On Tuesday June 14th we all traveled to the Writer’s Guild of America (West) to take a Master Class with Mike O’Malley. When I this on the calendar, my first thought was “Great, a writer, I wonder what he’s written? Doesn’t sound familiar.” But little did I know that later that night I would be sitting 5 to 7 feet away from Yes, Dear‘s Jimmy Hughes. My sister and I watched the crap out of that show when we were younger.
Hearing him speak as a writer, rather than an actor, was really interesting because I don’t know him as a writer and he’s just become known as a writer. Really most people know him as Kurt’s father on the hit show Glee, but his acting experience has influenced him and given him an interesting approach to writing.
The characters in his new show, Survivor’s Remorse, have a very organic development. He consults the actors on how their lives are going and what they are struggling with and incorporates that into the character. It’s common to let an actor inhabit the world of their character but very rare to let an actor’s world have a hand in shaping their character.
Also, O’Malley stressed the point of how the stories in his episodes come from having arguments and conversations. He said that you can’t be a writer if you aren’t able to argue because you can’t defend an opinion if you don’t really have one. That’s what a story needs, a strong opinion that they can defend even if it’s that the issue has no really solution. For example they can talk about both sides of the issue with the pros and cons but not come to a definitive stance on it, at some point they have to let the audience decide.
I have to admit that O’Malley wasn’t the most graceful speaker but he had heart and was passionate about writing and telling stories. It was great to hear him talk about writing with so much energy he answered 4 or 5 more questions after the ending time of the class. He was just on fire!