if you were to enter The Good Place in the second season or middle of the first season and you didn’t sort of know the central conceit or where stuff was going it would be helpful in some ways because you just have that audience’s perspective and you’re just looking at it as a fan. And you’re going into it and sort of seeing like oh this is what I believe the thing is. And I don’t want to get into any spoilers of Ted Lasso, but we’re recording this as we’re midway through the second season. And it’s very clear that stuff is being set up for the second half of the season that probably was already a plan from the first season. But the rest of the people in that room knew that and you didn’t know that and that’s probably good for you and for them.
Ashley: Yeah. And the ability to be like as someone who didn’t know the plan this is what I thought when I watched that episode. This is where I thought this character was headed or what they were saying. And it’s not always exactly the same as what the writers were intending. So, it is helpful to have that kind of outside perspective.
John: What are hours like in a Zoom room for something like Ted Lasso? Traditionally a writer’s room could be eight hours a day. Were the Zoom rooms that kind of long schedule?
Ashley: Not quite. This was also at the beginning of the pandemic when everyone was getting used to Zoom and it was like Zoom is exhausting. I think we’ve gotten more used to it now. But we did work shorter hours definitely in the beginning. But also you don’t have any getting up and going to the kitchen and less small talk and stuff. So we actually got a lot done. But they weren’t very long.
John: And classically a room that’s getting together first you’re starting off talking about some blue sky, some goals for the second season of what you’re trying to do. And then start to break in generally looking at characters, figuring out what could fall in what episodes. How quickly did it come to a point where it’s like, OK, Ashley, you go off and write this episode. What was the process of getting you to OK now you go off and do this draft?
Ashley: Bill and Jason are really generous and some showrunners are not this way, but they will allow you to sort of be like I like this one, you know, if it’s possible. And one of the characters in my episode, which was Episode 3, is based on someone that Jason and I know both know. And so I asked for that episode so that I could write that character. But typically as joining in a second season I would never be so presumptuous as to ask for the third episode. But that one was like a particular case.
John: Because you brought it up, writing based on somebody that you both know a lot of people are listening and are like oh I didn’t know I could do that, or is it dangerous to write based on somebody you know. So what was it about that person who you knew that lent themselves to a character? What was it about them that you say like, oh, that’s the kind of character we should have in this episode?
Ashley: In season one they just talk about Nora but we never meet her. So in season two we knew Nora was going to come for a visit. And I wanted to write that character because Nora was like this really just like super smart, sassy, politically connected teenage girl. And I wanted to make sure to create a teenage girl who wasn’t the typical. Sometimes I think adult writers can be a little bit dismissive in how they write teenagers. I wanted to write a character who was like such a cool chick. And so I really wanted that episode so I could establish her way of speaking and how smart and cool she was.
John: Well that sounds amazing. And as luck would have it we have listener questions and the first one feels very much up your alley for the experience that only you would have. So Megana if you could help us out with Ben’s question.
Megana Rao: Ben from New York wrote in and said, “I’m currently working on a pilot that heavily involves basketball. And I’m having trouble making the gameplay comprehensible in the action lines. Most of my peers who have given me feedback don’t follow the sport that much, but they all say it’s hard to understand. I’m trying to find the right balance between making the action lines succinct and not alienating potential readers. A couple of terms that were pointed to were devastating dunk, which I assumed most people knew, and top of the key which is a spot on the court with no general term. I read some scripts of sports movies and shows and they all have terms you would only know if you’re at least somewhat familiar with the sport. Should I simply disregard whether or not the reader understands the game and just make story beats clear?”
John: Ashley, let’s help Ben out here. Because obviously you came into this and you were already an expert on soccer/football?
Ashley: That’s why I’m laughing. The idea that now I’m like a good sports person is hilarious. I did play soccer as an eight-year-old as is required by law in the suburbs of Southern California. The funny thing is both of those terms that he said I know and I am not a sport person at all, so I don’t think they’re that confusing.
John: I didn’t know top of the key at all. Devastating dunk I can just figure out what that is. I know what a dunk is. A devastating dunk, sure. Top of the key? I wouldn’t know what that is.
Ashley: That’s a place that you shoot from. But I think in Ted Lasso every time we’re showing sports it is to move story forward. I think of it the same way I think about writing action and stunts. Which is if you know a lot about the sport or if you happen to be a great jujitsu person or whatever you could describe every beat of the fight, like she punches him, he punches back, she jumps on top of him. But you could also say they fight, it looks like she has the upper hand, but then he turns it on her. And allow the stunt coordinator to figure out what that physically looks like.
I think it’s the same thing with sports. If it’s about, you know, in my episode a lot of the times that we showed sports it was about Sam and Jamie, where Sam and Jamie were in their relationship. And so I think I spent more time describing that than who kicks the ball or where it goes or whatever. It’s like Sam is playing aggressively. Sam gets the upper hand. And there’s someone on set in London who I have never met who will turn that into soccer.
John: Yeah. I think the analogy to action sequences is exactly right. Because we don’t count every bullet being shot. You don’t ever turn of the wheel in a car chase. You’re really describing what it feels like. And I’ve read sports movies that really go way overboard in terms of like every swing of the bat. And that’s just not interesting or good.
Really what we’re going to be tracking is characters’ reactions to what’s happening. And so it’s what the folks on the sidelines are doing. It’s what the players are doing. It’s how they’re reacting and it’s really what’s changed is the thing that’s probably most important to note. And, yes, we keep talking about how detail is important and specificity is important, but it’s really specificity of characters and intentions and motivations and why they’re doing what they’re doing is much more important than literally the choreography on the day.
Think about it like writing a dance sequence or writing a fight sequence. You need that level of clarity in terms of what we’re seeing what we’re seeing, but not exactly what those beats are.
John: Megana, what else you got for us?
Megana: Objectified wrote in and she says, “I work as a writer’s PA at a wonderful, supportive writer’s room. As part of my job I’ve been able to proofread a lot of scripts. While doing this I’ve noticed a trend among the scripts written by older male writers. When they introduced female characters they always describe them by their level of attractiveness. Example: Susan, 30, sexy. Molly, 20s, pretty. Et cetera. Male characters are hardly ever described by their appearances unless they pertain to the story. I was struck by how reading these scripts have made me feel anxious about these writer’s perspectives of me. I’m a woman in my 20s and I can’t help but wonder am I instinctively rated by my level of attractiveness to them? Am I seen as three-dimensional as the male assistants I work with?”
John: Oy, OK. Ashley, let’s talk about this, because it’s really a two-step problem. One it’s sexist, misogynist writing on the page. But also the question of like, wait, are they actually seeing me this way. So I’m not sure where to start there.
Ashley: I do love that she framed it as like it’s not just about on the page but how it is in the room. I think especially for an assistant, but I’ll say also a writer there’s been times in the room where people have talked about – they’re like, oh, and then this guy comes in and he’s like a fat slob and he says this line. And I’m like why does he have to be a fat slob? But then also as a fat person I don’t want to be the one who says maybe we shouldn’t talk about people’s bodies that way. And it is a level of discomfort brought into the room for no reason. Because you didn’t need to say that character was fat to tell the funny line they’re going to say.
So I do think it’s something for people to think about. The people who are in the room with you are people. [laughs] If they share characteristics with the people you’re talking about that may have an effect on them. But I think in the script I will say as a writer-performer this is one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s like enraging and I’ve chosen not to audition for things because of things like this. As an actor – and I studied to be an actor. I didn’t really study to be a writer, so I’m curious how people who did are taught this. But as an actor we’re taught that those action lines are things for you to play. So if I’m reading a script to audition or to perform and it says “Ashley, 30s, really smart, really witty, loves to do karate,” then that tells me as an actor OK these lines are probably I should be saying them in a joking manner. Maybe I should move differently because this character does karate and her body is trained. You know, whatever, it’s something for me to do.
If I read a script and it says “Ashley, 30s, super-hot” there’s no way for me to do that. I’m going to have whatever body I have when I show up. It’s either hot or it’s not. There’s nothing I can do to play hot. If what you mean is that the other characters are attracted to her that’s useful information for them and you could say “Ashley enters the room. Kevin immediately thinks she’s hot.” That’s something for him to play. But it does nothing – you give an actor nothing when all you tell them is what they look like.
Like I’m imagining, let’s say the character is a waiter. And it’s like, “Kelly, super-hot,” and the first line is, “What can I get you today?” I as an actor just have to figure out how to say that. Whereas if you had described Kelly, “she is exhausted, he hates working here,” and the first line is, “What can I get you today,” I now know how to say that line. And it’s so frustrating when you’re auditioning when the script is giving you no clues about who the person is other than what they look like. And then you have to do an audition and it’s like well how could I possibly get the part because I don’t know what you want from you.
John: Yes. So I think Kelly our waitress, maybe she could be like – I’d like to see an audition where she’s just performatively hot. Like basically is she just trying to act hot? So she’s sweating, or she is fanning herself a lot, like she’s going through a hot flash. Or she’s taking hot as being one of those like she’s vain and she’s always pursing her lips or trying to do hot things while trying to take the order. That’s at least funny. It’s actually trying to play the line there.
So, yeah, let’s get rid of – again, specificity is great. So if you could talk to us about hair, makeup, clothing, the things that we actually can see that could impact character but could also change our read on who that character is, that’s awesome. But just what their body looks like is not going to be one of those things. That’s not going to give the actor anything to do. It’s not going to give any other department anything to do other than the casting department says I have to make some objective choice about is this person conventionally attractive enough or heavy enough or whatever the criteria that was listed in that script.
Ashley: And PS you can email the casting department. Like you don’t have to put that in the script. If you want a fat slob to play this part, email the casting director privately and say, hey, you know, Roy who I said is a funny guy in a wife-beater t-shirt, he should be an overweight guy. And they’ll call those guys in. There’s no need to insult that actor by putting it in the script.
John: You can sort of say this is the thing we’re looking for in this character, but it doesn’t have to be on the page there because it’s not helping the performer. It’s not helping the cast. And it’s not good.
So we’ve addressed some of the script concerns. Let’s talk to what Objectified might do in this situation they find themselves where they see this happening in the room and they wonder like, oh crap, is that how they actually see me in this space. What advice can we give her? I think we’re saying Objectified is a woman. What might be a best practice? My instinct would be it’s not her responsibility to stand up in the room and say this is gross and sexist, you need to stop doing that. But it may be a good choice to pull aside some senior person in that room at some moment and say like, hey, just so you know this is a thing that can make me and other people uncomfortable. And if you or somebody else could acknowledge that and sort of address it I think the room would be a better place.
Do you think that would help or work, or is that a bad idea?
Ashley: I think if she is to do anything that’s probably the best idea is to pull aside a senior person who you’ve already determined may be amenable to this based on other conversations. Choose the right person. And if that person doesn’t exist it may actually be safer to keep your mouth shut. Like in the position of being an assistant, this is why I think writers it’s so incumbent on us to behave as well as we know to behave because it’s so hard and so dangerous for assistants to speak up that I don’t want to even advise someone to speak up not knowing the situation they’re in, because it could go badly. But if you’re in a situation where you know one of the EPs is a feminist and has already talked about certain things in the room and you know that they’re going to be on your side, then yes, pulling that one person aside is a good idea. And letting them be the one to feel out the room and decide if this is something that they could address publically or talk privately to the writers that need to hear it.
John: Cool. Megana, what else have you got for us?
Megana: Sammy asks, “Hi, I know nothing about unions or strikes, but this idea makes sense to me and I need to get the idea out of my head so I’m sending it over. Have the writers working for the top streamers strike while allowing everyone else to continue working. Leverage the competitive power of the companies still producing content and gaining ground in the streaming war as the top companies’ subscriber base atrophies, while limiting the strike’s impact on guild members. Then you work your way down the ladder till everyone agrees to terms. If this is legal shouldn’t it be more effective than a full on guild strike?”
John: All right. So, again, here’s where I stress that I am not a union legal expert, so I cannot be offering advice on sort of like–
Ashley: You are my union expert, John!
John: But I can’t offer federal guidance on how union labor law works. But in some ways what Sammy is suggesting is kind of what happens with the companies and the guilds right now. Because the companies, the AMPTP decides we’re going to make a deal first with SAG, and then we’re going to make a deal with WGA, and then we’re going to make a deal with DGA. They’re going to find ways to tackle this one by one. And Sammy is asking couldn’t you just do the same thing with the companies. It’s also analogous to ultimately the agency conflict was resolved one agency at a time rather than dealing with the ATA, that whole big agency representing body as one thing.
The challenge is that there’s not a lot of incentive for those companies to split off and sort of do things separately because they recognize the guilds would love that but doesn’t behoove them to do that, unless it really were to behoove them to do that, in which case if you had one company that was especially worried about this you could make a deal with one separately.
What I’m pretty sure you can’t do under federal law is to say like, OK, we’re going to make deals with everybody except for this one company just to spit them. Because what would actually happen is I think the other companies would circle their wagons and say no you cannot do that and then they’d just lock us out. So basically you’d get to a situation where you’re in a strike because the companies have locked the writers out.
All this being said, there are new players that sort of come into the production universe. And so if Nabisco suddenly decided we’re going to start our own streaming network and they were not already a party to the AMPTP we could make a deal with Nabisco separately and we could all work for the Nabisco streamer while the other companies were stewing. But I think it’s more likely that we would make a deal with one company than keep a deal going with everybody else and shut out one company, because I just don’t think that’s actually possible right now with how things are structured. That’s my guess.
Ashley: The only one I think it might be, and correct me if I’m wrong, Netflix has a different contract, right?
John: Netflix has had a different contract, I’m not honestly sure where they are at right now. So, and Netflix is a great giant company. So something like a Netflix or someone else coming online later on, yes, that would be something that would make sense. But to make a deal with them separately rather than trying to shut out one place, because that’s not going to happen. We couldn’t say like we’ll work for everybody but Disney is unlikely I think to succeed. But then again I’m not a legal expert.
I get why Sammy is suggesting it though because it would make so much more sense to be able to set one aside and work for the other ones.
Ashley: Especially if one is exceptionally egregious. My read though as a lay person is that they’re all pretty much the same. But if one suddenly became the worst place to work I could see that happening.
John: And here’s the other exception. There are times where companies will receive a do not work order, where they’re actually doing bad stuff to our members, where we can be prohibited from working for a certain company. But that’s a different thing than what Sammy is really describing here.
But I think Sammy is anticipating what we are all anticipating is that this next round of negotiations is going to be important because we are going to be talking about the future of residuals and payment for these streamers which affects every single writer working. Because whether you’re a comedy variety writer, a screenwriter, a television writer, we’re all dealing with the same struggle which is what does our payment and residual structure look like in a world where there are not conventional networks anymore, where there’s not conventional theatrical releases, where there are comedy variety shows that are being made for these streamer outlets. What does that mean if we can’t even know what the residual value is of these programs?
So that’s going to be a thing that every writer and every other union member is going to be looking at in this next period of time.
Ashley: Yeah. And I think we’re already all feeling it in our bottom lines, so it’s going to be at a fever pitch by the time we get to the negotiation.
John: I think so too. These were great questions. Megana thank you for being our mailbox as all these questions come in over the transom.
Megana: Of course, thank you both.
John: All right. It’s time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is a new book by Simon Rich. Have you read any Simon Rich books?
Ashley: No, I’m a philistine.
John: Oh my god, I’m so excited for you because you have so much funny reading ahead of you. The new book is called New Teeth. Simon Rich is a short story writer, but he’s also a screenwriter. The new book is really good. The first story in it is a detective story but the central character is a toddler, like a pre-toddler, who is trying to solve this mystery.
Ashley: I’m in.
John: What Simon Rich does so brilliantly is take this absurd premise and really run with it within this carefully contained bubble. Something you may have seen, did you see American Pickle, the Seth Rogan movie where he falls in a pickle vat and he meets his grandfather who fell in a pickle vat. And that was based on a Simon Rich story. He takes these really absurd premises and just really runs with them. So, I recommend New Teeth, but if you haven’t read anything, Ashley, the thing I’m going to – there’s a link here in the show notes, I’m going to send it to you – is a short story called Gifted which is the first Simon Rich story I ever read which I still think is the funniest. I reread it this past week. The premise is this Upper West Side couple have a baby who is clearly a monster, like the antichrist, and they’re so excited and they really want to get him into Dalton. And it’s from the perspective of these parents who are – this mom who is so excited for her child and how much she will overlook everything.
I will send you Gifted. It will delight you. It’ll be fun for you this afternoon.
Ashley: That sounds awesome.
John: Ashley, what do you have for us for One Cool Things?
Ashley: So I have one serious one and then one [unintelligible]. A is For is an organization that I’m on the board for and we fight abortion stigma and raise money for abortion providers. And what’s call about it is A is For has done all the research for you. So if you go to their website and find a provider to donate to directly, maybe in Texas if that’s on your mind, that is a provider who you know has been doing the work for the while and knows what they’re doing. They’re not a popup, fly by night. So that’s a very cool organization to follow on social and they’ll always be keeping you up with what’s going on in the reproductive justice arena.
And then just something fun is there is this company called Estelle Colored Glass and it’s a Black woman who makes this gorgeous wine glasses and decanters and cake plates, just beautiful colored glass that will remind you of what was in your grandmother’s curio cabinet. And it’s just so pretty and if you just need a little treat you could buy yourself a pink wine glass.
John: So I’m looking at this website and they are absolutely gorgeous. And I have my eye on this purple glass cake stand. And how amazing would that be to have it in your house. I feel like I would want to make a white cake to stick on it at all times, because otherwise it’s just sitting empty. But these are truly gorgeous so I’m loving that.
But going back to A is For, for folks who are not looking through the show notes links, it’s AisFor.org. And what I love about this recommendation is I’ve seen all of these donate here to help support abortion rights in Texas especially, and I don’t know which of those organizations are real and which ones have just cropped up this last week. And so you guys have done the work to actually see which of these places are doing the work on the ground.
Ashley: Yeah. To the point where when we did a fundraiser the providers are there at the fundraiser, like I shook the man’s hand. Like I know that he’s real.
John: That’s great. This past week I also shared a blog post I’d done a few years back about my family’s abortion story. And I think one of the things that this horrible Texas law has reminded us is that abortion rights really do affect everybody. And obviously a woman facing the decision about her own body is paramount, but the ability to have safe and legal abortions is something that really does tough everybody.
And so I shared the story of how that impacted my family a few years back. So I really hope that whatever happens in this near time in Texas, remember how important it is for everybody to have this right.
Ashley: Everyone deserves the right to determine what their life is going to look like. And it’s the only way women can fully participate in society is if we get to decide what we’re doing with our healthcare and our reproductive care.
John: Excellent. That is our show for this week. So in our bonus segment we’re going to be talking about the crisis facing white male characters, so stick around for that. We really appreciate our premium members because they help keep the lights on and keep everybody paid.
Scriptnotes is produced by Megana Rao. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week is by Zach Lo and it is a bop. If you have an outro you can send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s also the place where you can send longer questions. For short questions on Twitter I am @johnaugust. Ashley you are?
Ashley: @ashleyn1cole. Very late adopter.
John: Oh, but it’s great. And be cool or else we will mute or block you, because I have learned how to do this thanks to Ashley’s guidance here.
You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at johnaugust.com. That’s where you’ll find the links to things we talked about on the show. We’ll have transcripts up about a week after the show airs. We have a weekly newsletter called Inneresting which has lots of links to things about writing.
We have t-shirts and they’re great. You can find them at Cotton Bureau. And you can also sign up to become a premium member at Scriptnotes.net where you get all the back episodes and bonus segments like the one we’re about to record about white male characters and whatever will happen to them in the future of television.
Ashley, thank you so much for coming back. It is so great to talk with you and catch up and hear more about all the amazing stuff you’ve done this past year.
Ashley: Thanks so much for having me.
John: So our jumping off place for this bonus segment is an article called TV’s White Guys are in Crisis. It’s in Vulture. Written by Kathryn Vanarendonk. And it’s looking at sort of the latest slate of premium shows and shows that people are talking about which have white male characters, but those white male characters are not the centerpieces, or they are being pushed to the sides, or they are frustrated by being pushed to the sides. And Ted Lasso is brought up in this so I thought Ashley would be a perfect person to talk about this with. Ashley, what are we going to do? How are we going to save these white men?
Ashley: [laughs] First of all, I think they’re doing fine. It’s really interesting because I feel like for such a long time of television history shows sort of revolved around one type of character. And it’s been like two years of a slight shift in that and people are like oh my god.
John: Oh my gosh. Everything has changed.
Ashley: You owe me a hundred years of weird black girls leading shows before we’re approaching a problem.
John: So, one thing, I liked this article and I think there’s interesting things to pushback against in this article. But one of the things at least noticed or addressed is that we’ve had white men in the center of our storytelling for forever, and then we hit a period in the last decade or so where we had these anti-heroes. So you had the Breaking Bad, you had the Mad Men, where we were starting to question whether this white man at the center was really a good person or a bad person. But they were still at the center of the story. They were still the main person you were following. And what’s maybe a little different in this last year or two is sometimes that man is being pushed off to the edge and is frustrated at being pushed off to the edge. So some of the shows that she mentions are Rutherford Falls, White Lotus, The Chair, Kevin Can F Himself as examples of this man who feels himself in a bit of a crisis. What are you seeing there?
Ashley: It’s interesting because I think now is a good time for this because a lot of people have – and actually I don’t know if a lot of people in real life have this. But a lot of people on Twitter have what Twitter has deemed main character syndrome, where people kind of assume themselves to be the center of life or of the story. And I do think that it can help to watch TV shows where there are characters like this who have realized they’re not at the center of the story. And even if they’re frustrated and trying to get back at the center it still is interesting, almost in an educational way, to be able to point to examples of like, yes, it can be frustrating to suddenly realize you’re not the main character. But also you never were, so let’s just process those feelings by watching television rather than by yelling at me on Twitter. I think that’s actually very healthy and good. [laughs]
John: And this phenomena is really new, because you look at a Parks and Rec, Leslie Knope is not a white man and she’s at the center of it. And she’s struggling against the system, but she’s not marginalized. And you have her boss character is sort of frustrated in his notion of masculinity, but he doesn’t actually really want to be in charge either. So we’ve been wrestling with this for a bit. But then it brings us back to Ted Lasso because in many ways Ted Lasso feels like the old kind of Ward Cleaver, he’s the good white guy at the center of everything, and yet it’s like he’s evolved to a state that the rest of men just aren’t quite there yet. Especially in the first season it feels like he’s just some sort of superhero who suddenly has all these abilities and powers and is already sort of beyond everybody else there and can actually speak a lingo that we’re still trying to catch up with.
Ashley: Yeah. I think it’s interesting because with Ted Lasso it’s almost structural, because Jason being the creator and star of the show also resists being centered, like as a person, and is really generous with us as writers, and I believe also with the cast, in hearing other ideas and wanting to incorporate other stories and other ideas. And we really started season two with being like what stories can we tell about all of these other characters who were also here. So I think you can only do that with the buy-in of that person, right? Like if Jason wasn’t that person we wouldn’t be able to write a show where we spend a whole episode talking about a side character’s deal, you know. So I do think that that’s part of it. It has to be a structural part of it.
But I also think people are coming to find that you enjoy those shows more because I think a lot of times we all find that little side character that we identify with maybe more so than the main person, and then when that character finally gets an episode it’s so exciting. It’s going to be your favorite episode of that show. And I think there is this feeling maybe among execs or higher ups that this guy is the star, he’s the celebrity, everybody only wants to see him, and I feel like the audience is really telling us, no, we want to hear from all these other characters, too. And you’re not going to lose your audience if you spend an episode on another character.
John: Well it’s a thing we’ve often talked about on the show, and a thing you notice especially in animated movies, wait why are the sidekicks stealing the movie?
John: It’s because the sidekicks are not bound by the responsibility of what the classic protagonist is supposed to be doing. And they don’t always have to be moral and right and they can sort of express the real frustrations of not being in power more honestly. And I think that’s a thing we’re noticing more maybe in our conventional TV shows at this point, too, is that we relate more to the person who is not in charge and in power because that’s the real experience most of us have.
Ashley: Yeah. Because that’s who we are.
John: In Ted Lasso as you were coming in on that second season and you’re talking about this, do the things that are being brought up in this article are those part of the conversation in the room? Are you thinking about the role of a white man in society as you’re talking through story ideas and just talking through the arc of a season?
Ashley: I think not any more than any other show. I think whenever you’re writing a show with people of a bunch of different backgrounds you have to take into account how those different backgrounds would make them behave or rub up against each other. Like in my episode of Ted Lasso which aired weeks ago, so I am spoiling it, turn off your podcast if you somehow haven’t seen it, but Sam who is Nigerian is standing up and saying the company that sponsors the team has created some environmental and human rights abuses in Nigeria. And whenever there’s a press conference after the game in real life, but also traditionally on this show, they interview the coach, because he is the boss. So Ted sits down for a press conference and says when things like this happen to people like me you guys tend to write about it automatically, but someone like Sam had to get your attention, and so now I’m going to step away from the mic and you guys talk to Sam.
And it was important that we understand how these things typically go, didn’t have Ted speak for Sam, or instead of Sam, or sort of pat himself on the back for supporting Sam. So in that way we thought about their different backgrounds and thought about how, yes, they would want to hear from Ted because that’s what we’re used to. But Ted being a good man understands that it’s his privilege that makes him the person they want to speak to and instructs them to talk to Sam instead.
John: It’s about understanding privilege and also knowing when to use that privilege to yield space for other folks.
Ashley: Yeah. In that moment, yes. So that’s an example of like acknowledging that we know that Ted has this privilege and working from there, as opposed to being ignorant to it and creating a situation where Ted speaks for Sam or something like that.
John: Now, as we’re recording this we’re only halfway through the second season, but it feels like based on therapist interactions and things like that one of the important storylines for this back half of the season is going to be not even necessarily the origin story of how Ted becomes this way, but also the challenge of trying to be this paragon of good white guy moment at all times. Because he can seem so perfect that there’s inner conflict. And so I’m sensing that one of the things you’re talking about in that room is figuring out well what is actually underneath the surface of this seemingly perfect guy that’s driving him to do these things. And what are the interesting story challenges that we can face with him?
Because we can de-center him, which is great, but also the name of the show is Ted Lasso and so you’re figuring out what is making Ted tick inside.
Ashley: Mm-hmm. Keep watching. [laughs]
John: And that’s a good teaser for the second half of the season. Ashley, such a delight to chat with you about all sorts of things and congratulations on everything that’s happened this last year.
Ashley: Thank you so much. This was so fun.
- The Double-Nominated Emmy Contender Taking Over TV Comedy
- Industry News: Fran Drescher, Leads SAG-AFTRA, IATSE Contract Negotiation, WGA East Elections
- New Teeth by Simon Rich on Amazon or Bookshop
- Gifted short story by Simon Rich
- Highland 2 Student License
- A is For
- Estelle Colored Glass
- TV’s White Guys are in Crisis by Kathryn Vanarendonk
- My Abortion Story on John’s blog
- Ashley Nicole Black on Twitter
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- John August on Twitter
- John on Instagram
- Outro by Zach Lo (send us yours!)
- Scriptnotes is produced by Megana Rao and edited by Matthew Chilelli.
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