‘Swarm’ Cocreator Janine Nabers Says Giving Writers Agency Is Crucial to Establishing ‘A New Generation of Storytelling’

In TheWrap’s Bold Steps, presented by Johnnie Walker, the showrunner gets candid about the writers’ strike

Janine Nabers is living her childhood dream. As the showrunner and cocreator of the Emmy-nominated Prime Video series “Swarm,” she’s manifesting the kinds of TV shows she would have savored as a self-professed “Black nerd” growing up in Texas.

“I’ve always loved TV,” Nabers said in TheWrap’s Bold Steps presented by Johnnie Walker. “But there weren’t a lot of TV shows that represented us. So to be able to do it now as an adult is a lifelong dream of mine.”

The original series “Swarm,” which Nabers cocreated with Donald Glover, tells the story of Dre (Dominique Fishback), a young woman who has an eerie obsession with a pop star. The unsettling series defies categorization, which is a testament to the gutsy storytelling decisions made by Nabers on the show.

But while Nabers was happy to get “Swarm” off the ground, it’s far from her first rodeo, and her time in the TV industry fueled her passion when the writers’ guild went on strike last summer.

“The strike was hard,” she acknowledged. “I did not write a single thing during the strike. I was very adamant about going out [and] marching. I read other people’s work, I talked to a lot of people, I took people to dinner, I took people to coffee, but it got worrisome. Five months is a really long time.”

Nabers had a baby and a new house, which added to the stress, but at the end of the day, she said the strike was hard-won.

“The writers’ strike was about transparency,” she said. “A lot of people were being very selfish and a lot of people were taking advantage of writers’ times.”

Nabers spoke to the issue of “mini-rooms,” a recent practice in which studios would assemble small groups of writers to work with a showrunner to hash out a show’s season or storylines without promising employment once the show got picked up.

“We would write outlines, we would help with dialogue,” she continued. “Sometimes you would write episodes and then your contract would be done, and then you would leave and then you would be like two or three years into these mini-rooms and not having anything to show for it. No actual episode on TV.”

The writer and producer said the issue is an existential one.

“If you want to establish a new generation of storytelling, if you really want to change the business, you have to start from the beginning,” she continued. “You have to give those people the agency to fight for their episodes, to understand their episodes and to champion those episodes.”

As part of the WGA’s new deal with studios, mini-rooms were effectively ended. Nabers called the win “historic” and said she’s grateful that the writing community “stuck to our guns.”

“I’m really grateful to be back to work. I’m really grateful to advocate for other voices and writers coming up, and I just want to make cool stuff and keep on truckin’,” she said.

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