If an awful boss is good for anything, it may be creative inspiration, and lucky for writers, media is full of them.
Marti Noxon and Sarai Walker were both able to attest to this on Wednesday during an afternoon of panels discussing the ins and outs of TV creation and fandom at AMC, including for their new show “Dietland,” a series adapted by Noxon from Walker’s critically acclaimed book of the same name, which revolves around a fat woman’s experiences as a ghostwriter for women’s magazines.
Noxon, a longtime TV writer and producer known for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “UnREAL,” among dozens of other shows and projects, said the TV version of Kitty Montgomery, the narcissistic, brash and sometimes cruel executive editor on “Dietland” played by a red-headed Julianna Margulies, is based on a former boss of hers.
“I had a boss like Kitty, but it was a male, and if we portrayed what that male was like, people would not believe it,” Noxon said, while keeping the name to herself. “So I was like, let’s just go 30 percent of that boss, and that’ll be plenty.”
And it seems to be. Even with decades in the notoriously harsh and unforgiving world of entertainment, some of Montgomery’s lines and interactions give Margulies pause.
“It’s always shocking,” Margulies said. “I’ll say whatever is written, I feel like actors have to say what’s on the page, but every now and then I’m like ‘Uummm…’ and all of the women working [on set] are like ‘Oh, no, I had a boss like that.’ ‘Oh, yeah.’”
Montgomery doesn’t compare to anyone Margulies has worked with or for, but she does relish the opportunity to play someone whom no one likes or feels sorry for, and Noxon agreed that she gets most of the best lines.
“I don’t know people like Kitty, they’re not in my orbit, so it’s all quite shocking to me, but so delicious,” Margulies said.
For a time, people like Montgomery were very much in Walker’s orbit as she worked during the late Nineties as a writer for Seventeen, Mademoiselle and Glamour. The character is based on one, still unnamed, editor in particular. Elizabeth Crow was the longest editor at Mademoiselle around the time Walker was working in magazines and Ruth Whitney was still leading Glamour, while Caroline Miller and Meredith Berlin both had stints running Seventeen.
And even though Kitty Montgomery has a bigger role in the show than she did in the novel, Noxon and Margulies don’t want her to slip into the modern caricature of the cutting female fashion editor, à la “The Devil Wears Prada.” They’re already thinking about season two and delving more into her background, like having to “walk into a boardroom of men over 60 who don’t know anything about the fashion industry or women and she has to kowtow to them,” as Margulies put it.
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