TheBacklot 40: Influential Gay Men in Television

Here at TheBacklot.com we spend a lot of time celebrating gay and bi men in the spotlight: actors, singers, dancers, sportsmen, and personalities are splashed across our pages like so much red paint at an all-fur fashion show. While we will never tire of the Neil Patrick Harrises and Chris Colfers of the world, we thought it was high time we paid due credit to some of the more unsung gay heroes: the guys behind the cameras of some of television’s best shows. In that light, we are proud to unveil TheBacklot 40, our celebration of 40 of the hardest-working and most influential out men working behind the scenes in TV.

These are the men who create and run some of our favorite shows, have written some of our most beloved gay characters, and have shepherded gay-inclusive stories to screen long before it was fashionable. Some will be familiar, but chances are there are a few surprises in the bunch for just about anyone. Some may not tell explicitly gay stories, but they have long been openly, proudly gay in a straight male-dominated industry where any difference can be used against you. Some are newcomers to the game, while others have been telling stories and developing great shows for decades. And while the group does lack some much-needed diversity, we hope that the upcoming generation of storytellers and deal-makers will change that.

The list is roughly alphabetical, with brief resume highlights and a quick bio of every entry. And we even tracked down a dozen or so of the men to get their thoughts on being gay in Hollywood, what makes them love their job, and how it is working with folks still not ready to come out on the set. We think the fellas’ insights are illuminating and, as most of these guys are writers, very entertaining.

I want to give my huge thanks to my colleagues Jim Halterman and Ed Kennedy for their invaluable contributions to this feature.

So without further ado, in more-or-less alphabetical order…

"Children Of God" 2007 Slamdance Portrait Session1. Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato

What They Do: Executive Producers
How You Know Them: The Fabulous Beekman Boys, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Million Dollar Listing, TransGeneration

Not to reduce two unique, luminous beings to a single unit, but Bailey and Barbato have been joined at the hip since they were underground dance duo The Fabulous Pop Tarts. Stars of the NYC “club kid” scene, these two fellas eventually turned the cameras on their friends and colleagues with their “shockumentary” Party Monster (which they later made into a narrative feature starring Macaulay Culkin as murderous nightlife overlord Michael Alig) and moved on to slyly queer docs like Eyes of Tammy Faye and Jesus Camp. But it was the small screen where the gents had their biggest hit with the runaway runway  smash Rupaul’s Drag Race. Their World of Wonder Productions is one of the most exciting, queerest, and gleefully irreverent companies around, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Premiere Of HBO's "True Blood" Season 3 - Arrivals2. Alan Ball

What He Does: Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Banshee, True Blood, Six Feet Under

After getting his break writing for Grace Under Fire, Alan Ball worked in television as a writer and producer before his award-winning  screenplay for American Beauty thrust him into the big time. But it was the work he has done since – especially the groundbreaking drama Six Feet Under (which gave the world one of the first interracial gay television lead couples) and blood-soaked supernatural sex romp True Blood (which has featured a broad variety of LGBT characters) – where he has really made his mark. He continues to rattle the status quo with the off-kilter crime series Banshee, which features a kickass gender-noncomforming central character.

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Paris Barclay3. Paris Barclay

What He Does: Executive Producer/Director
How You Know Him: Sons of Anarchy, Glee, In Treatment, Cold Case, NYPD Blue, ER

I bet many viewers would be shocked to learn that one of the primary creative forces behind the violent, hypermasculine, and pretty darned Caucasian Sons of Anarchy is a gay man of color. But Hollywood vet Paris Barclay has never played by any rules other than his own, as is reflected in his impressively diverse resume. In addition to his many directing credits, as of June of this year he became the President of the Directors Guild of America, both the first African American and first openly gay man to ever hold the post. We had a chance to speak with the recent Emmy nominee to get this thoughts on being an out and proud man in the industry.

TheBacklot: Attitudes in this country toward gays and lesbians have shifted dramatically in recent years. Does the same hold true for Hollywood, or were they ahead of the curve?

Paris Barclay: Hollywood, and particularly television has always been ahead of the curve. In the stories we tell and in the diversity of people who tell them. Look back at An Early Frost (1985), Serving in Silence (1995), even Dynasty (1981). There were creative people of various orientations behind all of those, and they would be acclaimed as “groundbreaking” if they were produced today. Pedro Zamora’s story on The Real World (which Lance Black and I dramatized for a telefilm) showed the first gay commitment ceremony back in 1994!

I think it’s part of our job to show the world as it was, as it is, or as we hope it will be. And see if, in the drama, there can be something that quietly educates, enlightens, or creates empathy.

Can it be awkward working with people either behind the camera or in front of it who are not open about their sexuality?

Barclay: No. I believe everyone has their own path, and I can’t presume to know what’s happened before to them or what fears they may hold that lead them to the “undisclosed life.” If they ask, I’ll tell: better to be who you are. You have less to remember.

Has telling stories about gays and lesbians been a priority for you? If yes, has it been a challenge to get those stories on the air? If not, why?

Barclay: Telling stories about people I find interesting has been a priority, and, as in the case of Pedro and some episodes I’ve done of Glee, The West Wing, ER, NYPD Blue, and soon Sons of Anarchy. When LGBT people are in the mix, I try to do us all proud — which doesn’t mean “cleaning it up” but showing all the dimensions time will allow. I’ve also tried to get feature projects off the ground that starred gay or lesbian characters (including a dalliance with The Normal Heart back in the day, and Barbara Jordan more recently) but they’ve proven extremely difficult. I’ll keep trying though.

Do you have a dream project?

Barclay: Yes. Lance and I wrote a coming of age movie called A Life Like Mine back in the day. I’d love to get it made — it’s funny, touching, off the beaten path and very imaginative. So, yeah, that makes it a hard sell.

Now that marriage equality has come back to California, will you be taking advantage of it (if you haven’t already)?

Barclay: Celebrated my 5 year anniversary a couple weeks ago, and we’ve been together 14 years. A little ahead of the curve there too, I guess.

Greg Berlanti4. Greg Berlanti

What He Does: Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer/Director
How You Know Him: Arrow, The Tomorrow People, Brothers & Sisters, Golden Boy, Political Animals, Dirty Sexy Money, Eli Stone, Everwood

When you sit down to draw up a list of exciting players in the television industry – gay or straight – Greg Berlanti is one of the first names to come to mind. He’s worked in an array of genres and has been keeping himself busy for decades with projects ranging from the touching family drama Everwood to the action-packed beefcake bonanza Arrow. We were lucky enough to get a few minutes with the multitalented and very busy showrunner to talk about his career.

TheBacklot: Was being out at work ever a concern for you?

Greg Berlanti: No, not at all. I mean, maybe when I was at a certain age and just because I was scared to come out, you know. I didn’t know what it meant but I hadn’t started working in the business… I hadn’t started writing officially. I was pursuing my writing. Once I became a writer, it was never a concern. Prior to that, when I was younger, I think I was just more concerned about coming out and what that would mean for my life period.

What would your advice be to someone just entering the industry who wants to do what you do?

Berlanti: If they want to be writing specifically, they should always be writing. I wrote eight or nine scripts before I ever sold one. And all of that writing that I did during that time prepared me to keep my first job when I got it. I was ready for the opportunity when it came along because I had written so much, preparing for it and I had a good sense of what my own voice was.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Berlanti: Working with other great storytellers, I think. I love telling stories and coming up with different stories and working with other great storytellers be they directors or writers or actors who are participating… devising the stories and then seeing them realized is probably the most rewarding thing about the job.

Do you have a dream project or have you already done your dream project?

Berlanti: I don’t so much. I sometimes canoodle an idea for many years, sometimes before I put it down on paper and there’s a couple right now that I’m floating between, but I’ve been really blessed. I think, for me, the dream is to just to be a part of so many different types of things be it more serious and dramatic shows or more fun and action oriented things and just been a part of such diverse stuff, that’s been a dream.

What would you consider to be the true measure of success in Hollywood?

Berlanti: I think it all comes down to…gosh, it’s funny. I initially wanted to answer with respect to what it is I do, but I think the real measure of success is, are you – years after doing your craft, are you still excited and happy and alive doing it? Are you still inspired to create? If you are, then that’s success. You know, you’ve managed to, in the wake of all the business part of the business or the craziness that’s part of the business, you still maintain your artistic enthusiasm. I think that’s probably what I would say is both the toughest and the best measure of success.

What project have you been the most proud of?

Berlanti: I wouldn’t be able to do that only because I’d be proud of different ones in different ways. Sometimes it’s because they’re a passion project, like something like Political Animals was or Everwood was, and then sometimes it’s because you got to help a writer. You know, you’re really proud because you got to help a writer or an actor. You know you’ve achieved something that they dreamed of so whether it was something like Tomorrow People this year. You know, Phil [Klemmer, Exec Producer] created along with us so that was exciting for that reason and then something like getting to help realize a comic book character like Green Arrow last year. It’s exciting for a whole different reason. And then the challenges of working with an A-list cast in helping Brothers & Sisters out early on. I mean, they were all challenging for different reasons. I’m proud of the ones that worked for a number of years and I’m proud of the ones sometimes that don’t work quite as long, but you’re still proud.

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Josh Berman5. Josh Berman

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Drop Dead Diva, Bones, The Mob Doctor, CSI

Josh Berman got his start as an executive story editor (we picture a guy in a suit marking up children’s books with a red pen) for CSI before moving on to writing and producing for the hit show for a number of years. He then took his forensic television skills to Vanished, Bones and The Mob Doctor before settling into a perhaps unexpected perfect fit on the Lifetime afterlife comedy Drop Dead Diva. How did Berman chart a career? And why has he left so many bodies in his wake? We chatted with him to find out.

TheBacklot: Attitudes in this country toward gays and lesbians have shifted dramatically in recent years. Does the same hold true for Hollywood, or were they ahead of the curve?

Josh Berman: I think Hollywood is slightly ahead of the curve but the argument is a bit circular. As the country shifts their attitude, Hollywood is more comfortable embracing more gay and lesbian characters and storylines.

Can it be awkward working with people either behind the camera or in front of it who are not open about their sexuality?

Berman: I respect everyone’s decision to come out when they’re ready. It’s not uncomfortable for me, because we’ve all been there. It’s so hard to live in the closet and it’s not my place to judge. Whatever I might feel is nothing compared to the person who is struggling with their personal issues.

What would your advice be to someone just entering the industry who wants to do what you do?

Berman: Take the journey one step at a time. Don’t expect to start your career as a pilot creator/showrunner. Learn the ropes on another show. Find a mentor who will teach you all aspects of production and writing. I worked the first six years on CSI. (Working my way up from writer to executive producer.) Carol Mendelsohn (the showrunner) taught me everything about the business. I’d spend weekends at her home learning how to write, edit, and produce. She taught me how to work closely with line producers, networks, and studios. College doesn’t teach us how to be showrunners. Experience gets us ready to take on the challenge.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Berman: I love that I get to write and produce stories that millions of people will watch and discuss. I love that I can make viewers feel and cry and laugh. I love getting facebook and tweets about episodes that I’ve written that touch and encourage people.

Do you have a dream project?

Berman: Honestly, Drop Dead Diva continues to be my dream project. We return to the air on Oct 6th, and I’m so excited to get fan reaction to our first ever fall season. I’ve got a couple other ideas that I’m planning to pitch in the future, but right now, I’m pretty damn happy working on Drop Dead Diva.

What are your favorite shows to watch (other than your own)?

Berman: Modern Family, Dowton Abbey, Newsroom, Parks & Recreation, CSI and Bones.

 

bradleybredeweg6. Bradley Bredeweg

What He Does: Writer/Producer
How You Know Him: The Fosters, Fly Girls

He might be one of the greenhorns on the list, but The Fosters’ Bredeweg is definitely one to watch, especially now that his show – about a mixed biracial family with two moms – has been picked up for another season. Check out our interview with Bredeweg in a few pages, under the listing for his writing partner, Peter Paige.

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"An Evening Under The Stars" Benefiting The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center7. Dan Bucatinsky

What He Does: Producer/Writer/Actor
How You Know Him: Web Therapy, Who Do You Think You Are? The Comeback, Lipstick Jungle, Scandal

Dan Bucatinsky has carved out quite the impressive corner for himself as an actor, a writer, and a producer. Somehow he manages to work behind-the-scenes on shows like Web Therapy and Who Do You Think You Are? (with old friend Lisa Kudrow) while still finding time to win an Emmy for his performance on Scandal. Us gents of a certain age will remember when Bucatinsky first hit our RADAR with his gay romantic comedy All Over the Guy, which he wrote and starred in. When he’s not juggling his numerous careers, Bucatinsky is raising two adorable kids with his husband and occasional collaborator, filmmaker Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex, Bounce).

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Premiere Of Lifetime Original Series "Devious Maids" - Arrivals8. Marc Cherry

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Devious Maids, Desperate Housewives, The Golden Girls

Marc Cherry bridges the classic sitcom (having worked as a writer on the classic Golden Girls) and the newer dramedy model, which he helped refine with his camp, dark and irresistible soap Desperate Housewives. His latest venture, the Americanized telenovela Devious Maids, was recently renewed for another season.

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Showtime 2013 EMMY Eve Soiree - Arrivals9. David Crane

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Episodes, Friends, Veronica’s Closet, The Class, Dream On

Chances are, if you like TV, you’ve been a fan of something David Crane has worked on. Like many of the men on this list, he sharpened his skills on traditional sitcoms (he co-created and wrote for Friends and Veronica’s Closet) and is now in the driver’s seat of the award-winning, genre-defying cable hit Episodes, which he co-created with his life and writing partner Jeffrey Klarik (whom you’ll meet in just a minute).

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2011 Winter TCA Tour - Day 310. Russell T. Davies

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Dr. Who, Torchwood, Queer as Folk

Who would have thunk that the guy behind the groundbreaking British series Queer as Folk would also be the savior of the long-running but creatively exhausted Dr. Who franchise? (Not to mention the mastermind behind the extremely queer spinoff Torchwood.)

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Premiere Of MTV's "Teen Wolf" - Arrivals
Jeff Davis (R) with his Teen Wolf star, Tyler Posey

11. Jeff Davis

What He Does: Showrunner/Writer/Producer
How You Know Him: Teen Wolf, Criminal Minds

Werewolf-happy whippersnapper Jeff Davis somehow managed to turn something a punchline ’80s teen horror comedy into a sexy, smart, and scary hit television series. We set aside our jealousy that he gets to hang around all those adorable guys long enough to get his thoughts on his career so far.

TheBacklot: Attitudes in this country toward gays and lesbians have shifted dramatically in recent years. Does the same hold true for Hollywood, or were they ahead of the curve?

Jeff Davis: There’s a strange dichotomy that occurs in Hollywood. On the one had this town is incredibly progressive about LGBT issues. On the other, I know actors who have been terrorized by their own management (some of whom are gay as well) to stay in the closet. I don’t know if we can really claim to be ahead of the curve. In Hollywood the fear of not getting a job has the power to eclipse just about any social issue.

Can it be awkward working with people either behind the camera or in front of it who are not open about their sexuality?

Davis: It’s a challenge to remain sensitive to this issue sometimes when you’ve had to fight so hard to be who you are and not hide it for yourself. You have to constantly remind yourself that they may not be ready to be open about their sexuality and that they deserve to do it in their own time and on their own times. I’m not someone who believes in outing other people. I do, however, believe that if more people came out things would get a lot easier for the rest of the community.

What would your advice be to someone just entering the industry who wants to do what you do?

Davis: I always tell writers the same thing. Write the movie or TV show that you’re dying to see. If you can please yourself as a viewer first then you’re bound to please others. Excite yourself by your own story. Feel a sense of rising excitement with each twist and turn you come up with. Cry your own tears for your characters. Remember when Joan Wilder finished her novel at the beginning of Romancing The Stone? She was crying and she said to herself “Oh God, that’s good.” Be Joan Wilder when you write.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Davis: Time. If I only had more time. The sheer volume of work that this job requires and the limited time within that requirement is utterly panic-inducing. You can write a script in ten days, but will it be a good script? You can hire other writes, but what if a draft comes in and it’s just all wrong? You now have three days to fix it. And do edit notes. And give notes to actors on set. And answer the questions from the dozen different departments who all need an answer right now. That’s why writers are all moving to cable. Twelve or even ten episodes with a year’s time to produce them. That’s the luxury of cable.

Do you have a dream project?

David: My dream would actually be to write a show that’s half as compelling as Breaking Bad. I think I would prefer to craft my own new material than take on another remake or reboot.

What are your favorite shows to watch (other than your own)?

Davis: Breaking Bad now ranks as my favorite one hour drama of all time. I’m a sucker for Big Bang Theory. Love Homeland. Family Guy. And many others.

"The Closer" Celebrates Its' 100th Episode
James Duff (R) w/ The Closer stars Michael Paul Chan, Mary McDonnell, and Kyra Sedgwick

12. James Duff

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer/Director
How You Know Him: Major Crimes, The Closer, Doing Time on Maple Drive

James Duff started out writing for the stage, and moved to the small screen with his script for the groundbreaking made-for-TV movie Doing Time on Maple Drive, which was one of the first television movies to tackle being a gay teen. He then wrote for various shows (Felicity, Popular, Wolf Lake, Enterprise) before creating the hit drama The Closer, which evolved into Major Crimes. We’ll let him handle the rest.

TheBackLot: Was being out ever a concern to you?

James Duff: I have never been concerned about being out in Hollywood. I came out during an interview with Jimmy Breslin on national television in 1986 while still living in New York. Also, I was a playwright, so telling people I was gay seemed redundant. When you are a playwright, you need to tell people you are straight, and hope that they can deal with it.

Can it be awkward working with people around film and television who are not open about their sexuality?

Duff: I love working with people who are not open about their sexuality, since it automatically decreases the number of extraneous people one has to meet, and cuts way back on stories about what they did last night in bed, which disinterest me in a general way. I have never had a problem with someone who was in the closet on the creative side of things. And I have only ever felt sorry for people who felt they could not be themselves on the executive side. Such a difficult life.

Has telling stories about gay people been a priority for you?

Duff: Telling stories about gay people hasn’t always been a priority, but it has come up. Doing Time on Maple Drive, a television movie I wrote in the nineties, was about coming out. The lead character in my play A Quarrel of Sparrows is a homosexual man in his seventies. And there are gay characters on The Closer and Major Crimes. They are a part of the fabric of life, and represent the population of Los Angeles. Usually, I will say, my gay characters are incidentally gay, like someone might be incidentally left-handed. But, occasionally, a person’s sexual identity becomes part of the plot.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into the business?

Duff: My advice to someone who would someday like to do what I am doing, is to write every day except Christmas or special holidays like that. Yes. Write every day. Get yourself accustomed to sitting in front of the keyboard. Discipline yourself to attempt the impossible. Work, work, work: there is no substitute for work. And I would also advise them to practice patience with others, and learn to listen to the people around you and be grateful for their insights. Good manners are good business.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Duff: The favorite thing about my job has been the opportunity it has given me to examine the justice system, which is the most incredible advance in human civilization. But running a very close second to that would be all the wonderful people with whom I work on a daily basis, both those who are permanently attached to the show, and those playing through. It has been the experience of a lifetime collaborating with so many amazing artists. Also, I am sorry for everyone who will not get the chance to be friends with Michael Robin, my producing partner, who effortlessly combines genius and decency.

Do you have a favorite project?

Duff: I can’t choose any one project and say “I am most proud of this.” While I do sometimes think I did a good job with something, I am always looking ahead, and am more focused on what I am trying to do right now than what I did yesterday. Having said all of that, I have a special place in my heart for Doing Time on Maple Drive, because it was the first thing I ever wrote for television, and for The Closer, because it was the first series I ever created that went more than four episodes!

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bryan_fuller13. Bryan Fuller

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Hannibal, Pushing Daisies, Heroes, Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me

Bryan Fuller might well be the “mad genius” of this list – his visionary work in genre television has combined colorful whimsy with genuine darkness on cult faves like Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies, and his latest creation – the serial killer “purple opera” Hannibal – may be his most complex and fully-realized vision yet. Fuller has a great track record of casting out actors (Raul Esparza, John Benjamin Hickey) in plum roles. Plus, you have to admit he’s a total fox.

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2013 Winter TCA Tour - Day 714. Oliver Goldstick

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Ravenswood, Pretty Little Liars, Lipstick Jungle, Ugly Betty, Caroline in the City, Coach

Oliver Goldstick shares showrunning duties on Pretty Little Liars with out lesbian Marlene King, making the ABC Family tween mystery one of the gayest shows on television. In a recent interview he credited St. Elsewhere for inspiring him to write, and says that his dream writing staff hire would be David Sedaris. Can’t say we’d argue with him! The showrunning duo just premiered supernatural spinoff Ravenswood last week and show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

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"Seminar" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals & Curtain Call15. David Marshall Grant

What He Does: Producer/Writer/Actor
How You Know Him: Smash, Looking, Brothers & Sisters, thirtysomething, And the Band Played On

David Marshall Grant began his career as an actor, both on stage (notably playing Richard Gere’s lover in Bent and the original Joe in Angels in America on Broadway) and in films and television. It was his role as a gay man on thirtysomething – which broke down barriers by actually showing two men in bed together – that led to Grant’s moving behind the scenes as a writer and eventually a showrunner on Brothers & Sisters alongside former thirtysomething colleague Ken Olin. His latest project (as a producer) is the much-anticipated HBO gay ensemble drama Looking.

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andrewhaigh16. Andrew Haigh

What He Does: Producer/Director
How You Know Him: Looking, Weekend (film)

Andrew Haigh technically hasn’t done any television yet, but his new gay ensemble dramedy series Looking is tops on our list of upcoming shows. Plus, his gay romantic drama Weekend was incredible, and showed that he can deliver touching, funny, and sexy in equal measure.

Drew Greenberg17. Drew Greenberg

What He Does: Writer/Producer
How You Know Him: Warehouse 13, Dexter, Arrow, Caprica, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Drew Greenberg cut his teeth writing and story editing for a little number called Buffy, and has since become a genre powerhouse, writing and producing for cutting-edge shows like Caprica, Dexter, Arrow, Smallville, and Warehouse 13. Let’s hear what he has to say about his career thus far…

TheBacklot: Attitudes in this country toward gays and lesbians have shifted dramatically in recent years. Does the same hold true for Hollywood, or were they ahead of the curve?

Drew Greenberg: I can only speak anecdotally, of course, but my sense is that attitudes have shifted in Hollywood, too. Way back in the early days of my career (when I drove the brontosaurus to the local rock quarry), I’d written a sample script, an original one-hour drama pilot with a gay lead character. That script helped get me hired on Queer as Folk and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it almost always got overwhelming positive response. But when I started asking if we could try to get that story produced – I was told by one executive, “I can’t sell my bosses on a drama with a gay lead.” Now network and studio execs seem more open to working gay characters into the show. They sometimes even ask for it. As a result, I feel like our stories are more honest and inclusive and, by the way, more interesting: when Warehouse 13 added a gay, Buddhist, human-lie-detector ATF agent, no one could say, “Oh, THAT old chestnut again?” (Although, it should be noted, I think we’re still waiting for a broadcast-network drama with a gay lead character… but I believe we’re getting there.)

Was being out at work ever a concern for you?

Greenberg: Yes and no. I tend to bring up the fact that I’m gay early on, because to me it’s not a big deal, and it’s not a secret. But does the fact that I feel a need to bring it up mean maybe it is an issue? Possibly. Generally, I face more discrimination for being lactose-intolerant than I do for being gay. I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate that my orientation has almost never been an issue in my workplace, and not many people can make the same claim. I’ve only experienced outright homophobia on a couple of shows in my entire career. The most egregious was your garden-variety barrage of gay jokes and slurs, offered by a director who’d been put in charge of running this one genre show I was on. And I heard later he was also engaging in the hilarious and oh-so-cutting-edge comedy of doing imitations of me when I wasn’t in the room, accentuating my gay mannerisms. Now, I can take a few jokes and slurs. You learn to deal with that stuff, and as long as it doesn’t impact my ability to do my job, I can’t really stop you from being a asshat behind my back. But this guy would also repeatedly question my so-called genre credibility, even after I’d been on this show for some time, even after I’d written for Buffy and Firefly and Smallville. Those same questions were not asked of other writers, straight male writers, who had written less genre work than I had, and it’s hard not to connect the dots between the gay jokes and the ignorant assumptions about my background. (That same director also once told me that the show’s executive producer, a woman with vastly more success and experience producing television than both of us combined, didn’t understand the show because she was “just a soccer mom.” So he was an equal-opportunity reductionist.) But the negative experiences have been, thankfully, rare. Most of the time, I’m surrounded by people who don’t really give an F whom I F – they only care about my writing and producing abilities. I have found television to be, by and large, an immensely safe environment in which I can be myself. (Still, a lactose-intolerance telethon would not be unwelcome.)

Can it be awkward working with people either behind the camera or in front of it who are not open about their sexuality?

Greenberg: Well, sure. Mostly because I’m perpetually terrified that I’LL be the one to slip up and say something to the wrong person about my closeted co-worker and thus be like Tiffany to their Jonathan Knight. When it comes to actors, I get why they feel they have to stay closeted. I wish we lived in a society where audiences didn’t care about actors’ sexual orientation and just enjoyed the performance on screen. But we don’t live in that society yet, and coming out might actually hamper some actors’ ability to work. I hope things change someday. That said, the only way it will change, when gay starts being seen not as something to fear but rather something to meh, is when people take the leap and come out, despite those current risks. It’s why I have so much respect for actors like my friends Tom Lenk and Sean Maher, people who have been willing to bear the burden, even while they continue working, so that others who come later might feel safer to be who they are.

Has telling stories about gays and lesbians been a priority for you? If yes, has it been a challenge to get those stories on the air? If not, why?

Greenberg: I’ve never written an original pilot script that didn’t have at least one gay character in it, even if I was the only one who knew that character was going to be gay. Sure, telling stories about gays and lesbians has been a priority for me – but so is telling stories about other groups who don’t get enough play on TV. I want to see a wider range of skin colors and physical abilities and, yes, sexual orientations in the stories I tell. Not because I want some rainbow-and-lollipop-scented diversity utopia (though, make no mistake – I DO want that) – but because telling stories about characters you don’t see every day is more interesting. Someone’s already covering the overweight, white, befuddled dad with the hot, blonde, overly-practical wife ten years younger than he is. I don’t have to worry about that one – cool. So I need to find other stories, and a great way to find interesting stories is to find characters we just don’t see yet all the time and tell their stories. So in the end, yes, I guess I do have an agenda: my agenda is story. (Oh! That could be an awesomely-pretentious t-shirt! Someone get on that.)

What would your advice be to someone just entering the industry who wants to do what you do?

Greenberg: You’ve probably all heard the standard (and most important) answer to this question: “Write, write, write.” That’s the right advice, and I won’t bore your readers with elaboration, especially when other people you talk to will be more insightful and eloquent on the point. Instead, I’d suggest this advice for aspiring writers entering the industry: be nice to each other. I don’t mean to sound all Maria-singing-in-the-Alps about it, but it comes from truth: you can’t do this alone. You just can’t. It’s too hard. You don’t have to love everyone – believe me, that won’t work, either – but just have a few people around you who matter, and be genuinely nice to them. Root for their success, support them when they’re down, celebrate their victories. And mean it. Too many people mistakenly believe that if your friends succeed, you must be failing, like there’s some limit on happiness out there. And it’s not true – in fact, the opposite is true: successful friends are more likely to help you be successful, too. Cheer their success as your own, and someday it might be.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Greenberg: Every once in a while I get to write a moment that reflects a small bit of genuine, human experience: Pete and Artie commiserating about their lack of a life outside their job, or Tara and Dawn having a talk over giant milkshakes. The small, emotional truth among the epic stories about monsters and artifacts and villains – I love that.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Greenberg: For me, getting ready to write a script is a little bit like getting ready for finals back in high school – that scary, sweaty feeling where you spend a week being kind of nauseous and worried and not having a life and sometimes also living on Pringles and Reese’s Pieces, but that part’s optional. Point is, my job means I have to keep reliving Finals Week over and over and over.

Do you have a dream project?

Greenberg: I have a few. Some scripts I’ve got in my desk drawer that I’m waiting to bring out. Plus that musical version of The Facts of Life, which, believe me, is going to be HUGE.

What do you consider to be the true measure of success in Hollywood?

Greenberg: Obviously, getting one of your lines into the round-up of notable quotes in Entertainment Weekly. (And hey, as coincidence would have it, one of my lines from my first episode of Buffy showed up in the round-up of notable quotes in Entertainment Weekly that week, which must mean I found success early. Also, it might mean that’s when I peaked.)

What are your favorite shows to watch (other than your own)?

Greenberg: Right now I love Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Parenthood, Boardwalk Empire, Nashville, Raising Hope (my brother works on that one, but I was watching it before he started there, so it’s totally objective, I swear), Shameless, Modern Family, Veep, Orange Is the New Black, Broadchurch, Top Chef and The Amazing Race. I’m a big fan of my friend Jane Espenson’s webseries Husbands (which she created with Brad Bell), and I also liked The Outs a lot. I’ve also been working my way through The Wire, because (don’t tell anyone) I never saw it. And I still go back to rewatch The West Wing and Sports Night when I need a little comfort food, which is frequently.

What project have you been most proud of?

Greenberg: I’ve got a couple scripts hidden away somewhere that I’m proud of – I hope the day comes when I get to share them, but, if I don’t, I take great pride in simply having written them. As for things anyone might have heard of… I’m particularly proud to have been a part of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – a cultural phenomenon that meant something to so many people (me being one of them), and a show that explored the concept of what it means to be an “other” – one of those people considered outside the norm – even when you know you have something valuable to contribute to society – it’s an idea that is close to my gay heart. I’m also proud to have been a part of Warehouse 13, a show that claimed to be about stopping dangerous artifacts but which was, in truth, about a group of eccentric misfits coming together and finding the most important thing: the joy of family. (And I never minded that it was a show where women could be badass, men could be emotional, The Bionic Woman fell in love with a portly, nerdy curmudgeon with crazy eyebrows, and a gay man carried a badge and a gun and chased bad guys.) I also baked some chocolate cupcakes the other day that were pretty good. I’m proud of that project, too.

17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards - Portraits18. Sean Hayes

What He Does: Producer/Actor
How You Know Him: Sean Saves the World, Grimm, Hot in Cleveland, Hollywood Game Night, Will & Grace

On Will & Grace he may have been “Just Jack”, but these days Sean Hayes is doing just about everything. Several years back he started quietly working behind-the-scenes to develop the hit sitcom Hot in Cleveland and the runaway hit supernatural thriller Grimm, both of which are still going strong today. He then brought us the fluffy but addictive big-name game show Hollywood Game Night (giving yet another job to the amazing and irrepressible Jane Lynch), did a fun arc as a disastrous Broadway-bound celebrity on Smash, and put together his own new sitcom, Sean Saves the World.

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2008 Summer TCA Tour - Day 719. Abraham Higginbotham

What He Does: Producer/Writer/Actor
How You Know Him: Modern Family, Arrested Development

Aside from having one of the greatest names in television history, Abraham Higginbotham also might be the funniest guy on this list. Fans of Arrested Development (where he served as both a writer and executive story editor) might recognize Higginbotham as Gary the gay intern. Higginbotham has also been a producer for Will & Grace, Back to You and Do Not Disturb, and is currently charting new ground in terms of visibility on television as a co-executive producer and writer for Modern Family.

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"Dancing For NED" Benefit For The Cedars Sinai Women's Cancer Program20. Chad Hodge

What He Does: Writer/Executive Producer
How You Know Him: Wayward Pines, Playboy Club, Runaway

Since starting his career writing for the teen dramedy All About Us, Chad Hodge has written for the crime mystery Runaway and the short-lived, about-to-be-gay-inclusive drama Playboy Club. His next creation, the buzzy, Twin Peaks-y FOX mystery Wayward Pines (co-produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan), is high on our list of new shows to get excited about.

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2012 Summer TCA Tour - Day 421. Todd Holland

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Director
How You Know Him: Go On, Wonderfalls, Malcolm in the Middle, The Larry Sanders Show

One of the few men on the list to work primarily as a director (aside from writing a few episodes of Wonderfalls and an Amazing Stories episode), Todd Holland has helmed episodes of everything from Twin Peaks to the gay-inclusive Larry Sanders Show (he directed 51 episodes) to Malcolm in the Middle. He most recently ran the Matthew Perry sitcom Go On.

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"Big Fish" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals And Curtain Call22. Dan Jinks

What He Does: Producer
How You Know Him: Emily Owens MD, Pushing Daisies, Traveler, Side Order of L1fe

While many of us know Dan Jinks as a producer of movies (Milk, Big Fish, Down With Love), he has also produced several series for the small screen, including Bryan Fuller’s wonderfully wacky Pushing Daisies. Jinks notably won the Best Picture Oscar (along with then-partner Bruce Cohen) for American Beauty.

 

jack-kenny

23. Jack Kenny

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer/Director
How You Know Him: Warehouse 13, Roommates, The Book of Daniel, Titus, Caroline in the City

Fans of Warehouse 13 will not be surprised to learn that out showrunner Jack Kenny seriously loves his job – the positive energy is almost palpable in the finished product. We’ll let Jack explain…

TheBacklot: Attitudes in this country toward gays and lesbians have shifted dramatically in recent years. Does the same hold true for Hollywood, or were they ahead of the curve?

Jack Kenny: I think television has always been ahead of the curve on those kinds of trends in this country. As a matter of fact, I believe that Television movies and shows are very influential in STARTING the curve in many social trends. Remember All in the Family??? They were exposing bigotry and toppling media mores long before anyone in the country was discussing those kind of things. You probably couldn’t even MAKE a show like that today without angering dozens of minority groups – which is ironic, since those groups were probably helped formed by All in the Family and the discussions it generated.

Hollywood had accepted gay characters on Soap and Mary Tyler Moore in the 70s! Long before the Gay Rights Movement took any real hold anywhere – we were still a crank fringe group that no one took seriously, strangely enough, until AIDS. The AIDS crisis – again ironically – solidified the Gay Rights Movement, and lent it a seriousness of purpose that was easy to ignore previously. And again, TV movies like Making Love were WAY ahead of studio films in terms of seriously addressing gay characters and content. Television, by it’s very nature, is able to react swiftly and effectively to social trends because it moves FAST and gets made QUICKLY – unlike studio films, which can often take YEARS to reach fruition.

Was being out at work ever a concern for you?

Kenny: Yeah. I’m one of those guys who, every time I finish a job, I’m certain I’ll never work again. It’s rather a common theme among actors – and since I started as an actor – recovering – I’m stricken with it still. Though the great advantage of being a Writer over being an Actor is that I can write anytime I want, with or without pay. And if you do that as an actor, they tend to lock you up.

Can it be awkward working with people either behind the camera or in front of it who are not open about their sexuality?

Kenny: Not anymore. And definitely not for me. Since about 1991 – when I started the first non-health-related actor group to march in the Gay Pride Parade – called Broadway Pride – I have slammed the closet door shut behind me, and not looked back. Alas, I don’t have much patience for people who for whatever reason must live all or part of their life in the closet. I’m not saying I’m right about that – it’s just who I am. I was once talking about Dan Butler at a pilot taping, and this at-the-time-I-suppose closeted casting director scolded me for talking about Dan’s sexual orientation, saying that that kind of thing is private – especially in Hollywood. I responded that Dan had JUST gotten LOTS of attention for doing a ONE-MAN SHOW about being an OUT actor. He was most often referred to at the time as “openly-gay actor, Dan Butler”. On the part of that casting guy, it was just self-hate and fear pointed at someone else. I have little patience and no time for that kinda bullshit. The more we allow people to make it shameful, the more shameful it will remain. I’ve noticed more often than not that Straight people don’t put us in Closets – WE DO!

Has telling stories about gays and lesbians been a priority for you? If yes, has it been a challenge to get those stories on the air? If not, why?

Kenny: Not really. I’m interested in multi-faceted characters of ALL stripes and kinds. Yeah, certain aspects really pique my interest – e.g. Asperger’s Syndrome, bisexuality, twins – especially when one twin dies, substance abuse – some things I have some experience with, and some not, but it just fascinates me nonetheless. I created “Steve Jinks,” a gay character on Warehouse 13 but what was WAY more interesting to me about “Steve” was the way that “Pete,” the lead character, responded to him. It’s not usually any trouble getting GLBT characters on the air anymore… If anything, it’s all kind of “old news” now… As I said, TV stays ahead of the curve, so the next interesting characters will probably be Z’s, or transgendered pre-teens, or maybe we’ll turn the Millenial Generation on its head, and write an 18 year old with a sense of responsibility and a real-world work ethic.

What would your advice be to someone just entering the industry who wants to do what you do?

Kenny: Showrunning is a VERY specialized field. Not a lot of good ones out there, and not a lot of folks who want to do it – it’s a VERY full-time job, and not for the faint-of-heart. The only path I know to showrunning is WRITING. Aside from the myriad responsibilities a showrunner has, the main one is STORYTELLING. If anything is waning in our industry, it’s that sense of telling a good story – especially in studio MOVIES. SO FEW real stories – they’re all expensive Visual Effects shows these days, driven no doubt by the advent of intense video gaming. That’s where the money is – i.e. that’s who’s SPENDING money on GOING to the movies – so that’s what they’re gonna keep making. But TV, for now at least, is still about telling STORIES. Writers are storytellers, so get busy writing. Writers write. So, write! Also, moisturize. Hollywood has always been a town that worshiped YOUTH, so start moisturizing NOW. If you wait till you’re 35, it’ll probably be too late, and you’ll start to have to have things “done.”

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Kenny: Everything. I LOVE SHOWRUNNING – or, as I often describe it, Running a DayCare Center. I love pre-production – breaking stories with the writers, shepherding scripts… I love production – casting, shooting, working with actors and crews… I love post production – where you get to fix a LOT of your mistakes… I LOVE WORKING IN TV!!! Best Job Ever!!!

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Kenny: Notes. I think most TV writers will probably agree. Sometimes the notes you get from networks and studios are helpful and steer you towards better storytelling. But alas, more often than not, notes are given to justify one’s job. At some point along the way it became sacrilege for an executive to say to a writer – “Hey, we like this just the way it is. No real notes. Just shoot the hell out of it! Bravo.” I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times ANYONE I KNOW has ever gotten that response. And it seems to have proliferated over the last decade. I can remember one notes session on an OUTLINE, where there were EIGHT PEOPLE ON THE PHONE giving their “thoughts”. EIGHT. It can be a demoralizing experience… Especially when – as most writers I know – you hand in something that you really kinda think of as FINISHED. Or, at least pretty damn close.

Do you have a dream project?

Kenny: One without notes. Not really. I tend to fall in love with whatever I’m working on. I’m VERY lucky that way. Or delusional. Take your pick.

What do you consider to be the true measure of success in Hollywood?

Kenny: Awards, Money & Fame. Oh, wait, SUCCESS? Hmmm. Pride. I’ve been pretty damn proud of most everything I’ve worked on. Not everything, cuz sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But most things, I’ve been pretty proud to show my loved ones. And that, to me, is being successful.

Now that marriage equality has come back to California, will you be taking advantage of it (if you haven’t already)?

Kenny: Michael and I got legally married during the brief window in 2008. We’ve been together since 1982 – Jesus CHRIST, I’m old.

What are your favorite shows to watch (other than your own)?

Kenny: Many and varied. Right now, we’re into Ray Donovan, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Modern Family, and a few others. Was totally into Game of Thrones until the Red Wedding, and now I’m done. Killing off characters – especially beloved ones – is the EASIEST thing to do. Shock is EASY. But to do it artfully, in a way that resonates and makes sense. That’s hard. You want your audience to say – AFTERWARDS – of course… that HAD to happen. Not, “Fuck you! I hate you and all you stand for!” ;-)

8th Annual GLSEN Respect Awards - Red Carpet24. Michael Patrick King

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer/Director
How You Know Him: 2 Broke Girls, The Comeback, Sex and the City, Will & Grace

Multihyphenate Michael Patrick King has been behind some of the gayest shows out there (Sex and the City, Will & Grace, The Comeback), and now he lends his sensibilities to the hit sitcom 2 Broke Girls. He recently told The Hollywood Reporter that while his big break was working on Murphy Brown, it was The Mary Tyler Moore Show that inspired him to be a TV writer.

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Showtime 2013 EMMY Eve Soiree - Arrivals25. Jeffrey Klarik

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Episodes, The Class, Half & Half

Along with his partner (in both senses) David Crane, Jeffrey Klarik created the award-winning Showtime comedy Episodes. He also created the sitcom Half & Half (which ran on the UPN for four seasons) as well as the short-lived The Class, which featured a gay central character.

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michaellannan26. Michael Lannan

What He Does: Writer/Producer
How You Know Him: Looking

We haven’t seen beardy newcomer Michael Lannan strut his stuff yet, but his short film Lorimer was picked up by HBO to be turned into a gay ensemble dramedy, so he must have something interesting going on. Lannan also was a producer on James Franco’s Cruising expermient, Interior. Leather Bar.

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Humanitas Presents: 'That's Not Funny!'27. Rob Lotterstein

What He Does: Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Shake It Up!, The War at Home, Grosse Pointe, Suddenly Susan

Rob Lotterstein has has written for shows like The Nanny, Ellen, Boy Meets World, Will & Grace, and Suddenly Susan, and he created, wrote and produced The War at Home, which featured a well-handled gay teen storyline. He’s currently executive producer and writer for Disney’s teen comedy Shake It Up.

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Dinner And Show - 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards28. Ryan Murphy

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer/Director
How You Know Him: Glee, American Horror Story, Open, Nip/Tuck, Popular

A man of many empires, Ryan Murphy has been tackling both gay storylines and edgy material in equal measure since he hit the scene with his gonzo spin on teen dramedy, Popular. Since then he has turned heads (and stomachs) with his pulpy soap Nip/Tuck, captured the hearts of America’s teens with the status-quo-clobbering musical fantasia Glee, and is now freaking the crap out of us for the third straight year with his brilliant and batty genre anthology American Horror Story. Murphy also tried unsuccessfully to get a show about a transgender woman on the air (Pretty/Handsome) and is currently working on his next project, the sexy relationship drama Open.

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2012 Summer TCA Tour - Day 929. Max Mutchnick

What He Does: Writer
How You Know Him: Will & Grace, Partners

As half of the writing team behind the groundbreaking sitcom Will & Grace, Max Mutchnick is a true pioneer when it comes to gay visibility on television. Mutchnick also c0-created the recent sitcom Partners (based on his real-life writing partnership with David Kohan) as well as $#*! My Dad Says, Four Kings, and Good Morning, Miami. He also used to write for Boston Common and HBO’s Dream On, which is a more common credit for men on this list than one might expect.

9th Annual GLSEN Respect Awards - Arrivals

30. Peter Paige

What He Does: Writer/Producer/Actor
How You Know Him: The Fosters, Fly Girls, Queer as Folk (USA)

Another actor-turned-writer, Paige of course won our hearts as Queer as Folk’s Emmett. Now he and writing partner Bradley Bredeweg are changing hearts and minds with the gay mixed family dramedy The Fosters, making them both the gayest and the most-alliterated duo in family entertainment. We’ll let them take it from here…

TheBacklot: Attitudes in this country toward gays and lesbians have shifted dramatically in recent years. Does the same hold true for Hollywood, or were they ahead of the curve?

Peter Paige/Bradley Bredeweg: Hollywood – in our estimation, anyway – has always been both ahead of and behind the curve. Behind the lens, sure – Hollywood has been open and welcoming to gays for far longer than much of corporate America. But in front of the camera, it seems like Hollywood tends to play catch up. The Fosters is certainly reporting a phenomenon that began years ago – lesbian couples raising children.

Can it be awkward working with people either behind the camera or in front of it who are not open about their sexuality?

Paige/Bredeweg: Hmmm… I guess so, but only because Peter is such an over-sharer that anyone trying to keep a secret drives him mad. Plus people in the closet tend to overcompensate in some way or other, which is generally annoying or frustrating.

What would your advice be to someone just entering the industry who wants to do what you do?

Paige/Bredeweg: Write. Write every day. Create a system so you have to write every day. And soak up all that you can from every resource around you. Oh – and create your own content. There’s really no excuse, in the day and age, not to be doing that – you can make a short movie ON YOUR PHONE.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Paige/Bredeweg: I think for both of us it is the sense of family that develops, both on and off camera. We are lucky enough to work with really extraordinary human beings (the cast, the crew, our fellow writers), and boy does that make it easy to get out of bed in the morning.

Now that marriage equality has come back to California, will you be taking advantage of it (if you haven’t already)?

Paige/Bredeweg: Brad already has, back during the window when it was first legal. Peter needs a date first.

What are your favorite shows to watch (other than your own)?

Paige/Bredeweg: The Good Wife, Parenthood, Girls, Modern Family, all that edgy cable shit – oh, and Brad loves The Bachelorette. (Peter is typing this, and if I have to hear one more conversation about the motherf*cking Bachelorette… it might just end our partnership. ;-) )

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SMALLVILLEBrian Wayne Peterson (R) and Smallville cast and crew celebrate their 200th episode (photo: Jim Halterman)

31. Brian Wayne Peterson

What He Does: Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Beauty and the Beast, Smallville, Political Animals, But I’m a Cheerleader (film)

Brian Wayne Peterson spent the bulk of his career on long-running superhero drama Smallville, writing 35 episodes and exec producing a whopping 83 (and eventually stepping up as showrunner). We had the pleasure to chat with the outspoken Peterson about his career, happiness, and the enduring power of But I’m a Cheerleader.

TheBacklot: Attitudes in this country toward gays and lesbians have shifted dramatically in recent years. Does the same hold true for Hollywood, or were they ahead of the curve?

Brian Wayne Peterson: Just as with race issues, I think so much of the tension has pushed itself under the surface, but is still absolutely there. It’s subtle and makes you feel paranoid for noticing, but it’s there. Even more alarming, strangely, is the trend in thought that things are actually better than they are. I had a writer in a room this past year actually tell me that kids in school these days don’t see any difference between straight and gay. Maybe in a few inspiring stories, yes. But ask whoever is the 15 year-old version of me back in Montana today. Because so many straight people are normalized to being around gays and lesbians in the industry, I’m afraid they transpose that onto the greater canvas, and sadly in the red states especially, it’s just not true. Remember, even in good old California, about half the people don’t believe you deserve the same rights.

Was being out at work ever a concern for you?

Peterson: I have a great friend who really showed me, way back in college, that if you are concerned about how the world sees you, people sense it. So I live an honest, genuine life and haven’t had much of an issue.

Can it be awkward working with people either behind the camera or in front of it who are not open about their sexuality?

Peterson: Awkward… how about pathetic? But in any professional workplace, it should be about the work. What people believe in areas of politics, religion or lying about their romantic leaning – that’s irrelevant if their work is good. Unless of course their beliefs are causing them to oppress or mock others, in which case, as my mother would say, “Katie, bar the door.” Because I have zero tolerance for jerks of any kind.

Has telling stories about gays and lesbians been a priority for you? If yes, has it been a challenge to get those stories on the air? If not, why?

Peterson: When I started writing, I made a pledge that anything I wrote would have some positive representation of my people. But that’s easy to say when you’re sitting with your laptop over mochas writing your whimsy. I still feel really strongly about it and loathe most the representations of us on screen even now. Steve DeKnight truly broke amazing ground with Spartacus, and was so under-recognized for his healthy portrayals – especially to a male action genre audience that is traditionally the most anxious about gay life, love and sex. As for me, I was excited to work on a show that, for ten years, was basically an allegory to living a life you feel you need to hide. Through Smallville we got to explore the more universal themes of isolation, tolerance, acceptance, and even celebration. Hopefully this touched anyone, even if not in our immediate community, who has felt this way in their own life. And as much of a challenge as it is to find a buyer for projects that don’t just regurgitate the same old gay stereotypes and issues – it’s equally as hard to differentiate what is a gay issue anymore versus just a human issue. Honestly, during my worst times over the past decade, it was in many cases my straight friends who understood me the most.

What would your advice be to someone just entering the industry who wants to do what you do?

Peterson: Work your ass off, have a point of view, take notes, and get an internship.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Peterson: Showrunning is amazing because you get to plan ahead and see a long-term vision to completion, all the while being the cheerleader for everyone. It’s like having a family, all rallied around the same thing – making a fantastic project. It’s intoxicating — that sense of a common goal that allows every person on the crew to do what they love, with this intense sense of urgency and a tangible product to show for every day.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Peterson: TV and film are subjective. There is no right answer. Everyone likes different shows, even if they’re made with the best quality. And the more people weighing in on the vision of a show, the more opinions are on the table. None of these are wrong, just different. Well OK, some are wrong. And so trying to incorporate the thoughts of execs and actors and directors while still maintaining a strong point of view takes a lot of energy. But it’s so worth it.

What do you consider to be the true measure of success in Hollywood?

Peterson: Are you happy? What the answer to that question looks like is different for everyone. Some people are making material that doesn’t truly fulfill their creative dreams, but allows them access to live an amazing life and give their families wonderful opportunities. Some people struggle through a tough day-to-day life to put their passion on screen, even if it’s not seen by many people ultimately. I walk the line. I’d like to think that I’ve reached the third act of my Capra movie.

Now that marriage equality has come back to California, will you be taking advantage of it (if you haven’t already)?

Peterson: I’ve wanted to be married since I can remember. When I find someone who truly gets me and has the fortitude and passion to stick with me through thick and thin, you bet I’m getting married. But I want it Montana style with a potluck and a good two-step afterward.

What are your favorite shows to watch (other than your own)?

Peterson: Game of Thrones. Newsroom. Veep. Homeland. Vikings. Modern Family. Amazing Race. Anything with the Carrino Cousins fixing stuff.

What project have you been most proud of?

Peterson: It’s funny, I still have people coming up to me, saying how But I’m A Cheerleader impacted their life as a teen or in college. But to be honest, I would be lying if I didn’t say Smallville, especially the 200th Episode and the series finale. So much had to come together and we had constant interaction with fans to shape the show they wanted. That’s a true feeling of pride.

 

PatrickIanPolk32. Patrik-Ian Polk

What He Does: Producer/Writer/Director
How You Know Him: Noah’s Arc, The Skinny (film)

While Patrik-Ian Polk hasn’t been too active on the small screen as of late, he broke down multiple barriers with his groundbreaking series Noah’s Arc, which was the first show to focus on gay men of color. Polk has since returned to film with both the gay-pride-centered 2012 dramedy The Skinny and the upcoming Blackbird, a drama about growing up gay in the Baptist South that notably stars Isaiah Washington.

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Premiere Of HBO's "The Newsroom" Season 2 - Red Carpet33. Alan Poul

What He Does: Producer/Director
How You Know Him: The Newsroom, Swingtown, Six Feet Under, Tales of the City, My So-Called Life

Hollywood veteran Alan Poul has been telling gay stories since the very beginning, when he served as a producer of the groundbreaking miniseries Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. He continued to break down walls as a producer for My So-Called Life and as an executive producer and director for Six Feet Under. He has worked on Swingtown, GCB, and Big Love, and currently works as executive producer and occasionally as director for HBO’s The Newsroom. He also notably served as producer for the Playboy Channel’s bizarre softcore genre anthology series Inside Out.

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63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Press Room34. Jeffrey Richman

What He Does: Writer/Producer
How You Know Him: Modern Family, Desperate Housewives, Back to You, Frasier

The guy at the right is holding a well-deserved Emmy for Modern Family, but chances are he’s been making you laugh for decades with his work on Desperate Housewives, Frasier, Wings, The Jeffersons, and more. And I would be remiss to not point out that this handsome gent is long-time partners with the dazzling John Benjamin Hickey (The Big C, Hannibal), and he appeared as Conrad on the glamtastic ’80s modeling drama Paper Dolls. Does he have the best life or what?!

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22nd Annual Producers Guild Awards - Show35. Scott Rudin

What He Does: Producer
How You Know Him: Silicon Valley, The Newsroom, Clueless, The Hours (film)

While Scott Rudin has worked for years as a film producer (No Country for Old Men, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network, Zoolander, Clueless), he has also been behind several notable television projects, including the Clueless series, The Newsroom, and the gloriously campy Revenge of the Stepford Wives. His latest project is the highly-anticipated HBO series Silicon Valley.

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2013 Winter TCA Tour - Day 336. Joshua Safran

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: Royal, Social Circle, Smash, Gossip Girl

Joshua Safran made a splash as a writer, producer and showrunner of Gossip Girl before being handed a nearly impossible task: to course-correct NBC’s wildly careening Broadway experiment Smash. While we all know how that turned out, Safran delivered a satisfying ending for Smash, and has since sold two new projects: Royal and Social Circle. He’s also behind the remake of Endless Love hitting big screens next year.

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Premiere Of New Line Cinema's "Jack The Giant Slayer" - Red Carpet37. Bryan Singer

What He Does: Producer/Director
How You Know Him: The Black Box, House M.D., Dirty Sexy Money

We all know Bryan Singer for his film work (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, Apt Pupil), but he’s been steadily working behind-the-scenes on the small screen as well as producer for hits like House M.D. and Dirty Sexy Money. His next TV project, The Black Box, looks to tackle messy topics like neuroscience and mental illness. Paging Dr. House!

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Aretha Franklin Performs for the @Ross 08 Series Benefiting Ross Schools38. Darren Starr

What He Does: Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: 90210, Melrose Place, Sex and the City, Grosse Pointe, Beverly Hills 90210

Darren Starr changed the pop culture landscape forever when he created (alongside veteran producer Aaron Spelling) Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place back in the 1990s. After taking a break to create a little number called Sex and the City, he relaunched updates of both of his early hits (with 90210 featuring a prominent and extremely dreamy gay character) as well as the camptastic GCB.

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mikewhite39. Mike White

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer/Director/Actor
How You Know Him: Enlightened, Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, Cracking Up

Mike White can do pretty much anything, and chances are whatever it is he is doing is going to unsettle you just a tiny bit. Whether he’s writing and starring in the wonderfully unsettling gay/bro film Chuck & Buck, writing and producing Freaks and Geeks, or creating and running his own show, Enlightened, White always dug into tricky interpersonal dynamics and never shied away from the ugly bits. Enlightened was taken from us too soon, but we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

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2013 Winter TCA Tour - Day 540. Kevin Williamson

What He Does: Showrunner/Producer/Writer
How You Know Him: The Following, Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, Wasteland, Dawson’s Creek, Scream (film)

As anyone who follows this Twitter obsessive can attest, Kevin Williamson is one of the busiest people in Hollywood, and has been since day one. After selling a slew of movie scripts that singlehandedly revived the American horror film (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty), Williamson turned to television, where he created the beloved drama Dawson’s Creek (which of course featured a breakthrough gay character, Jack McPhee). These days Williamson splits his time between the hugely popular supernatural soap The Vampire Diaries and the creepy serial killer cult procedural The Following.

In 2003, Brian launched the world's first website devoted to horror film from a gay perspective (CampBlood.org), mining an untapped (and occasionally unintentional) source of entertainment and bringing together a huge and colorful population of gay horror fans and filmmakers. When he's not pulling skeletons out of closets, Brian writes reviews for horror megasite Bloody-Disgusting.com, general film site Freezedriedmovies.com, and can be found on the ever-informative RottenTomatoes.com. Brian is also a filmmaker, having produced, written, and directed two shorts (the dark romantic comedy An Apple a Day and the eerie suspense piece Two Story House) that have played at film festivals worldwide and left audiences generally uneasy. A born-and-bred Midwesterner, Brian studied Mass Media and Film at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (I know – crazy, right?) before fleeing the district for the warm and occasionally stinky shores of NYC. Brian is a proud member of the Online Film Critics Society, loving husband to illustrator Andy Swist, and benevolent overlord of their two cats.