The Bricks of Breaking In with 'The Bold Type' Showrunner Wendy Straker Hauser
August 14, 2019
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
For The Bold Type showrunner Wendy Straker Hauser, writing for television wasn’t even on the map when she graduated college. “It honestly took me a long, long time to figure out that I wanted to be a TV writer. Probably over ten years.”
But what Straker Hauser did always have was a passion for storytelling. “I had a wonderful teacher in high school who was very complimentary and encouraging. So very early on, I knew that I loved to write.”
Post college, she turned to a career in advertising. But, dissatisfied in that world, Straker Hauser was eventually led back to her creative pursuits and she penned the book, Sexy Jobs in the City: How to Find Your Dream Job Using the Rules of Dating.
According to her, the book “came out of a little bit of a twenty-something soul-searching career crisis. I realized I could make a career out of writing in general.”
The book helped launch her own column in the New York Post, and it wasn’t until Straker Hauser was 36 that she made the move to Los Angeles to pursue writing for television. It was a huge move. Other than attending the University of Wisconsin, she’d never lived outside of New York City before.
Once in L.A., Straker Hauser got acclimated to her new home by diving into writing. “I took a couple of classes. I wrote something that felt very personal to me.” Although staffing season came and went without her getting hired, her pilot found its way to Ed Decter, the showrunner for Lifetime’s The Client List starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. The script resonated with Decter and he took a chance on Straker Hauser—a journalist from the New York Post without any TV experience.
It’s that lack of experience and newness to the industry that Straker Hauser actually believes benefited her as she was breaking in. “I was a little ignorant about how difficult it was. I think that was really, really helpful because I didn’t let the doubt creep in. I just sort of forged ahead.”
Being part of supportive and collaborative writing teams continued to aid Straker Hauser as she grew her career. Now as a showrunner herself, she’s dedicated to building a room that brings that same teamwork to her show.
When it comes to staffing, she shares, “I’ve realized you really cast a room in the way that you cast a show. I’m looking for different points of view. People who I think will complement each other, but also challenge each other.”
Outside of the writing, what’s the most important asset a writer can bring? According to Straker Hauser, “What I really look for is honesty, a willingness to share your true feelings. An excitement and a passion for sure, but more than anything, it’s really honesty. Because people who come to a room and tell their own stories and be vulnerable—those POVs are going to give us the best, most honest version of the stories for our characters.”
Just the mention of her writers’ room on The Bold Type gets Straker Hauser amped up as she enthusiastically reflects on the team of writers she’s brought together. “I’m so excited about these people. It’s so fun. It makes you feel like this would be the best dinner party and we get to have it every day.”
The Bold Type brings a unique opportunity for newer writers on the show’s staff. “It’s very interesting for them because, in a lot of ways, [they are ] the voice of our show. We look to them for so much and need them to tell us what is authentic, what’s not authentic, and if we’ve aged out of the conversation that we’re having,” says Straker Hauser.
For writers looking to break in, she offers this advice, “You sort of have to read a room and make sure that you’re not sucking up too much time in it.”
She adds, “Sometimes, you have a pitch that showrunners or upper levels aren’t interested in and it’s hard to let go of. You can bring it up one more time, but then you have to just let it go. Or you can talk to them on the side.”
No matter how long you’ve been on staff, “You’ll have days where you talk less or you feel less confident and you go home and say, did I make my money today? Did I provide my self-worth?” Though so many writers go through this sort of self-examination and vulnerability, Straker Hauser insists, “We’re sitting there for a reason. We’re there because we all to need to chime in and make our case for our own experiences, and that will give us the best story.”
From staff writer to showrunner, what is the most valuable lesson Straker Hauser’s learned on her journey? “To really, truly, trust your gut. If you love writing a certain kind of show, if you find yourself most comfortable in a certain genre, in my experience, that is where you will shine the most.”
For Straker Hauser, this meant making some tough decisions. “The hardest thing for me was being on the award-winning, iconic Handmaid’s Tale and then going to The Bold Type in between and feeling there like I had come home. I was writing about something that I knew so well and felt so comfortable with, and then having to grapple with making that decision of where do I go because of the scheduling.”
It took a lot of consideration and introspection to make such a decision. “I looked at myself and said, I think I can really shine here. I think I can really contribute here, maybe more in this room than I might have in the other.”
Looking back at her choice, Straker Hauser sees it as, “You just take a leap of faith. I think being true to yourself is everything in this business, because you’ll do your best writing when you are.”
Just like honesty is important when it comes to her hiring process, she’s also found it essential in choosing what to write. “I think where you really struggle is when you try to be something that you’re not. Especially in writing, where there is just no hiding.”
While there will be a lot of people along the way who’ll do their best to help form and shape you as a writer, the real key is knowing who you are. You have to stand up for yourself. Straker Hauser offers that it’s okay to say, “That’s not me. I’m not going to do well there. And do [what you do] with conviction.”
Standing firm may not always be easy, but for Straker Hauser, she’s found it to work in her favor. “I really did find myself soaring much quicker, I think, than I would have otherwise.”
“Your story is your story and there’s so much power in that. You are, in a way, in control of your craft.”
Lastly, Straker Hauser reminds aspiring writers that, “No matter what level you are, this is hard. Everybody struggles. None of us have it down to a science, because it’s not a science. There are ideas that young people can have that more seasoned people aren’t seeing and that’s hugely, widely valuable.”
Written by: Kelly Jo BrickKelly Jo Brick is a television and documentary writer and producer. She wrote the Telly Award-winning film PAUSE and the Frank Lloyd Wright documentary The Jewel In The Woods. A Sundance Fellow and winner of Scriptapalooza TV, Kelly Jo has been a panelist at the Austin Film Festival, Wisconsin Writers’ Institute and for Stage 32. Follow her on Twitter @KellyJoBrick.