In 2018, Stefani Robinson made Emmy history as the first Black woman to be recognized for multiple nominations in both the Outstanding Comedy category and in Comedy Writing for her solo-written Atlanta episode “Barbershop”.
Now, the EP and scribe of FX’s comedy series What We Do in the Shadows, she continues to maintain that record with once again, noms in the Outstanding Comedy Series slot, as well as Comedy Writing for her episode “On the Run”.
An Emerson College grad, Robinson began cutting her teeth in TV writing during a summer internship at Comedy Central. Straight out of college, she ultimately landed a desk at a talent agency in the their feature lit department, where she soon found an agent who got her spec script over to FX when they were hiring for Atlanta. Creator Donald Glover and EP Paul Simms were looking for scribes who actually lived in Atlanta, and Robinson was a native of the Peach State.
Two weeks went by after she met Glover and Simms, and she assumed she didn’t get the job.
Then her agent walks by her desk, and says “‘Can you come down to my office, really quick?'” per Robinson.
“He hit a couple of buttons on his speaker phone and my manager was on there and told me ‘You’re not an assistant anymore. You’re a writer. You’re a full blown staff writer.’ He (my agent) then walked me up to my boss’s office and said ‘You’re going to have to start looking for another assistant. Your assistant is now a writer, she starts next week.’ All the assistants started clapping; it was like Working Girl, it was a surreal experience,” remembers Robinson.
In regard to future seasons of Atlanta, specifically 3 and 4, “we have written two more seasons and COVID hit right at the time when we were suppose to start everything…but there will be a couple more seasons,” says Robinson.
Seguing to the absurdist shenanigans of European vampires in Staten Island, What We Do In the Shadows, Robinson tells us on the latest episode of Crew Call that it’s not about the number of jokes on the page, but the situations created and the actors who take it all to another level.
“A lot of the jokes don’t make sense unless it’s in the hands of those masters,” says Robinson praising her cast.
Her Emmy-nominated episode “On the Run” follows vampire Laszlo who is stalked by Jim the Vampire (guest star Mark Hamill) after owing him a great debt. Laszlo is too lazy to repay, so he skips Staten Island to hide in a small Pennsylvania town where he goes undercover in simply blue jeans and a tooth pick. He becomes the popular bartender at a local dive, and a small-town hero for the girl’s high school volleyball team. But Jim finds him…
Talking about inspirations, Robinson says that the writers’ room “kept referring to The Fugitive” early on in breaking story on the episode whereby Laszlo “has done a great justice and must pay for his sins.” But then Robinson thought of some ways to raise the stakes: “What if he is a different person, and he’s incognito? And it feels like a bad ’80s movie?”
“It felt like a running joke in the writers’ room, and it wasn’t until a few weeks later when we said ‘We should just do this. It’s making everybody laugh.'”
Listen to our conversation below with Stefani Robinson: