NYC TV Week: Showrunners' Work Rarely Stops

But Nurse Jackie's Phillips, The Americans' Weisberg Embrace The Craziness
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Taking time from shooting on the sixth season on  Nurse Jackie, Clyde Phillips said his job as executive producer and showrunner on the Showtime keeps him quite busy.

Phillips, speaking on a panel during NewBay Media’s inaugural NYC Television Week on Oct. 29, said his job entails among other things, talking to the premium network, negotiating the fees with the head writer, casting, hiring writers and crew. He also said it’s his job to hold egos and hands every day, as people call in sick, have babies, get divorced.

“We hold the family together and make sure there are enough Cheerios on set and what it costs to shoot at Lincoln Center,” Phillips said, now running a second season of Nurse Jackie, after spending four season with Showtime’s top series, Dexter. “I like challenges on both sides of my brain.”

Joe Weisberg, creator, executive producer and writer, on FX’s international spy drama, The Americans, also relishes the craziness of his gig. A former teacher, CIA member and novelist, Weisberg has enjoyed being “thrust into a job leading a very large group of people, and trying to understand every side of business. All parts of the brain are working 14-hour days. It’s stimulating, but a struggle to keep up while being creative at the same time. It’s quite a trick.”

Asked by B&C contributing editor and moderator Paige Albiniak if The Americans, which is also shot in New York, was more of a spy story or a family tale, Weisberg pointed to the latter. To that end, he draws from his own experiences at the CIA, where agents at some point have to inform children what their mother or father does for a living.

He said spy stories are rooted in the intrigue of the glitz and glamour of the occupation, but “family is always at the emotional core of The Americans,” which unfolds around a pair of Russians living in Washington, D.C. circa 1981. “Sometimes by the third draft, the part of the story about the marriage is still not there,” and he takes long walks to find it.

Looking to the sixth season of Nurse Jackie, Phillips said he thinks fans will be pleased.  He said that with Edie Falco’s lead character having been sober for a couple of years, the story-telling had become less interesting.  At the end of the fifth season, she popped a pill again,when she experienced joy for the first time in her life. “She had to destroy it and lubricate it,” said Phillips. “Now, we can tell deeper, darker, edgier stories."