Man of the Hour: Greg Berlanti – BELLO Mag Holiday Issue
Featured in Bello Mag #52 November 2013 Holiday Issue.
The days when executive producers, series creators, and all the masterminds of modern television’s notable achievements were unknown to the public are gone. With power players like Ryan Murphy, Chuck Lorre, and CW mavens Greg Berlanti and duo Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, it’s the age of the showrunner.
When it comes to the CW Network, they’ve pretty much got you covered on teen angst, memorable and inevitably quotable dialogue, the continual ability to set trends, and of course extremely attractive people-watching. But it is executive producer Greg Berlanti, who with his new line of projects is turning the CW into a well-rounded network. The CBS and Warner Brothers-owned network up to this point has been known for its ability to bring to us hip and time-relevant programming, mainly geared towards young females. But this primetime Emmy-nominated writer is changing that, one superhero at a time. Berlanti opens up about his friendship with co-producer Julie Plec, his love for comic books, and what he attributes his massive amounts of success to.
Photography Aleksandar Tomovic
Styling Waren Alfie Baker
Grooming Michal Cohen For Jouer Cosmetics and Oribe
Styling Assistant Jen Edelson
Production Leslie Alejandro
Words by Dio Anthony
On October 10th, 2012, Berlanti’s first contribution to the network came in the form of the vigilante-centered series Arrow. The show plays out the story of a spoiled playboy millionaire who was presumed dead on an island, only to come back and moonlight as a hooded somewhat-super-hero cleaning up his hometown from those who have wronged it. Now, over thirty five episodes in, the choice to greenlight the project has proved to be a smart one.
“I loved that the notion of the origin story was something we could tell over the entire series, which we couldn’t do in a movie; if it was an act, it would be twenty minutes of the movie of him on the island. But with a series, you could do a piece of every episode that way. So, that was always very exciting to me,” says Berlanti. And so, after multiple years at ABC, upon his return to Warner Brothers, the New York native turned DC Comics’ Green Arrow into the sexy and thrilling family-drama-turned-vigilante show that is Arrow. The series, which has brought big amounts of male viewership to the network, has also made Hung star Stephen Amell a household name.
One season later, Berlanti would do it again with his reinvention of 1970s sci-fi drama The Tomorrow People, this time with a little help from honorary CW member, Julie Plec (Vampire Diaries, The Originals), who by chance happens to be Belanti’s long-time friend. The two, who met in college at Northwestern University, would take their relationship from personal to professional seven years later.
Plec served as a stage manager in a production Berlanti was acting in. “She gave me notes on the first script I wrote and to this day she still remembers them,” he says. Berlanti only remembers one. “I think I called a lady’s purse a pocketbook, and she said, ‘no one calls it a pocketbook.’ That was one of her notes. After that, we stayed friendly. We were born two days apart, and she’s always loved story as much as I have.”
The Tomorrow People, which has another Amell leading the show, is Berlanti’s second installment at the CW, and it’s as fun of a show as the story of how it came about. Getting the rights in order to remake the show in many ways was a “dream” for Berlanti, who kept up with the original series in its heyday.
“That was one that was a favorite of mine when I was a kid,” says Berlanti of the original, which lasted a total of eight seasons. “There was a 70s version that used to re-run on Nickelodeon, and then Nick remade it in the 90s. I used to watch the 70s version, and when I got to college, Julie Plec and I…when we met, we used to talk about the show. So, I went after the rights for a while – seven or eight years – and finally we got em’ this past one.” Berlanti assures us, though, that although they stay somewhat relevant to the original, the show has to become its own to survive, and with his track record, we’re not ones to doubt him.
At 40 years old, it’s evident that Greg Berlanti has an eye for the current, hip, and overall relatable trends, whether it’s about a teenager teleporting around New York in The Tomorrow People or a family trying to keep it together in Brothers & Sisters. Like his longtime friend Julie Plec stated in a recent LA times article, he too writes from experience, and it’s clear that he’s had a lot of it.
“Each of my projects…they’re probably little snapshots of where I am at that moment in my life,” says Berlanti. “And so, most of the things I’ve done that I’ve been proud of – which is most of the things I’ve been lucky to be a part of – there’s some reflection of you. Some are wholly you, because they’re not based on some type of pre-existing material. You’ve got things like Everwood and Political Animals, which aren’t based on anything. But then there’s things like The Tomorrow People, which totally just brings back my whole childhood, or Arrow, which brings back that time of my life with comics. Both of them really, in a way, represent a different part of me.”
One genre you won’t catch Greg Berlanti dabbling in anytime soon? Horror. That’s right, this guy doesn’t seem to think he’d be a right fit for the vampire and blood-ridden world.
“I get too scared too easily,” he says. “They’re very escapist when I see them, but it’s never a genre that I think I’d be very good at. I’d like to do some period stuff. There are certain periods that interest me.” But don’t be fooled; Berlanti still likes a good scare. When he finds the time, The Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and the new Sleepy Hollow series are among his favorites to watch.
But what is it that’s kept Berlanti fresh all these years, giving his all on project after compelling project?
“It’s your own passion, which you have to be consistent with, and find it again and again, every day,” he says, clearly speaking from experience. “Just really making it about the work and nothing else. I knew Julie Plec way back in college, and she challenged me in my writing way back then, fifteen or sixteen years ago. The guys I make Arrow with and the people I do The Tomorrow People with, or whomever whoever I work with…I try and work with people who I know are really hardworking. And then those people challenge you. They teach you.”
Berlanti’s work speaks for itself, and it challenges me, and teaches me. If I’m not mistaken, I think he’s saying that’s what it’s all about.
The Tie Bar
This fashion story + Interview from Bello Mag Issue #52 with Greg Berlanti is available to purchase worldwide on iTunes Newsstand for iPad and iPhone.