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INTERVIEW: FTN interviews legendary TV producer Jane Espenson

January 19th, 2013 by Irwin Fletcher Comments

Jane Espenson is an American writer and producer. Jane started out working on sitcoms such as Ellen and Dinosaurs (Who remembers baby and the rest of the Sinclair family?). In 1998 she got her first staff job on a drama writing and producing for cult tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Jane has also wrote and produced for other highly successful tv shows such as Game of Thrones, Star Trek, Once Upon a time, Battlestar Gallatica, Torchwood, Angel, Firefly, Tru Calling, The OC, Gilmore Girls, Eureka and Dollhouse. More recently, Jane has co-created a new web series with Brad Bell called Husbands which has had an amazing response. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jane and this is what she had to say:

FTN: Hi Jane, Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to FTN. The first question I would like to ask you is; Of all the shows you have worked on which is closest to your heart and why?

JE: I have to say Husbands (, because it’s something that Brad Bell and I created ourselves, and which I think has something very important to say. But all the shows I work on have been important to me. I loved Buffy and Battlestar and Torchwood and now Once Upon a Time, which is a very special, very happy place for me. I’ve been lucky that I’ve worked almost entirely on shows that I would have been a fan of, even if I’d never worked there, and I think that’s unusual. I love shows that have a “reason to exist”.

FTN: You have stated before that you don’t write what you know the fans want to see, you write what you want to see… this has obviously worked very well… do you think it is because you always maintain that element of surprise in your storylines?

JE: Well, that’s part of it. But a poorly-told story surprises you, because the events aren’t motivated. It’s more than surprise. It’s that feeling that you’re being taken on a journey by a confident story-teller with something to say and a real joy in the saying of it. That’s what gives shows with strong creators that feeling of a powerful singular voice – it’s not surprise, it’s vision. I love working for show runners who have vision because they’re writing what they love.

FTN: You won a Hugo Award for your episode of Buffy ‘Conversations with Dead People’, what do you think was so stand out about this episode to achieve this award?

JE: The episode is credited to Drew Goddard and myself, so we share the award, but in actuality, Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon also wrote portions of the episode. It’s an episode that tells separate stories woven together. I worked in particular on Dawn’s story in the episode, and I wanted it to be funny as well as disturbing. Joss’ segment was a very powerful and psychological story about Buffy. Honestly, I think that was the part that won it the award.

FTN: You wrote the episosde ‘A Golden Crown’ in Game of Thrones, is it hard to join in on a tv series and write just one single episode? What is your process for getting a feel for the characters and story so you dont lose any important elements in the episode you write?

JE: It does sound hard when you describe it like that, but don’t forget that Game of Thrones is a book; the characters and story are already written down. So that was very easy. I have written other freelance episodes, of course, for Nowhere Man and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and a few for Battlestar Galactica before I joined the staff full-time, and in all those cases I already knew the characters and tone because I was a fan. And you should keep in mind that a freelancer is usually provided with the full support of the entire staff during the crafting of the story, so he or she is surrounded by people who know the show intimately.

FTN: Both you and Brad Bell have created an original web series called ‘Husbands’ (check it out here) which has already been nominated for an Indie Soap Award and an International Academy of Web Television award, could you tell us a little bit about this project for those who may not have seen it yet?

JE: Thank you! We were nominated this year for nine Indie Soap Awards, five IAWTV awards and a number of Streamy Awards as well. We are thrilled to be having such a huge awards season! Husbands is a sitcom about a pair of newlyweds in a marriage equality world. These two young men, who haven’t been dating very long, wake up drunk-married in Vegas and decide to make a go of it. We’ve made two seasons, both available to watch at and we’re very proud of it. We have the best cast: Brad Bell, Sean Hemeon and Alessandra Torresani from Caprica, as well as some huge guest stars: Joss Whedon, Jon Cryer, Mekhi Phifer and lots of others. We’ve been blown away by the positive buzz around the show. It’s one of those shows where people decide to sample the first minute or so and end up watching it all in one night.

FTN: Thanks so much Jane for your great interview, before you go, what is your favourite movie of all time and why?

JE: Oh, that’s impossible! Maybe Tootsie? So funny!

I'm an LA journalist who really lives for his profession. I have also published work as Jane Doe in various mags and newspapers across the globe. I normally write articles that can cause trouble but now I write for FTN because Nerds are never angry, so I feel safe.