CBS hosted a special panel titled “Impact Storytelling” during the TCA press tour on Wednesday held on the ’80s-drenched set of track lighting and marbled gaudiness of the forthcoming CBS All Access Why Women Kill. The setting is appropriate because the panelists are killing it when it comes to their shows. Michelle Paradise (Star Trek: Discovery), Michelle King (The Good Fight, Evil), Liz Feldman (Dead To Me) and Corinne Kingsbury (In the Dark) spoke about their shows and the obstacles they have encountered in an industry largely populated by men.
“You wanna be nice all the time,” admitted Kingsbury in regards to being a woman in the TV industry. “I want people to like me. It’s really tough to have everybody like you at all times and get the job done. I don’t know if you can have both at the same time.”
“We are definitely raised to be pleasers and that people should be like us,” Feldman chimed in. “I had to put that away in showrunning. I can’t be concerned about that.” She continued to say that she is more concerned with being a good human being and kind but when it comes to her work, she’s concentrating on “creating something people can connect with” rather than getting people to like her.
The quartet of woman have very different shows, but the one thing in common is the gaze they bring to the topics and how they build inclusivity to diversify storytelling.
King said that her shows focus on topics you don’t want to bring up at dinner parties: race, sex, religion and politics. When it comes to creating characters — particularly those who lean more villainous, she said, “It’s much easier to make a racist, homophobic and homophobic.” Instead, she flips the script and creates “beloved characters that act in ways we don’t admire.” She adds, “Hopefully that keeps the audience thinking.”
In order to do this, she does the hiring. In fact, the panelists are grateful that they are able to do most of the hiring. For King, she said about 40 percent of the crew are women while her shows feature women and people of color in prominent roles. “When there’s an issue, we are the ones who get to address it the way we want,” she adds.
They all continue to tell diverse stories that are universal, but make certain communities on screen. Kingsbury said that when she was growing up she saw “perfect women” who she couldn’t identify with. “I was sort of a mess,” she laughs. “I was sarcastic. I didn’t behave well and I remember watching TV and feeling alone.” With In the Dark, Kingsbury said she wanted to tell a story that had flawed women and women that she could relate to so that she would feel less alone.
Dead To Me’s Feldman echoes that sentiment. “”Wasn’t trying to create the next thing I sell,” she said, adding that with her series, it came from an authentic story about loss and fertility struggle. It mirrored her own life with her wife and how they were struggling with fertility. “It was basically my own form of therapy,” she said. “I wanted to focus on the power of female friendships. These are women who are multi-layered and flawed. To straddle the good and bad in all of us.”
For Paradise, storytelling may seem different considering she produces a show from a legendary genre franchise with an incredible history. But as she points out, from the moment Star Trek was created, it has embraced optimism, diversity and the differences between us.
“A lot of sci-fi reflects the world today,” she points out. “It feels like there’s a lot of divisiveness in the country…with Star Trek, we can reflect that. When the world is challenging, if we come together, embrace differences, we can overcome everything and see a better future for ourselves.”