TV Showrunners Talk Surge Of Sexual Harassment And Its Influence On Storytelling

Chyna Photography/HRTS

As part of their Newsmaker Luncheon series, the Hollywood Radio and Television Society (HRTS) hosted The Hitmakers panel which featured an A-list roster of TV producers that have, as the panel suggests, created hit series that have stood out in the evolving landscape of TV. Alan Yang (Master of None), Bruce Miller (The Handmaid’s Tale), Dan Fogelman (This Is Us), Kenya Barris (black-ish), and Issa Rae (Insecure) took the stage at the Beverly Hills Hilton to share their experiences and how their work connects to today’s divisive landscape of race, gender, and politics — with a heavy emphasis on the treatment of women.

Each show on the panel covers relevant topics remarkably well, but with the Harvey Weinstein scandal still ripe and rampant, sexual harassment and the treatment of women came front and center.

“The idea that it’s been going on as long as it has been going on makes me scared,” said Barris.

“In the [writers] room, it’s a room comprised mostly of women and we share our own stories and realizing how prevalent it is. Every single woman has a story,” said Rae, who has featured the topic on Insecure.

Chyna Photography/HRTS

She adds, “As women, we are so used to sweeping things under the rug and not make a big deal out of it — that we are overreacting if we speak up. That in itself brings the discussion of why it’s constantly on us to speak out about and to feel like we HAVE to make a statement. There’s a discussion in the [writer’s] room to how we can incorporate it. This is just something that happens too open to not address.”

“We need to work towards solving [harassment],” Yang chimes in. “Let’s believe people who are accusing people and, honestly, we need more women in positions of power — that’s gonna help solve the issue. Even on this panel we only have one woman. Let’s get to the point where it’s half and half. That’s just one of the ways start changing. It’s the same people who have been in power — it’s been this way for so long. That’s how this stuff keeps rotting.”

“The ideology of what it is to be a ‘guy’ has to change,” says Barris. “That’s not being a guy — the idea of using your power to make someone feel uncomfortable at the cost of their own humanity. That has to stop.”

For Miller, being a man who runs the very female-driven The Handmaid’s Tale, is certainly aware of the issue and pushes for inclusion. He admits he knew they were looking for a woman to be a showrunner and he was 100% on their side. “Except I wanted the job,” he joked. Even so, he, like Fogelman surround themselves with people — in this case, women and underrepresented voices to help them tell authentic stories. this pushes them in their craft.

Chyna Photography/HRTS

When asked if Miller was nervous about any particular episode of Handmaid’s Tale he answered, “I cut off Rory Gilmore’s clitoris — every single thing I do I’m nervous about!” As the audience laughed he added, “It’s all nerve-racking. You want to always be pushing it and examine things.”

The topic of sexual harassment remain at the forefront with the recent allegations surrounding Jeremy Piven and Kevin Spacey. Even so, the panel hopes that since the floodgates have opened, changes will be made.

“This is happening in every industry,” said Yang. “I guarantee you right now there’s a dickhead at Office Depot harassing somebody. It’s happening everywhere. Hopefully, this starts the conversation. I wouldn’t be so pollyanna-ish to say it’s going to end now, but at least we’re exposing the beginning of it.”


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