Even after HBO’s biggest hit ever, “Game of Thrones,” came to an end last year, the premium network is still going strong with hit shows like “Watchmen” and “Insecure.” That’s thanks in large part to Francesca Orsi and Amy Gravitt, the programming heads tasked with leading HBO into a new era.
Orsi and Gravitt joined TheWrap Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman at the Hollywood Women Changemakers Panel presented by Cadillac, part of the Power Women Summit 2020. They discussed the meetings that led to HBO’s current lineup of Emmy-winning shows and the responsibility they feel to push for more inclusion at the executive and production level.
“It almost feels like a mandate, but as a female leader of a division…inclusion is absolutely critical,” Orsi said. “I can’t say it existed in times past, I’ve been at the company for a long time, but now and moving forward, everyone has a seat at the table.”
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Orsi is executive vice president of HBO’s drama programming and was involved in the meetings with “Watchmen” showrunners Damon Lindelof and Misha Green that brought the show to the network. Though it was developed years before the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, it didn’t surprise Orsi that the series ended up feeling so timely both at the time of its broadcast and as the George Floyd protests unfolded.
“These two creators came in wanting to probe discrimination in America…and have a frank conversation about this hard, uncomfortable issues, that’s what our buy-in was all about,” she said. “It was knowing these two writers coming into the room were fearless and courageous in wanting to tackle those themes that we knew that we had something special.”
Gravitt, meanwhile, has overseen the release of several hit series as executive vice president of HBO’s comedy programming, including “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Barry” and “Insecure.” For her team, Gravitt said it’s “essential that the audience sees themselves in the characters.”
“I think in order to do that you have to show a variety of voices and tones and perspectives. I think when we’re looking for talent we’re trying to explore the notion that the human experience isn’t a monolithic one,” she said. “In the case of ‘Insecure,’ Issa [Rae] was actually wanting to put a character on screen she didn’t see when she was growing up, and as a result she made the concept of being awkward iconic in a comedic way, like Larry David and his neuroses.”
Check out more thoughts from Orsi and Gravitt in the clip above.
The Power Women Summit, presented by the WrapWomen Foundation, is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The Summit aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s all-virtual PWS provides three days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe to promote “Inclusion 360,” this year’s theme.