Spec Spotlight: 'This Is Us' Screenwriter Kay Oyegun Sells 'Assisted Living' to Paramount
April 11, 2019
Witty, charming, laugh-out-loud funny: three ways to describe 31-year-old Kay Oyegun’s feature script, Assisted Living. The comedy, which took Oyegun 10 months, seven different outlines and five drafts to write, sold to Paramount for a high six against seven figure deal, according to The Alliance of Women Film Journalists.
“I’m insanely, stupidly grateful,” Oyegun said.
“I was unbelievably shocked. You’re just so giddy!”
According to Oyegun, the script is Mrs. Doubtfire meets Sister Act.
“It's about a small time crook on the run from the law in a crime organization and decides to go into a nursing home, where her estranged grandmother lives, to hide out,” she said.
Between the Sister Act, Big Momma’s House and Mrs. Doubtfire jokes and references, the incredibly vibrant, unique and hilarious characters and the various storylines that coincide effortlessly, Assisted Living is sure to be a box-office hit.
But at one point, this gripping script was just a series of ideas for Oyegun that came together one night at dinner with a friend.
“We were talking about Cicely Tyson and Betty White. Cicely Tyson is my favorite human being on earth,” Oyegun said.
“And I adore Betty White. They are phenomenal icons. So my friend and I were talking and we’re like, ‘What if they were best friends?’ And it went from there.”
But before this script, Oyegun was a powerhouse in her own right, most recently writing for NBC’s hit show This Is Us. She began her writing career in 2015 on Ava DuVernay’s show Queen Sugar.
Oyegun’s journey to a career as a Hollywood writer began thousands of miles away. Born in Nigeria, Oyegun moved to the Philadelphia area when she was 11 years old and originally thought she would study medicine.
“I was shoved into the medical field but quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen,” she laughed.
“If I had become a doctor, I might have killed someone.”
With her witty personality and hilarious demeanor, Oyegun explained she then decided to go into journalism. She worked at Nightly News, Weekend Today and The Today Show in New York and Los Angeles and went on to graduate school at USC. Oyegun eventually landed a gig as a showrunner’s assistant on The Muppets.
“I moved through the assistant phase, working with other assistants and learning the business on the development side,” Oyegun said.
“I was reading scripts constantly, coverage constantly and I began defining my taste.”
After her manager sent out her samples, Oyegun got staffed on Queen Sugar. Based on her career, one might argue her taste and writing preferences are in drama. Although she said she enjoys writing in the drama category, that is part of the reason she decided to write a comedy feature.
“This Is Us is a dramedy; I mean, we got jokes,” Oyegun laughed.
“But for Assisted Living I wanted to write an all-out comedy. There were a couple of times in my past I was up for writing assignments but because of my background I get put into the hard drama category. I’m a big believer you have to write your way out into certain things. I doubted anyone would call me up for a comedy and who knows if they still will. But I decided to have fun on my own.”
According to Oyegun, it’s important to write what you enjoy so it translates on the page.
“My philosophy is the same for everything I do,” she said.
“Writing is work and I like to enjoy work because you’re looking at a computer for hours and hours. You have to like what you’re doing; something has to motivate you. I gotta love what I’m writing. I gotta enjoy it. When you enjoy it other people can feel that.
“I want to look forward to going to my computer because I’m so excited about what I’m doing.”
Written by: Allison Collins-SmithAllison Collins-Smith is a three-time, Emmy-nominated journalist who has worked as a television reporter and anchor in markets around the country. She has covered a variety of stories from the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia to President Trump’s travel ban in the fourth circuit court of appeals. Allison has also won AP awards for her work and a Catalyst For Change award from the Arc of Virginia for her reporting on the disabled community. Allison just moved to Los Angeles with her screen writer husband and two cats and is excited for all LA has to offer!