A Writers Guild of America, East interview with TV and screenwriter Jonathan Ames (Bored to Death, The Extra Man) about his new Starz series “Blunt Talk”.
You are the Showrunner and Executive Producer of the Starz series BLUNT TALK, which recently wrapped its first season and has been renewed for a second season. Can you tell readers a little about the show?
My Hollywood logline is that it's a cross between NETWORK and P.G. Wodehouse. It's about a newsman named Walter Blunt. He wants to help the American people, but he could also use help himself. He's surrounded by a rather dysfunctional staff, which is more like a family than a staff. He has got his hands full trying to control himself, help his staff, and help the American people by trying to bring them the news in a straight forward and blunt manor.
I enjoy how BLUNT TALK airs on the fictional UBS network, which is the same network in NETWORK. You wrote the pilot and first couple of episodes of BLUNT TALK by yourself, and then co-wrote the rest of the season with writers Sam Sklaver, Kirsten Kearse, Jim Margolis, Duncan Birmingham, Eli Jorne and Reed Agnew. Do you want to tell me a bit about the writing process on BLUNT TALK?
How I run this show, which is the same way I ran BORED TO DEATH, is that before I meet with the writers, I spend a month or two putting together a big document of ideas and images and snippets of dialogue, storylines for the characters, arcs, where I see the season going. It's kind of a big thing of clay. Then what I do with the writers is we spend about two months taking that big thing of clay and chopping it up into episodes. By talking about it, the clay transforms and new ideas emerge and as a team we plot everything out and come up with very strong outlines for everything. Then we go to script. Season one I wrote the first three and then I assigned the next few. I tend to do a somewhat vigorous pass on things so that the voice is consistent – so we usually end up sharing credit on everything – and that's kind of how it works.
You say you like to write on the weekends. What kind of place do you like to be in when you write? Do you do your famous call before you write?
I don't do the call before writing, I do that before table reads. It's like striking a bell at a Buddhist ceremony. It loosens things up and clears the air. I like to start writing in the morning, I'm not a super early morning person, but if I can get started by ten or eleven that's good. I have a little office in the little house I rent. I sit at the computer all day long drinking coffee. And probably after a few hours lie down or go for a walk. I just try to sit there, I don't play music. I'll distract myself with the internet, look at ESPN or things like that, but just straight forward coffee and sitting is how I write.
What are some of the things that you're enjoying being distracted by, books, movies, TV shows that you would recommend for others to be distracted by?
I'm sort of a limited person at this stage in my life. For some reason, my only source of entertainment are books. I don't really watch any TV. I stopped going to movies. I do watch sports. I'll be watching the World Series especially because the Mets are in it, but the only thing I really absorb are books. At the moment I'm really into George Simenon, a French mystery writer. I'm starting to tear through his 'Inspector Maigret' novels. I highly recommend them. I do watch one TV show. I love THE WALKING DEAD. I've said this before, but I would like to be part of Rick's family and help out.
For the rest of the interview, go here.