Eva Longoria and Jerrod Carmichael appeared on a NATPE 2017 panel today in Miami to discuss the genesis of their work as producers, along with the opportunities and challenges producers find in the ever-evolving television marketplace.
On the panel, titled “The Producer’s Responsibility in Storytelling,” Carmichael said one of the best gifts of producing is the opportunity to help shape a show and its perspective to a greater degree, a sentiment shared by Longoria along with fellow panelists Mike Royce (executive producer, One Day At A Time) and Adam Pincus (EVP Programming & Content, First Look Media).
“That’s the hardest thing, is perspective, because you can put the same story in multiple hands,” said Carmichael, who has added perspective as both an actor and stand-up comic. “Perspective is everything, and you hone that as a stand-up comedian, and you add that to every other aspect of your work.”
In assembling talent for their shows, Longoria and Carmichael were in agreement on the necessity of a diverse group above and below the line, to represent a breadth of backgrounds and perspectives. “For my company, there’s an organic DNA of inclusion—it’s just my point of view and it’s just my perspective,” Longoria said.
She also expressed optimism that an increased demand for content is creating opportunity for individuals where previously none existed. “I don’t have to look far to imagine a Latino superhero — that’s my life,” Longoria said. “A lot of times, people come to my company because they know there’s an authenticity of storytelling from a different point of view.”
In staffing The Carmichael Show, Carmichael was more interested in inclusivity of perspective, as opposed to specific outward attributes. “I don’t care about age, I don’t care about diversity, I care about your mind over everything,” he said. In the writers’ room, Carmichael added, he will routinely begin the day’s work by asking the question, “What’s the last thing you hated?”
“Hollywood, I don’t know if you heard, is full of people who lie,” he said. “I look for argument, I look for passion, I look for someone who has something unique to offer.”
On casting, Longoria emphasized that minorities want equal treatment rather than preferential treatment, while Carmichael addressed one major obstacle: the networks’ tendency to make decisions out of fear. “Networks and studios in my experience are going to cast out of fear and immediacy. It’s because everyone’s afraid—you meet anyone, you place your hand on their shoulder and you go, ‘I know you’re scared,’ ” he quipped. “You want to take the easiest, most immediate way out. ‘It’s an Italian father—can it be Sylvester Stallone?’ You have to know that chemistry matters.”
When it came to topical material, both Carmichael and Longoria looked to face the issues that matter head-on, and even expressed enjoyment in doing so. Carmichael recalled his confidence, early on, that Donald Trump would win the presidency, a belief that led him to name the Season 2 finale “President Trump.” “I was way past acceptance on election night,” he joked. “It was a good day specifically for me—horrible for the nation, but great for me.”
For all the panelists, the commitment when approaching topical material was a simple one: Be honest. “If you’re going to pick these topics, I like speaking to adults and having the best version I know how to have given the format,” Carmichael said. “There’s no message. I’m not trying to convince you one way or the other.”
“I’m just trying to have an honest conversation and be funny,” he said. “That’s all we try and do.”