Showrunner Styles, Part II
Click here for Part I.
I haven’t watched Glee since last year, and I feel good about that. But I also feel great about the Glee Christmas album that’s in my ears right now; they really do have some unadulterated joy, these kids. Or they did, right? Back in season 1?
What I’m about to write is going to have a lot of opinions and a lot of the word ‘allegedly’. I will judiciously add in all ‘allegedlies’, but if I forget one, stay with me.
Us Weekly has a new story saying Ryan Murphy “wages psychological war” on his castmembers . The story seems to deal specifically with Glee, so we’ll leave American Horror Story aside for a moment.
The story says that the cast are frustrated with the 16 hour days, and that Lea Michele is leading the charge against him.
Let me deal with this first. Generally a ‘standard’ call is a 12-hour WORK day for cast and crew. That doesn’t include hair and makeup, so if those take two hours, you’re already at 14. In addition, overtime happens all the time. Apparently on Glee, it happens a LOT of the time, but this is not out of the ordinary.
Anyway, with regard to Michele, you can verify this pretty easily by reading her twitter. They are up early and there late. Arguably she’s there the most, because she’s one of the ‘lead’ leads, but still.
(Sidebar: the only name on the record in this story is Harry Shum Jr. who admits the days get long. How much do you want to bet he said that on a carpet somewhere, and it’s just being repurposed for this?)
Now then. These are long days. Admitted. There is a lot-lot-lot of work involved and I’m not just talking about the show. These guys have gone on a billion multi-city tours and done countless weeks of promotion and extra performances and appearances.
And they are in their 20s.
And they believe they are stars.
Look, I’m not saying they’re NOT stars. They are utterly in demand. But …but they’re also in their early 20s.
I have never met someone in their early 20s, in my workplaces or others, who did not think that management was garbage and that they could do it better. Similarly, I’ve never met anyone who’s been working for more than three years who didn’t think the ‘kids today’ are ridiculously entitled and don’t know how to work. (If you are reading this and are under the three-years-in-full-time work mark, trust me, this will happen to you. But you still get to bitch about your boss, don’t worry.)
So you have alleged entitled stars who think that they very recently hung the moon. Or, failing that, that they should get some say in the admittedly convoluted storylines that are making them different characters every week.
Then you have an allegedly narcissistic showrunner who is an egotist to begin with, and from my understanding, can’t bear to be questioned, but who is also running two huge hit shows for the same network and for whom the M.O. is clear: Don’t Mess Up, keep everything being a hit.
Yes, I can see how he would get snarky with his ‘stars’ who suddenly know how to fix everything and let me tell you, it does not take actors long to think they know better than you do what should happen with their characters. It’s natural. You put enough of yourself into bringing someone to life, it’s bound to happen.
But then again, the creator/writer also believes (s)he brought those characters to life. Herein lies the first conflict.
Plus, from the creator/writer’s point of view, all the star has to do is show up and do the work and be fawned over and have their pictures taken while he types in obscurity in a corner for hours and hours, and yes the money is good but what good is money when you don’t have time to spend it or meet anyone to spend it with and gahhhh.
I’m not saying it’s OK. I’m just saying this is where the mindset comes from.
The most serious accusation is that when Lea Michele told Murphy she didn’t want to go on the summer tour last year (which I assume it was in her contract to do), he implied that the consequence would be that he’d fire one of her friends.
Gross. Emotionally manipulative. Unfair. Probably pretty common.
I’m not saying it’s okay. But who among us hasn’t had a boss who was manipulative and mean and infuriatingly, still kind of brilliant at what they do?
I don’t imagine it would be a picnic to work for Murphy. I don’t suspect that he’s secretly sweet and charming. But he’s got two hits on the air. That takes a lot out of a person. And the reason we’re focusing on this show is because it’s a hit, and it stars “kids”. But remember that they’re not, actually, kids. They’re mid-20s performers in their first high-intensity jobs. I’m not saying I don’t think that environment is loaded and difficult. I do. But I also think that adjusting to a job that demands everything of you is kind of a rite of passage, and that maybe in these high stakes environments, relationships like this are more common than we think. All the other shows where you don’t hear the actors heaping praise on their showrunner isn’t because they haven’t thought about it and it isn’t because the person is patently evil; it’s likely because the relationship is that of boss and employee, and it’s natural to feel both happy and annoyed with this person at any given time.
Just like the rest of us do.
Attached - Lea Michele on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno this week promoting New Year’s Eve.