36 FASTCOMPANY.COM NOVEMBER 2018
despite its poor numbers? The first season
of Scandal was only seven episodes, and it
did okay. Creatively, it was terrific, but it just
hadn’t quite connected with the audience.
There was talk of canceling it. I believed
in Kerry Washington, and I was extremely
proud of the fact that we had the first African-American female lead on a series in something like 37 years. In front of the leadership
at that time, which was [former president of
Disney/ABC Television] Anne Sweeney and
[Disney CEO] Bob Iger, I said, “As a black
woman sitting at this table, I think it’s important for us to be making this show.” I argued
vociferously for it. There are moments where
you have to say, Look, I know the data doesn’t
support it. But if it’s something you believe
in, you owe it an opportunity.
Thanks to Time’s Up and #Me Too, there’s
involved at networks and studios across
the entertainment industry. Most of your
direct reports are women. Is that some-
thing you’ve consciously fostered? When
I was [ABC’s executive VP of] drama, I was sit-
ting next to a female head of comedy, a female
head of casting, a female head of marketing.
It’s been that way for a little while. But then
you look at the stats and [realize] that there’s
a lot further we have to go, particularly in
terms of making sure the right people are getting promoted. I think it helps when you have
senior-level women like myself who are working moms. It gives people confidence that this
is a company that’s open to and supportive of
people who are starting a family.
As the first-ever African-American head
of a major network, do you feel the burden of representation? If having this job is
going to inspire other young women of color
to think that they can sit in this chair, then
that’s a huge responsibility that I take very
seriously. But outside of that, I’m just trying
to be the best person at this job that I can be.
Creative Conversation N
Little Giants | 1994
the senior exec on this film
was suddenly called away. I
handled [a] call with the writ-¡®¯;;;¥®¡;°«®;;;ª;;¬®«;±;¡®;«ª;
my own for the first time.”
The Matrix | 1999
“I read this spec script by the
knew immediately that we had
to make it at Warner. I got the
senior execs to read it quickly
and we landed the sale.”
Grey’s Anatomy | 2005
“I was the studio exec charged
with delivering episodes that
were true to Shonda Rhimes’s
vision while addressing the
network’s concerns. It was dif-¢¥;±¨°;;¯°®¡¯¯¢±¨;;ª;;¦«µ¢±¨;;
Castle | 2009
“This was the first pilot I gave
of the drama department at
ABC Studios. It was my turning
point in assuming responsibility for [the studio’s] work.”
My Generation | 2010
“This show went through many
reinventions until it [was green-lighted by] ABC. We were proud
«¢;¥°;;;±°;°¤¡;;±;¥¡ª;¡;¢¡¨°;;¥¢¢¡®-ently and it was canceled. It
was a learning experience.”
Scandal | 2012
“Though the first season wasn’t
as highly rated as we had
son’s final two episodes and
argued that the show be given
room to grow.”
When you buy a ;shing
license, you do a lot.
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WE FUND LONG-TERM PLANS TO PROTECT
OUR LAKES AND STREAMS.
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