Writer/producer Jane Espenson is responsible for most of your favorite TV shows. We feel pretty confident in saying that. Jane has written for and produced Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Once Upon a Time and more. She’s written episodes of Firefly and Game of Thrones. She’s also, along with Brad Bell, responsible for the amazing web series Husbands, which just aired its third season on the CW Seed. We were honored to get a chance to chat with Jane. You can follow her on Twitter @janeespenson. (Don’t miss her writing sprints!) You can watch Husbands here and follow them on Twitter @TeamHusbands.
Legion of Leia: How did you get started in the business? Was there something specific that triggered your love of writing?
Jane Espenson: I always loved writing, and knew right away that TV writing was for me. I would look at the names of the writers during the credits, and I knew that was the job for me. I always noticed women’s names in the MASH writers credits and was impressed to read an interview with one of those writers. That really triggered the idea that this was a job I could realistically aspire to. That’s one reason I’m happy to be interviewed today. I hope girls out there are similarly inspired. Go write, girls!
Legion of Leia: What’s your process like for character creation?
Jane Espenson: I generally don’t write pilots, but rather episodes of existing shows, so I’m usually creating guest characters. An exception is Husbands, which I co-write with the amazing Bradley C Bell. I believe in basing characters on people you’ve interacted with in real life. A show like Orange is the New Black is a great example of characters that you recognize, but haven’t seen depicted on TV before. In what may feel like a contradiction (but isn’t really), I also believe in casting the characters in your head so that you can “hear” the voice of an actor as you’re writing.
Legion of Leia: How do you balance producing and writing?
Jane Espenson: I’m very lucky that Brad is a born producer, so he takes on those duties for Husbands. On Once, since the production is in Vancouver, we writers are also excused from a lot of those tasks. This all works out well for me, as I really enjoy staying focused on the writing.
Legion of Leia: Who and/or what inspired you when you were starting out?
Jane Espenson: I’ve had the great fortune of working with and for some amazing showrunners: Tim Doyle, Joss Whedon, and Ron Moore were all around in the early stages of my career. We shouldn’t forget that good men can be instrumental to the success of women. Really good showrunners – male as well as female — know that talent is equally distributed across all kinds of people and hire with that in mind.
Legion of Leia: What was the first sci fi or fantasy character you connected with as a kid?
Jane Espenson: Probably Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I’m sure she’s first for a lot of kids. And there was this series of magical adventure books for kids by Edward Eager. Groups of kids go on adventures in each book. And the kids from one book have a crossover encounter with the kids from another book. Blew my tiny mind. Not so much about connection with a character, but really influenced how I looked at narrative possibilities.
Legion of Leia: In addition to OUAT and Husbands, what projects are you working on?
Jane Espenson: Some day I want to write a “How to Write for TV” book based on my old blog. We’ll see!