Editor’s Note: With this week’s wrap of TNT’s long running series Leverage we thought we’d repost our interview with one of the writers who helped Leverage gain such popularity.
Part one in ongoing series: Culture Makers who Influenced the Culture Makers of Television.
“I told her I would do anything to work on the show. ‘I will scrape gum off your props. I will empty toilets. I don’t care!” -Jessica Rieder
by Gary David Stratton • Senior Editor
Jessica Rieder is one of the bright new stars in Hollywood’s TV writing rooms. For three years on the cable hit Leverage (TNT) and now with the network show Hawaii Five-O (CBS), Jessica and writing partner, Melissa Glenn, have emerged as a creative force to be reckoned with.
Jessica was born and raised in small-town Wisconsin, where she “learned to love God, cheese and football (not necessarily in that order).” In an interview with Kelly Crimmins (TNT) Jessica described her unusual transition to Hollywood. “When I was a senior in college, I worked for my school’s newspaper writing a television column. Bradley Whitford was on the The West Wing… the show that made me want to be a writer. I thought, ‘I have nothing to lose. I am going to fax an interview request to his publicist.’ I assumed I would never hear anything back. Well, two weeks later, he (Whitford) called me personally on my cell phone. Thank God it went to voicemail because I totally lost it!
“I set up an interview and went out to LA to meet with him. I also met his assistant at the time and told her, I am moving to LA when I graduate and would do anything to work on the show. I begged her, ‘I will scrape gum off your props. I will empty toilets. I don’t care!’ At which point, she said, “You know nothing about television, do you?” A year later I got a call from the Production Coordinator on The West Wing and ended up working as a Producer’s Assistant on the last two seasons of the series.”
When The West Wing ended, Jessica worked as an assistant to the Executive Producer of CBS’s Cane. Then, in 2006 Jessica teamed up with fellow Act One writing program Alum, Melissa Glenn, and things just clicked. The Rieder-Glenn duo were twice named finalists in the Warner Brothers Writers’ Workshop, signed with Creative Artists Agency, and landed jobs as staff writers for Leverage. The rest is history.
We asked Jessica, “Who are the authors, artists, filmmakers, screenwriters, poets, musicians, films, books, plays, TV shows, or any other cultural artifact who have deeply influenced you and will always stick with you.” Then gave her only fifteen minutes to complete their list, to keep it “unedited.”
Jessica’s TOP 15 (in no particular order)
This American Life (NPR radio program)
Friday Night Lights (the TV series)
Read the Complete Series: Culture Makers Who Influenced the Culture Makers of TV
Sheryl J. Anderson (Charmed, Flash Gordon, Dave’ World)
Dean Batali (That 70’s Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hope and Gloria)
Brian Bird (Touched by an Angel, The Shunning, Not Easily Broken)
Kevin Chesley (The Hard Times of RJ Berger)
Chris Easterly (Unnatural History, The Shunning)
Monica Macer (Lost, Prison Break)
Korey Scott Pollard (Nashville, House, Rizzoli and Isles, Lie to Me, Monk, House, Grey’s Anatomy)
Kurt Schemper (Emmy Award winner for Intervention)
Michael Warren (Happy Days, Family Matters, Two of a Kind, Step by Step, Perfect Strangers).