‘Arrow,’ ‘Vampire Diaries’ Showrunners on Diverse Writers Rooms, Balancing Life and Work

TCA 2015: CW EPs Julie Plec, Aline Brosh McKenna, Jennie Urman and more discuss hardest part of their jobs, the risk of being labeled a “crier”

Eight out of nine shows airing on The CW this fall have female showrunners in charge, and the bulk of them gathered on stage at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour to talk about the challenges and blessings of their jobs.

The balance between family and work was a major focal point of the discussion when the panelists were asked the hardest part of their job.

“It’s hard to talk about that without sounding sexist ourselves,” Laurie McCarthy, “Reign” show runner, said. “As long as the culture leans on women for child-rearing, it’s going to be harder for women to take jobs like this. As men rise up and take more responsibility in the home, things will even out.”

McCarthy, “Arrow’s” Wendy Mericle, “Jane the Virgin’s” Jennie Snyder Urman and “iZombie’s” Diane Ruggiero-Wright all cited not getting to see their children as much as they’d like because of their jobs as the hardest thing, but others, including “The Flash’s” Gabrielle Stanton, “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals” and “Containment” EP Julie Plec and “Vampire Diaries'” Caroline Dries cited juggling the job itself as the major challenge.

“It’s an intense job, but I can name a lot of people with harder jobs than we have,” said Aline Brosh McKenna, who’s bringing “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” to the network this fall. “I feel so privileged, my kids are also older so that might be part of it. The thing I think about a lot is you have a lot of responsibility to everyone who’s employed on the show, to make sure everyone has someone they can talk to, have an outlet. It’s fun though, it’s a privilege.”

Plec also said not showing emotion at work was a distinctly female challenge in the work environment.

“When I get upset, frustrated or disappointed, I cry. I hate that,” she said. “As a woman, tears are such a sign of weakness, like that’s what defines you as a woman, ‘oh she’s a crier.’ I had a man say, ‘Oh you gonna cry again, you crybaby?’ That’s f–king brutal. By not screaming, trying to hold those emotions in … you’re exposing a vulnerable part of yourself. Trying not to cry is definitely a challenge.”

The EPs, some of whom rose up through writers rooms over the past decade or more, see a brighter future for more diversity ahead.

“I hope we are the first wave,” Stanton said. “We are all hiring more women writers, directors, etc. My first few shows, I was always the only woman. Every room I’ve been in recently, there’s always been a mix. It’s definitely changed for the better, and hopefully in 10 years this won’t even be an issue.”