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Promotional poster for NEVER HAVE I EVER

Geri is joined by Lang Fisher—co-creator and showrunner of the Netflix series NEVER HAVE I EVER—to discuss creating a comedy that’s rooted in grief, writing teen characters who sound like real teens, how casting tennis champion John McEnroe as narrator helped tie the whole series together, and more.

Lang Fisher was a staff writer for The Onion and started her TV writing career at THE ONION NEWS NETWORK. Since then, she’s written on hit comedies like THE MINDY PROJECT, BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, and 30 ROCK. While at 30 ROCK, she co-wrote the episode “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World,” which was named in Variety’s “25 Best TV Episodes of the Decade (2010-2019).”

Her latest project is NEVER HAVE I EVER – a coming-of-age dramedy co-created by Fisher and Mindy Kaling. The series follows Devi, an Indian-American high school student, as she grapples with the death of her father, her Indian identity, and trying to improve her social status at her school.

The series premiered in 2020 and was recently renewed for a third season. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on Netflix.

Seasons 7-10 of OnWriting are hosted by Geri Cole, a writer and performer based in New York City. She is currently a full-time staff and interactive writer for SESAME STREET, for which she has received Writers Guild Award and two Daytime Emmys. She also performs sketch and improv at theaters and festivals around the country.

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OnWriting is an official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, East. The series was created and produced by Jason Gordon. Associate Producer & Designer is Molly Beer. Mix, tech production, and original music by Stock Boy Creative.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.

Geri Cole: Hi. I’m Geri Cole and you’re listening to OnWriting, a podcast from the Writers Guild of America East. In each episode, you’re going to hear from the people behind your favorite films and television series, talking about their writing process, how they got their project from the page to the screen, and so much more. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome to the podcast Writers Guild member Lang Fisher, who’s here to talk about the second season of Never Have I Ever, the Netflix series she co-created with Mindy Kaling.

Lang began her television writing career at The Onion and has also written for The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and 30 Rock. Welcome Lang. I’d like to actually just start talking to you about how are you doing, how are you holding up, how are things? Like what energy are you trying to keep front and center in this crazy time?

Lang Fisher: In this wild time? It was very interesting shooting the last season of Never Have I Ever because it was like we’re shooting during the surge in the winter. I mean I guess we’re in a different surge now but in the winter surge you were shooting, whatever your favorite surge is, but I was very terrified going into that and I was just very worried about the actors and the crew and just had a lot of nerves about it. I will say Universal and our Never Have I Ever, like the production staff did a great job and kept it very safe, and working was actually like a really nice release. It was nice being around people, it was nice … Even though we were like in face shields and looked like we were in Hazmat suits, it was like … It was just nice to be making something that was positive and light and you weren’t besieged by all of the craziness in the world and I’ll say right now, we’re just recently renewed for Season Three and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m excited to get back into it. It’s nice, I don’t know if you feel this way, but it’s nice to have your job sometimes is like escapism. Like to create nice things that are fun to watch, which are a distraction from the very scary news.

Geri Cole: From the very scary world we live in. You’re right.

Lang Fisher: Yeah, it’s like this is … I mean which is why people also love and need entertainment where it’s like got to get away, got to get somewhere away to a world where things are different.

Geri Cole: Absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit about how the shame came together. So you co-created the show with Mindy Kaling. Can you talk us through the like first inkling of the idea to the green light a little bit?

Lang Fisher: This was like sort of an uncommon situation because I think it happened a little backwards. Mindy has written a few books and her essays often sometimes contain stories about herself as kind of a nerdy child and I think one of the executives at Netflix was like eager to work with Mindy and maybe make something based on those stories and Mindy kind of felt like … I don’t think she felt like she had an interesting enough childhood to turn it into a sort of period piece that was super autobiographical, kind of like Everybody Hates Chris. So she ended up deciding that it would be more fun to make a modern day story about a teenage Indian-American girl and so that was sort of the jumping off point.

Then we were kind of trying to figure out what exactly to pitch to Netflix as the story, we sort of started with discussions of just how … Like what we were like in high school. So we both weren’t necessarily cool, but we also weren’t like shy or quiet. We had big personalities, we were loud, we were maybe a little annoying, like who knows, and we kind of decided that like … There’s a lot of shows out there, there are a lot of teen shows out there where like the lead girl is kind of a wallflower and she’s kind of like invisible, and that just wasn’t our experience when we were in high school. We were definitely very visible and had these big opinions and I think we wanted to create a character who had like a lot of anger. Because I feel like every teenage girl I know is just like furious.

Geri Cole: As she should be.

Lang Fisher: As she should be.

Geri Cole: As she rightfully should be, yes.

Lang Fisher: Yes. So it was just like we were like let’s make this girl have a real temper. Like she’s not like a diffident, shy sort of person who hides in the background. We wanted someone who is like out front and bold and loud and had a real rage problem. So that’s kind of where we started from and then we decided … Both Mindy and I have lost parents and we decided that we would make that part of her story. We were both adults, we were both like in our early 30s when our parents passed, but I have a much younger sister who is in high school when my dad died and I saw how hard it was on her and I think we thought that there was some really interesting avenues to go down thinking about how teens process grief. So we made that sort of a cornerstone of her personality was that she was dealing with this very heavy loss but was going to try to funnel it into these teen pursuits of like hooking up with the hottest boy in school and popularity.

Yeah, and so that was kind of the jumping off place and then we wanted to make sure she had kind of an eclectic group of friends and then a lot of the family stuff is like kind of inspired by Mindy’s life and we both have mothers who are doctors, so we made her mother a doctor, and I think Mindy has an experience of like cousins from India coming to stay with her and her family and so we were like, “Let’s give her a cousin who just comes to learn in the United States and it would be great if she seems perfect and makes Devi’s life a living hell because she seems like the daughter that her mother always wanted.

So yeah, I mean, a lot of it was inspired from our lives and we kind of just sort of pieced together something that we felt was personal to us and kind of figured it out from there.

Geri Cole: Man, I feel like that part of … Because everything feels so true. [inaudible] complete sense, it’s like … It feels very organic, we’re pulling from a lot of our actual life experience and I think that comes across because everything feels hilarious but also very real and not like a sitcommy, it’s like no no, this feels like grounded. Everything feels very grounded which is one of the I think really great things about the show.

So can you talk me through a little bit of the Season Two writing process? Like how much of the storyline was set out in advance or how much did you sort of like figure out as you went along? [inaudible] all in one go?

Lang Fisher: Well no, we did two different seasons. So like after Season One,  [inaudible] had nothing. So then when we started the writing process for Season Two, then we were like, “Okay, so what happens now?” I think I am like a true believer in the writing process of like don’t leave anything on the table, like just use all your good ideas and hope that if you get another season you’ll come up with more good ideas. Just like –

Geri Cole: Okay. Yeah.

Lang Fisher: Throw them out there. Don’t save anything.

Geri Cole: Yeah.

Lang Fisher: Mostly because it’s like I don’t have enough good ideas to put them in reserves. It’s like I have to throw everything into the bucket. But yeah, Season Two, when we came back, there was so much going on. Once again, we started in the pandemic and we had long talks about whether or not to make the pandemic exist in the world of Never Have I Ever, and we ultimately decided not to, I think for many reasons. There was a part of me that kind of was like, “Well maybe we shouldn’t. Like maybe when we air, it will be really important to see these teens dealing with this stuff.” But I’m really glad that we didn’t because I think people just needed relief from it. I think a lot of shows have bravely dealt with it and have people in masks, but I think there’s like sometimes you just kind of need a break. So I’m sort of glad we just kind of like stuck with our normal world where COVID doesn’t exist.

I think we kind of felt like … We started our discussions with the emotional story, so it was like, okay. She has this big catharsis at the end of Season One where she sort of deals with … She accepts that her dad has died and she shows up and they have kind of like a memorial service on the beach with the family, they toss the ashes into the ocean. But we wanted to make sure, it’s like she’s not going to be immediately fixed. Like grief isn’t just like check we did it, but I think in Devi’s mind that’s what she wants it to be. She wants to be like I’m all better now, I did it and now I’m better, and that’s just not how it works and so we kind of wanted to play out how that grief can manifest in other ways, how she is still trying to find her way through it and also just trying to move into this new chapter of her life where he is really gone and she and her mother are now this unit and we obviously, our show really hinges on this love triangle. So we were like what happened to that.

Geri Cole: Always got some questions about the love triangle.

Lang Fisher: Oh sure. Who doesn’t love a love triangle? But yeah, I think we really … We started from a place of where emotionally is she and how would that make her behave. So in many ways, we kind of are looking at the first season as her being in sort of denial and kind of shoving this stuff off and then I think the second season a little bit is some aftermath. It’s a little bit like she is kind of depressed and she is acting out and she does make these aggressive mistakes because she is in a lot of pain still. So she lashes out at people and I think hopefully what I’d like to see as we go forward and start thinking about Season Three is like we want to watch this character grow. We don’t want to see her make the exact same mistakes all the time. We never want her to not be herself. We don’t want her to all of a sudden not have a temper but you want to watch her move through this because I think it is important for us to show a teenager who is in the process of therapy and have her make progress and mature and sort of like heal some. I think it’s important to show that. But yeah, I think we always want to start from a place of where is she emotionally at the start of a season.

Geri Cole: It’s really interesting to talk with you about it and how it is so much rooted in grief, because it’s so funny. And so you sort of like … It’s a really funny show and it’s like, “Oh right, but so much of it is rooted in her grieving process.” I actually want to talk a little bit because the other thing that I … I mean there’s so many things that I love about this show. One that this character is so flawed and that’s just … Like a young teenage girl being … Yeah, like you were saying, like not the most popular girl or not a shrinking flower but she’s just like a normal person and flawed, but also talking about the tone of the show, which I feel like is super special because it’s a show … It feels like a very modern show about teenagers but it’s not Euphoria. Which is no disrespect to Euphoria, I also love that show.

Lang Fisher: Me too.

Geri Cole: But it’s not that. Can we talk a little bit about how you developed the tone of the show and it’s like what is technically the demo for the show? I mean I feel like I’m in the demo but –

Lang Fisher: Thank you. We want you in our demo.

Geri Cole: Is it supposed to also be for teens? Yeah.

Lang Fisher: It’s interesting because I think … I mean I’m a big an of teen shows and I think that’s why Mindy reached out to me to like work on this project with her. But a lot of teen shows are dramas and I think there’s weirdly something like in these teen dramas that makes people want them to be really sexy and like edgy and like dark or like vampires. It’s like there’s something about … I don’t know if it’s a nostalgia thing about thinking back about like youth or there’s something … Because it’s weird, you don’t see very many like college shows. It’s almost like the mystique dies when people go to college. But I think for us, Mindy and I are both comedy writers and so obviously this was going to be a comedy but I think we really wanted to root it as close to reality as possible. Because I think the comedy of how teenagers actually are is like so much funnier than making them like adults. Like making them like … Certainly like Riverdale is sexy and people are … A 16-year-old girl is wearing like a power suit. But I wore like really ill-fitting cargo pants in high school and –

Geri Cole: Yes. Until I was 30, if we’re being honest.

Lang Fisher: Yeah. And I had like no idea how to do my hair, still don’t. Truly, just was like awkward in my own body. And there’s so much comedy in that. So I also sort of feel like in some teen shows, you can hear the 40-year-old writer behind the words of the teen actors and it’s just like … Did that 15-year-old just like naturally say the word unscrupulous or whatever. It’s like that’s not what they would say.

Geri Cole: Yeah.

Lang Fisher: So we wanted them also to really sound like actual teens and I hired quite a few young writers to be like, “What is slang right now?” Because I don’t know what it is, like I’ll make it up. Occasionally I’ll just ask [inaudible] lead, I’m like, “Is this correct?” She’s like, “I wouldn’t say that.” I’m like, “Okay. What would you say?” But when I see shows where like 16-year-olds are like … Listening to 90s music and using really big words, I’m like, “No no. That is the 40-year-old. Like that is the writer. I’m sure there are teens that love throwback music or whatever but when it’s so pervasive.” So it was like very important to us to have current music, current slang, and to not make them too mature. Like I like that Devi makes really selfish decisions and we obviously want her to grow but I like it because that is what teenagers do. They were just children one second ago and now just are like … Still have like not quite fully developed brains and like adult bodies. So they just do crazy things.

Geri Cole: Yeah, and this is when they learn, hopefully. This is the first opportunity they have to learn, that this was a bad decision.

Lang Fisher: Exactly. And to answer your second question about the demo, it’s all over the place. I mean I think we are very popular with teens but I do think like we have a lot of adult viewers, and every now and then there’s someone like wild. Like the reason Common was on this season was because like … I heard through someone else that he was a fan of the show, and I was like, “Common is a fan of our show?” So we like reached out to him and he was like, “I’d love to be on it.” And we were like, “What? Yes.”

Geri Cole: That’s amazing.

Lang Fisher: Please.

Geri Cole: That’s amazing.

Lang Fisher: So it’s like … I think our goal is to have someone that everyone can kind of identify with and a lot of times sometimes I make jokes that … For instance in like the old Gossip Girl, like the one from the early aughts, there would always be like an occasional Rufus and Lily episode and you’re like, “I don’t want to go off with the parents.” Like why? Why do we have to go off with the parents?

Geri Cole: I don’t care, yeah.

Lang Fisher: You’re like, “Take me back to the sexy teens going to fabulous parties.” But I think in our show, like if any teens listen to this podcast, I’m sure they’re like, “No. Stay away from the adults.” But it seems as though … Like people do identify with Nalini, the mother character, and do like to see her story and Kamala, the cousin. So I think there are characters that kind of reach outside of just the normal teen demo.

Geri Cole: It’s [inaudible] bring up the family because I feel like that’s another thing. Like this show is technically about teenagers but so much of it is also about family dynamics. So I wonder how much of each character’s … Like did you have their family dynamics written out beforehand or was that a thing that sort of was discovered in the room as you were writing the season? Because like with each character, I feel like you get such clear family dynamics and how that affects the character.

Lang Fisher: It’s sort of evolved. I mean I think we always kind of imagined … I think when we broke Season One, we wanted a situation where Nalini and Devi did kind of butt heads and it was clear that Mohan, her father was the peacemaker and once he’s gone it’s like these two people who don’t quite get each other and having to overcome that. Because Melanie has a very rigid idea of how people should be and Devi just isn’t wired that way. I think Kamala started out almost just as like a foil for Devi, like just as someone to like make her freak out but as you find out about anyone, nobody’s perfect and as we’ve sort of expanded her role on the show and who she is as a person and we sort of have gotten to see her personality, the nice thing about Kamala is that like we have some nice moments in Season Two where like Devi actually gave her advice and helped her stand up for herself and the fact that they can kind of like learn from each other now is really nice and we also added the grandmother this season who …

Ranjita Chakravarty who plays her is like truly the best. [inaudible] so funny and so great and just was so game, but it was just nice to add even another generation and then I think exploring sort of s a multi-generational household and those relationships was really fun for us. But I think it’s always kind of evolving the more you get to know the characters.

Geri Cole: So I also feel like I have to ask you, even though I’m sure everyone is asking you about the narrator.

Lang Fisher: Oh sure.

Geri Cole: Which is famously John McEnroe, though there is Andy Samberg and Gigi Hadid also guest stars, narrators for different characters. I feel like when you … Like it seems ridiculous, but it works so well –

Lang Fisher: Thank you.

Geri Cole: How you guys develop this aspect of the show and like where did that idea come from.

Lang Fisher: You know, I think we like initially just really wanted a narrator because I think teenagers are so insular and they don’t … They’re not good at expressing themselves and so to get in their brains, it’s nice to have a narrator and I think a lot of young adult shows do this. You think like The Wonder Years and I feel like a lot of them have these narrators just so you can know what they’re going through, what their inner turmoil is. So we kind of decided that we would do that but then I think when we were really having this discussion about giving her a sort of rage problem. We were like, “Well who is the human embodiment of rage.” And Mindy was like … I mean both of us come from families who really like are big fans of tennis, but Mindy made the point that I think a lot of …

She felt like a lot of like Indian-American families are like tennis fanatics and so it would be nice if we made Devi’s father also one and a big fan of John McEnroe and then it would sort of tie these two parts of her together I mean this temper but also it would be like a link to her father. So we were very surprised when he said yes to it but he is great and it does just add this other dimension. It also helps us bring in like the dad demo. I feel like we have like … Dads are just like, “I heard John McEnroe was on your show so I watched it and I enjoyed it.” Like, “Thank you, sir.”

Geri Cole: Nice.

Lang Fisher: But no, I mean he’s so wonderful and I think it just adds this dimension that is so nice, because you get the feeling that like this anger she has inside of her has a life of its own because of John and also it’s just fun to hear John McEnroe have like very strong opinions about the cutest boys in school and if someone’s mean to Devi. Like just like high school politics coming out of his mouth is so funny. Like as if he cares so deeply about this public high school in the Valley.

Geri Cole: It’s so silly and so fantastic, because it works so well. It’s one of my favorite parts of the show. So I do actually want to talk a little bit about your career. I feel like you’ve had an amazing comedy writing career. Can we talk a little bit about your background and when you knew you wanted to be a TV comedy writer and what you feel like were the moments that like helped you get to this place?

Lang Fisher: Sure. Yeah, I mean, in college, I wasn’t like confident enough to major in writing or English or theater or film or anything, like I really was … I was like I don’t know, I can’t do it. So I majored in international politics which I have not used. But I did get like a … I went to Columbia and we had concentrations which are kind of like minors but I did a concentration in creative writing. But I did a lot of improv also in college and then afterwards, and I really … For a while I thought I wanted to kind of be like a performer and I did some standup, but it wasn’t until I kind of ended up in a writer’s room that I was like, “Yes. These are my people. This is what I want to do.”

So I did a lot of like weird freelance writing things in my twenties for different like blogs or like websites for things. But I didn’t really get my first actual writing job until I got hired at The Onion, and I honestly got hired there because they were starting a new division which was like The Onion News Network. So they were making like the web videos and they ended up hiring I think like six or seven improvisers to try to figure out these web videos. I think people who had like sketch comedy backgrounds because that’s kind of the world that it was. So I did that, I mean at first it was like a one day a week gig and then you would submit a lot of ideas and headlines, which is what you did at The Onion, you write like a million headlines and those can either turn into a story but most of them are thrown in the trash.

So I did that and I was not confident that I was good at it and honestly I’m not sure I was. Sketch comedy is so hard, but I managed to not be fired and I worked there for probably like six years and then at one point, like the end of my time there, we ended up having a couple of television shows, one on IFC and one on Comedy Central, and so I wrote for the IFC one and that was sort of my first television show and then from there I was able to get an agent and be submitted for sitcoms and so I got the break of a lifetime and ended up being on the very last season of 30 Rock, and I think that was the biggest turning point and in my brain I think like …

The best pieces of advice that I can like give to someone like trying to make that jump is just to really be clear with your representatives about what you want to do. Like to be like, “Listen. I want to try to do something that’s like sitcoms. I want to write comedy for television. But in many ways I feel also like I got kind of lucky. It was like the right timing, and I also think that like Kay Cannon, who is like a dear friend, had just left 30 Rock because she was moving to L.A. and part of me feels like they were like, I had kind of a similar energy to her and so they were like, “Okay, you can come be a part of the show.” But yeah. I don’t know if I have like great pearls of wisdom of how to do anything.

Geri Cole: Well how about … So you’ve worked with Mindy Kaling for a very long time. You worked on The Mindy Project as well. What do you think makes your partnership so successful?

Lang Fisher: It was so nice. I mean I loved working on The Mindy Project and I worked there for five of the six seasons, and I think like what makes our partnership successful and why I think the show works is because we have sort of like yin and yang personalities that kind of like balance each other out. I think sometimes I will want to do something that’s like too weird, and too … I don’t know, will just be like too in left field, too jokey or too strange and she will sort of pull me back, and then there are times where like she will have an idea that like … I’m like, “No, we can’t do that for whatever reason,” and pull her back. I think there’s … We are both a voice of reason for the other one, and it really helps to have that sounding board to make sure what we’re doing feels grounded.

I also think that like … The one thing that I will say about Mindy is she is like the most prolific idea generator I’ve ever met. She just like can spit out a thousand storylines. Like she will just be like what about this, what about this, what about this. I think like one of my gifts is like I’m the exact right kind of OCD to try to make those into a nice puzzle that will like feel satisfying. Like I love to make something dovetail with something else and bring it back around, and that I think is like my gift and she is like … She can just create a thousand different ideas at the drop of a hat. So I feel like that has been very helpful for us but I also think we’re just like good friends and get each other, and so like that is very helpful just in general. It’s nice to make something with your friends.

Geri Cole: Yeah. It’s the dream.

Lang Fisher: It’s the dream. It’s the dream.

Geri Cole: It’s the dream. Yeah. So has your process changed like from when you first started writing, do you have any sort of like ritual and/or thing that you do or schedule that you adhere to get the best work out or is it just sort of like schedules tell me when I have to do what I have to do?

Lang Fisher: The actual like physical rituals of how I write are kind of similar. Like I still write most of the things I write in my bed. I refuse to sit at a desk and like I certainly procrastinate. But I do think the way I approach stories and characters is very different than when I first started. I think there was part of me probably coming from sketch comedy and coming from  the Onion and sort of doing these very sort of broad comedy things. I think there was a real part of me that was like … Felt like it was like kind of a cop out or like less cool to like make your characters humane, like to not just do everything as jokes. Like I thought it was like the cooler way to be was to make everything a joke and make everything as like outlandish or weird or silly as you can make it. And I do feel like as I’ve been in this world of sitcoms after Mindy, I went to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and I do think what you said earlier, grounding your characters in reality is really important and you can make things so funny if you make them human, and when you don’t do that, when you make people make decisions not at the top of their intelligence, then like you lose your audience. You know what I mean?

Like people tend to laugh the most I think when they see themselves trying their hardest and failing. Or like when people are like the most invested and are using their brains and doing what any of us would do and then it has like a funny outcome. Like it’s a much more satisfying laugh than if you’re watching something that like no one can relate to and it is just like lunacy.

There are really … A bunch of like very like “broad shows” that are very successful because they are secretly grounded. I mean I think about like What We Do in the Shadows, which is just all vampires and they’re like vampires who are like … Have like stupid egos and are really like selfish, but they have wants and desires and dreams and like feelings and that’s why it makes it funny because they are vulnerable and have these very basic human wants and needs. So I think the biggest change for me from when I started to now is like making sure that even if you have an outlandish character, you make them grounded in reality and trying their best to like do whatever it is they want to do.

Geri Cole: That’s really good advice. Because I feel like when things are grounded, the comedy pops more.

Lang Fisher: Yeah, exactly.

Geri Cole: It’s like you got to give it a good thing to pop against. Do you have a scene or an episode that you think epitomizes that grounding aspect I guess from this last season?

Lang Fisher: From this last season? I think just to show off like the sort of dichotomy of something crazy happening but coming from a grounded place. Like I think about the episode, I believe it was Episode Five, 205, where they’re at the relay, they’re at this  relay race. Like the 24-hour relay, and Devi really gets so jealous and she gets like jealous at an insane level and ends up really hurting this girl by starting a rumor about her. And it’s bonkers and you watch her running around this track and she like gets stuck in the woods and she flips out and she is like forcing Ben and Aneesa to continuously run. But it’s all coming from a place of like self-preservation, and it’s coming from a place where it’s like … It might be  a little like exaggerated, but it’s coming from a really vulnerable place that is a story about like a teenager’s self-esteem, and how teenagers can be … I mean how humans honestly can be like really cruel when they are wounded themselves or like when they feel … Like too vulnerable or on the defense. So I don’t know. I think all of our episodes are some version of that but that’s the one that popped into my head when you asked the question.

Geri Cole: I want to ask a possibly controversial question. Team Ben or Team Paxton? Which team are you on?

Lang Fisher: For me?

Geri Cole: Are you allowed to say? Yeah.

Lang Fisher: I’m not allowed to say but I also am not sure. That’s the problem.

Geri Cole: I’m not sure either, honestly. We were talking about it before and I was like, “I’m not sure. I don’t know.” I was Team Ben, but then that last episode, Paxton showed up, so now I don’t know.

Lang Fisher: It’s true. Like we had a phone call the other day with like Netflix and they gave us like feedback on the season, like what fans had been saying, and I was like, “What do people think? Do more people like Paxton or Ben?” They were like, “Everyone seems really torn. There’s like die hards on both sides and then there’s a lot of people who are kind of like, “I’m not sure.” Me as the creator of the show, I’m not sure, and I could argue for both of them, and I think it’s something I have to figure out because it’s like a very unsatisfying end, whenever we end the show, to not know.

But I think there are good arguments for both of them. Our writer’s room is sort of torn. I think I’m going to try to come from a place of what is the best story to tell. Like what is the most satisfying story, and once I figure that out, then I will know, but yeah. I mean I always have this dream, because I had like a … Before we started the series, I was like I want to do a love triangle because love triangles are so fun, but my problem with love triangles is that like in every show where there’s a love triangle or movie, you know who you want the winner to be. You know what I mean?

Geri Cole: It’s like obvious. It’s like the other person is just in the way until.

Lang Fisher: Yeah, it’s like they’re just there for like plot, and you don’t want them to win. I always say this, but it’s like you want Bella to become a vampire. You don’t want her to date a werewolf. Like no shade [inaudible] Jacob, but like it’s like that’s … The story is set up so that you feel that way, and I always wanted to do one where it’s like you couldn’t decide. But then I think what I’ve realized is that is also hard on me. Because I’m like, I know that like whenever … If we have her make a choice, if she makes a choice that people are going to be mad at me, I’m worried that like Team Whoever is going to slash my tires. But yeah, so I don’t really know whose side I’m on but I want to do whatever feels like the most satisfying story, and honestly it’s comforting to know that you don’t know who you like and that there are people out there who are also torn because then maybe like they’ll be happy with however we end the show or whoever she ends up with once we figure out how to do that. But yeah.

Geri Cole: Yeah. I mean the thing is, like they’ve all grown so much, especially Paxton in this last season. So you’re like, “I was Team Ben all the way and then suddenly now it’s like he’s growing.” Like I think I’m rooting for him, I don’t know.

Lang Fisher: I know, you want her to do okay. You’re like –

Geri Cole: Yeah.

Lang Fisher: Maybe they do have something. Yeah, I know. I know. Both of these guys are so lovely and like they also both are really good at like doing a longing look. Like I feel like Ben’s longing looks across the room at her, like they both are really good at brooding and so you’re like, “I’m not sure what to do with you.”

Geri Cole: One of the things I always like to talk about is about … On the podcast is the idea of success. Because I feel like in all creative professions, it’s sort of like an elusive feeling of like, “Are you in the success? Is this it?” So yeah, I’m curious as to sort of what your ideas of success were and how they’ve evolved and what you would call success for yourself now.

Lang Fisher: That’s a really good question. Because I do think, especially in Hollywood or in the entertainment industry, people are never allowed to enjoy their successes. Like everyone’s primed to be like I need more, I have to be more famous, I have to make more things or get more money or whatever, and I really am trying to feel very like grateful in this moment about this show and I do think … Aside from just like what the viewers see, I do think our show is like a nice place to work and I think that our crew is happy and I think our actors are happy. I mean who knows, maybe they’re not. But it does seem like a good place to work and I really do also view that as a measure of success.

It’s really like an incredible thing to create your own television show and that alone, being given that opportunity, felt like a big step up for me and my career. It’s a thing that not a lot of people get to do and the fact that like the show has been so well-received feels like another thing that I’m like very proud of and I’m trying not to come from a place of like, “Okay, then what’s the next thing? What do I need to do next?” But I do always want to like push myself and this past season I directed an episode which was like really exciting and I hope I get to write and create a bunch of other shows. But yeah, it’s hard to totally define success because you can define it so many ways and I think that like … Just getting to be a professional writer in and of itself is like a huge success.

The other thing that I also would say just like about success is like … Show running a show is also one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done, and it’s like … I’ve seen other show runners kind of break under the pressure and it seemed like a miserable experience, and I feel very determined for that not to be me. It’s like very stressful certainly, but I don’t ever want it to be this thing that I worked so hard for and then the job itself is misery. So there’s almost like a value of calling, just like being happy on the job success too.

Geri Cole: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lang Fisher: Yeah. So I guess I do feel successful at this moment.

Geri Cole: That’s the thing, it’s so funny, we’re like, “Oh am I in it? I think this is it. I think I’m successful.”

Lang Fisher: Yeah, it’s true.

Geri Cole: Yeah. It’s a tricky thing.

Lang Fisher: I used to do this thing when I was trying to become a writer, where my parents … Both of my parents were doctors and we lived in like not L.A. or New York, I grew up in North Florida and then in Colorado for a little while. But I don’t think either of them could wrap their brains around this career pursuit, and it felt very … Like a real shaky one at that. I think they were nervous for me and I remember my mom being like, “You know, you could be an entertainment lawyer. Like that’s something.” I was like, “Okay. Well, all right.” So I gave myself these little goals when I was in my twenties and it was like … If I haven’t made any steps forward from where I am in a year, then I’ll give up and go do something else. I would always check in with myself and be like, “Where was I a year ago?” Like, “Have I done anything?” Like, “Has it changed? Am in a different situation than I was a year ago?” And it would be like, “Yeah, it’s different now. You did like a … You wrote that article for this blog or you got like …” You did standup for the first time or it’s like okay. So like as long as I was like making some kind of progress for those years, I was like I am allowed to keep at this.

Then it’s like at some point, if you get hired and you feel like … You’re like, “Okay, now am I going to get hired again after this? Is this going to be the only time I like work on a sitcom and I will be like … Is this my only TV show?” Then if you get hired again, you’re like, “Wait. Maybe now I’m like actually good at this.” The tricky thing with writing as a profession is it takes you so long to believe that you are actually worthy of the job and that you belong there and you … Most people I know feel like they have imposter syndrome for so long, like years, and then finally you’re like, “No. I actually know what I’m doing.” But it does take forever to feel that way.

Geri Cole: It really does. It really does. It’s so funny but also I think really good to hear because it’s like, “Yeah, I think that’s just the nature of it, I don’t know.”

Lang Fisher: Yeah. I mean to me, the fact that I don’t do that anymore is like a measure of success, that I’m not like, “I have to pack everything up and leave town. I can’t do this job.” That is like almost like the best goal of all of them because there are so many times when you’re like a younger writer or like a newer writer that you’re every day, you come home and you’re either like, “I killed it,” or like, “I’m terrible,” and you just don’t know, and there’s no way to fix it. You just like every day is like a personal assault on your self-esteem. And the fact that that’s not how I feel anymore is just such a relief. And also very … Our new writers out there listening, it does get better. You will stop beating yourself up at some point.

Geri Cole: Awesome. I think actually that’s a beautiful place to end, just letting folks know that it does get better and that honestly a mark of success is really just understanding that you are capable of this and believing yourself and being excited and proud of the work that you’re doing. So thank you so much for talking with us today.

Lang Fisher: Thank you.

Geri Cole: We’re all huge fans of the show. Season Three, is there any update on Season Three that we should look out for?

Lang Fisher: We’ve been renewed for it but we haven’t started writing yet, so it will probably come out the same time next summer as we came out this year. I would assume.

Geri Cole: Awesome.

Lang Fisher: Don’t quote me on that, but that’s what I would imagine. That’s kind of what we did last year. But looking forward to it.

Geri Cole: Again, thank you so much for talking with us. Love the show.

Lang Fisher: Thanks guys.

Geri Cole: Can’t wait for Season Three.

That’s it for this episode. OnWriting is a production of the Writers Guild of America East, and is hosted by me, Geri Cole. This series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Tech production and original music by Taylor Bradshaw and Stockboy Creative. Our associate producer & designer is Molly Beer. You can learn more about the Writers Guild of America East online at, and you can follow the guild on all social media platforms at WGAEast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. Thank you for listening and write on.

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