Maisha Closson [Interview]

We are back to the writer’s block folks! We wanted to jump right back into interviewing some pretty amazing writers in the world of television quickly after our frightening month of October. And I will be damned if we weren’t able to land one of the finest in the business!

Today’s interview is with the legendary Maisha Closson who is yet another amazing woman working in a male dominated space, but breaking down barriers with every project she works on. Just like some of the fine female writers we have spoken with before, she is a talented individual not because of her gender, but because she was simply born with the ability to write in the world of comedy, drama, and more. Unfortunately, the fight for equality seems to be never-ending, and we aren’t quite in a space where we can’t mention that she is a woman who can not only hang with the male dominated force, but surpass them in each and every way.

Also, she wrote final season of Becker, and given our past interview subjects, you know that this show is gold in our opinion, and we are so happy to have another contributor to this amazing program!

So ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some words from the amazing Maisha Closson!

When did you discover you had a passion to live and work in the creative world? Was it an early aspiration?

Middle school was when I really got into writing short stories and poetry. I wrote a poem when I was in 7th grade called “Beneath the Pile.” It was for a contest sponsored by a local temple and the subject had to be the Holocaust. My poem was about a woman who survived in one of the camps by hiding under a pile of corpses. I won and a local anchorperson read my poem to a room full of mostly Jewish people, some of them Holocaust survivors. It was intimidating sitting there while everyone listened but when they applauded and some people were crying I felt that I’d done okay. I’m pretty sure everyone was surprised to see a black girl go up and accept the award.

You have working in the world of television since just before what I like to call the ‘Soprano Renaissance”, when the world of television became the benchmark for brilliant writing and storytelling. But, does it ever feel like there are becoming just too many options? Are the advancements in streaming media and having dozens of networks out there acting as a hindrance? Or is it simply just furthering opportunities for new talent? What are your thoughts on the matter?

The choices are overwhelming speaking as a consumer/viewer. I still haven’t finished season 2 of The Americans and I’m way behind on The Walking Dead! But for writers, more content equals more jobs so it’s good. It’s also encouraging to see shows with smaller stories to tell like Master of None and Better Things.

Now, I know it was quite a while ago, and not an extensive gig…but, you are credited for writing a couple of episodes for one of my favorite, and what I believe to be a highly underrated, television shows of all time. It was Becker. I’ve tried to track down just about everyone behind this magical program, and now here you are! So simple question: How did you find yourself working on Becker? And how was your experience?

Ha! Yes, I worked on the last season of Becker. That came to be because CBS wasn’t sure whether or not it was going to pick the show up. Dave Hackel, the EP, didn’t think it was fair to keep his staff waiting and unable to accept other work so he released all the writers. Then CBS decided to pick the show up and Dave had to hire a new staff. So basically, I got hired because Dave was desperate. I went in thinking the experience was going to suck because I was the youngest person in the room, the only woman and the only person of color. But it was actually fantastic. I’m still in touch with Dave and some of the other writers.

I am intrigued by, yet uniformed about your latest project, Claws, that airs on the TNT network. It appears to have a brilliant cast (Niecy Nash being one of the greatest comedic actresses of our generation!) and wonderful premise for a program. So how did this project come about? And what should new viewers such as myself be looking forward to?

Claws is so much fun! I enjoyed writing every word of my script and had a good time shooting it. Eliot Laurence, the creator, gave us this noir, crazy, messy world with characters who burst off the page. HBO had bought it a while back, then it went into turnaround and TNT snatched it up. I think when HBO bought it, it was a half hour. TNT wanted it re-envisioned as an hour dramedy so Eliot retooled it. The five women who work at the nail salon are the heart of the show and are perfectly cast. Viewers can look forward to seeing more southern fried mayhem and learning more about the ladies of Nail Artisans of Manatee County while crying, screaming in shock and laughing their asses off.

You have written and produced in some very diverse settings. Many of your projects don’t appear to be much like the other, which is extremely impressive. A Rodney Carrington vehicle is quite different from MTV’s Skins, and shows like Claws and Training Day have all been a world of their own as well. Is this something intentional you try to do? How do you choose what projects you want to bring to the viewer’s world?

Well, I started in comedy so my early credits involve a lot of multi camera network half hours. And in those days, I went wherever the offer was. After several seasons of comedy, I wanted to try writing drama. I asked my reps to start shopping me as a drama writer and the first offer I got was on Skins for MTV. After that, I wanted to stay in the one hour world. My writing samples are varied–I have a sample we use for procedurals, a sample for cable fare, a character driven network sample, etc. That’s why I tend to meet and get offers on different kinds of shows. After I worked on Chicago PD for two seasons and Training Day for a season, I thought I’d stay in the procedural world. Then I got an offer on Claws which has brought me back to my comedy roots! At this point in my career, I have a little more choice so I try to pick shows with darkness and light. And I love strong, complex characters who get to say funny shit.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

I’d love to sell my own show so I’m working on that right now. But if that doesn’t happen, I’m happy to continue working on shows I enjoy. For your readers- I guess I’d share that I’m on IG as @maisha_closson where I try to highlight/introduce/pump up lots of different tv writers so that people appreciate the folks behind the words. Writers get so little love!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Lena Waithe’s speech at the Emmys.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

One Response to Maisha Closson [Interview]

  1. Pingback: Sunday Matinee: Becker [TV Classics] | TRAINWRECK'D SOCIETY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: