Time for Friday questions. The first one is answered with the assistance of Matthew Weiner.
It comes from Ted:
I love Mad Men, and I've always thought that, like The Sopranos, the sharp writing comes from a staff in a room. But Matthew Weiner does a lot of publicity for the show, and he doesn't seem to mind if you think he creates every word, character, and storyline. So what's the truth? Is Mad Men room-written or not?
No. Matt comes up with the general arc and direction of the season. The staff works together with him on breaking stories and then write individual scripts. Matt then takes his pass at every draft. That’s not to say that a lot of the original writer’s draft doesn’t make the final cut but everything passes through Matt first. And that's in addition to the scripts he writes by himself. Hey, he’s the real deal, folks.
To confirm all this I double-checked with Matt, who added this:
I have had a lot of writers come through the show. And the story process in that room is very collaborative and essential. I do not and more importantly can not do it by myself.
Thanks, Matt. Also worth noting, whenever he’s interviewed he always makes a point to mention and thank his staff and crafts people and it’s very often not published.
How would an actor find out that they're fired from a show for bad behavior? From who and how would they get the news?
Like if it was a young actor on a cable show who didn't take his job seriously and they just had a supporting role that could easily be written out of the show without them appearing again.
Uh..Jose, are you by chance on a cable show and feeling a little insecure??
When actors are fired it should be the showrunner who tells them but often times that thankless task gets pawned off to the agent or manager.
Most times it’s not because of bad behavior per se. Actors are often fired for reasons that are not their fault. They tested poorly. The network has someone they like better. Or the network has a deal with an actor and needs to stick him somewhere.
A few years ago a showrunner was ordered by the network to replace an actress with another of their choosing. The new actress was terrible. After several of her episodes aired the showrunner walked into a gym and there was the actress he fired on the treadmill. She sees him and calls out across the entire gym, "Yeah, BIG improvement!"
Shows also get rewritten and parts are dropped.
So in most cases, it’s like being the victim of a sniper. You never hear the bullet coming.
But there are also times when the actor knows he’s not cutting it. Getting fired is usually painful but it can also be a relief.
As for bad behavior, we really need to define just what that is. Some actors have a maddening process that drives everyone around them nuts. Is that bad behavior or bad work habits? If the performance is ultimately great it’s just the process; if it’s not you shoot him week four.
The only incident of real bad behavior I encountered was a guest actor who made a totally inappropriate sexual advance on an actress. When I found out about it later in the day I walked right down to the stage and fired him on the spot.
So be careful Jose. Work real hard, take your job seriously, and no hanky-panky with series regulars.
Here’s a question that all America wants answered. It’s from Ian:
How does Phoef Sutton pronounce her first name? I suspect it's something like "fuff," but I'm dying to know for sure.
It’s pronounced “Feef”, just like it’s spelled.
Warren Z. wonders:
If you were to write for a show like Modern Family, where every episode is based around a theme (sometimes loosely, sometimes not so much), would you start by determining the theme, and then work out each of the storylines from there? Or would you figure out the plots first and tweak them, if you need to, to fit a particular theme?
Theme FIRST. Always. It’s the spine. This also applies when creating a series, movie, play, novel – any dramatic enterprise. The best stories are ABOUT something.
To not have the theme first is like an artist painting something at random and then deciding what it looks like.
And finally, from Armando:
Are you not having a Sitcom Room seminar this year? I missed out last year and have been kicking myself since.
I’m taking a break this year to finish two books I'm writing. But I will do the Sitcom Room again soon. Stay tuned.
What’s your question???