‘Little America’ Showrunner Talks Mobilizing for Abortion Rights: ‘We’re Working With All of the Major Studios’

Power Women Summit 2022: Showrunners discussed working alongside studios to set up safeguards for women working in states hostile to reproductive health care

TheWrap Women Power Women Summit, Santa Monica, California - 14 Dec 2022
From left, Jenni Konner, Sian Heder and Tonya Lewis Lee at TheWrap Women Power Women Summit 2022. (Shutterstock/Katie Jones)

“Little America” showrunner Sian Heder — who’s part of the Hollywood group led by women creators advocating for reproductive health care rights, along with “The Dropout” executive producer Elizabeth Meriwhether and “Welcome to Chippendales” co-showrunner Jenni Konner, and others — discussed the necessity of forming advocacy groups to support those working in states hostile to abortion rights.

“After Roe, we took a group of women in the business and panicked and gathered and started talking about what can we do? And how are we going to address this? And how are we going to make it safe for women?” Heder said.

In addition to Heder, Meriwhether and Konner, TheWrap’s Power Women Summit panel “The Power of Storytelling: Producers Roundtable” also featured Sarah Finn, co-producer of “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; Sarah Michelle Gellar, star and executive producer of the upcoming Paramount+ show “Wolf Pack”; Stefani Robinson, writer and executive producer of “Atlanta” and “What We Do in the Shadows”; and Tonya Lewis Lee, co-director and co-producer of “Aftershock.” The panel was moderated by Susan Sprung, national executive director of Producers Guild of America.

“What’s beautiful about this group is it really mobilized — we are working with all of the major studios now, we have delegates and liaisons for all those studios that were trying to put together things in place, so if you’re choosing to shoot in Atlanta or these other places, that there’s a number on your call sheet that you can call if you get into a situation, if you have an ectopic pregnancy, if you have a complication,” the Oscar-winning “CODA” writer continued.

The group of showrunners and producers also discussed the gaps in the TV industry regarding the inclusion and hiring of women from diverse backgrounds, and the various challenges they continue to face in proving themselves in male-dominated workplaces.

Robinson (who was just tapped as writer and executive producer for the pilot reimagining of the long-running British series “Peep Show”) said, “I’ve been physically blocked from going into my office at times, and because there was producer weighing in that I shouldn’t be there, and I had to tell him I was a producer. The word ‘undermined’ is a great word that I like to use because I feel like it sums up the experience where on top of all the excitement and the overwhelming feelings of gratitude in those creative spaces — [those] have been undermined by situations like that.”

Gellar also spoke about the “extremely toxic male set” she experienced during her time starring on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” emphasizing the importance of surrounding herself with supportive women throughout her four-decade-long career.

“For so long, I was on a set that I think was known for being an extremely toxic male set, and so that was ingrained in my head that that was what all sets were like, and that women were pitted against each other — that if women became friends, then we became too powerful, so you had to keep that down,” the veteran actress said. “And now that I’ve had this opportunity to work with so many more women and men that support women as well, I realized how easy an experience it can be, but… unfortunately we’re still in that place where all of those departments a lot of times need to be women for us to have a voice.”

The Power Women Summit (PWS) is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The event aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s PWS provides two days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe — to promote this year’s theme, “A Time to Unite.” Learn more here: thewrap.com/pws.