Gale Anne Hurd
The Walking Dead
As producer and co-writer of The Terminator, Hurd played a major role in the Comic-Con-ification of mainstream entertainment. ”I was a geek long before it was considered cool!” says the 57-year-old. In producing more than 20 films, including Aliens and Armageddon, she’s also paved the way for other female producers.
Her big break ”Without a doubt, being recruited to work for Roger Corman,” says Hurd, who joined the movie king’s company in 1978. It was a place, she says, where women worked in every position, from marketing to production. ”The shock to my system,” says Hurd, ”was moving to the world of big studios, where women were essentially precluded from all of those jobs.”
Film vs. television Hurd says her experience producing one season of the 2002 series Adventure Inc. ”whet my appetite” for making more TV, due to its emphasis on character-driven storytelling. ”I also learned it was a medium where producers were in charge,” says Hurd. ”Which is fantastic!”
What’s next In addition to finishing up season 3 of The Walking Dead, her company Valhalla Entertainment is casting an alien-invasion pilot for USA Network called Horizon, and has other TV projects in development, including an adaptation of Annie Jacobsen’s book about Area 51 for AMC. —Jeff Jensen
MTV is known for its reality, but the realest kid on the network comes courtesy of Awkward creator Lauren Iungerich, 38. Her take on an everyday teen navigating the sharky waters of high school tackles the perils of adolescence in a relatable but ridiculously funny way.
Her big break Iungerich had finished a gig writing for ABC Family’s 10 Things I Hate About You when she got the call that MTV had picked up Awkward. Not everyone was thrilled. ”My agents at the time said, ‘Oh, this is s—ty money,”’ she recalls. ”They’re no longer my agents.”
Work style ”I am in my writers’ room every day,” the self-admitted micromanager says. ”I answer every email. I work with every department, from marketing to promos to social integration. I direct my show. I’m on the set every day. It’s an all-encompassing job.”
What’s next Iungerich, who’s currently in production on a supersize third season of Awkward, is waiting to hear whether MTV will pick up her pilot Hot Mess. ”If Awkward is my Sixteen Candles,” she says, ”Hot Mess is my Bridget Jones.” —Tanner Stransky
Mara Brock Akill
From single ladies to football wives, Mara Brock Akil brought a new perspective to the writers’ table when she created Girlfriends and its spin-off, The Game — all before turning 40. After The CW canceled The Game, BET picked the show up, and its return in 2011 scored a stunning 7.7 million viewers.
Spousal Support Mixing the personal and the professional has paid off for Mara, whose producing partnership with husband Salim is thriving. ”We respect each other as artists and we’re champions for each other,” she explains. ”Certainly there are those moments where we rub. Each show, we determine who’s the showrunner because somebody has to break the tie at some point.”
What’s nextThe Game returns this year, and BET signed the Akils to a multiyear production deal, which includes creating Being Mary Jane, with Gabrielle Union. ”The deal we made at BET was huge,” says Mara, 42. ”Now we’re in a position to help other people realize their dream.”—Tim Stack
How I Met Your Mother
The identity of the Mother is still a mystery on screen, but behind the scenes, ”I am the mother on this show,” says Fryman, 53, who guided first-time showrunners Craig Thomas and Carter Bays when they launched the series. As the in-house director, Fryman is charged with making HIMYM‘s signature ambitious sequences, like the two-minute date, come to life: ”[Bays and Thomas] pushed me to do things that I never thought I could do — and because of me, we got to do it.”
Her big break Fryman was relatively new to directing when a little show called Friends enlisted her for its fifth episode. ”All of a sudden, I was the director who’d done that,” she says. ”I think it gave me a lot of cachet that I didn’t truly deserve.”
What’s next By the end of HIMYM‘s ninth and likely final season next year, Fryman will have directed nearly 200 episodes of the series. So what happens after the curtain falls for good? ”I just don’t know, but I have a while before I have to get there,” she says. ”I’m glad, because I’m not ready yet.” —Sandra Gonzalez
The Carrie Diaries
If you’ve watched — and liked — a show about young adults in the past decade, there’s a good chance Stephanie Savage, 43, was involved. From The O.C. to Gossip Girl, she’s redefined the teen genre by creating and backing projects that handle the drama of youth without kid gloves. ”I’m still very in touch with that emotionally epic time in one’s life when you’re a teenager and everything feels like the most important thing in the world,” she says.
Her big break Savage moved to L.A. to research her Ph.D. dissertation on celebrity scandals, but an internship she took to pay the bills at Drew Barrymore’s just-launched shingle, Flower Films, propelled her into producing.
What’s next After 12 years developing projects at Warner Bros., including The CW’s upcoming thriller Cult, Savage and her producing partner, Josh Schwartz, are moving to ABC Studios. They’ve got multiple series in the works featuring older characters, though Savage hedges that at least one has a ”significant teen factor.” After all, growing up is overrated. —Nuzhat Naoreen
Lesli Linka Glatter
Throughout her 25-year career, Glatter has made fearless decisions — and often struck gold. Beyond the notorious episode of Mad Men that featured a gory lawn-mower accident, she recently had audiences buzzing about her pivotal season 2 Homeland episode ”Q&A” and its hypnotic interrogation scene.
Biggest misconception about the job ”That directors are interchangeable,” says Glatter, 59. ”I don’t think that’s true at all. If you look at old-fashioned TV, like Dragnet, it was wide shots, over and over, close-up, close-up, you’re done. It was not about visual storytelling. Now TV has to be as cinematic as film.”
What’s next Glatter will be visiting Justified and The Walking Dead, as well as Showtime’s upcoming Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan. She —Stephen Lee
The Vampire Diaries
With a penchant for twists that make us gasp, swoon, and sob, Plec weaves an epic tale of vampire romance that we don’t have to feel too guilty about following. ”You are telling a story that means something to you, but legions of others feel as strongly, if not 10 times as strong, about it,” she says. ”It’s not why we do it, but it sure feels good.”
Her big break Plec, now 40, was working as director Wes Craven’s assistant when she bonded with first-time screenwriter Kevin Williamson (who’d become her producing partner for TVD and more) during night shoots on the set of Scream. ”One night he said, ‘Hey, so I’m writing this pilot. I’d love you to take a look at it. It’s about my life growing up in North Carolina on a creek.”’ Though Plec served as a sounding board for Dawson’s Creek, she didn’t write her first script until she got a job as a producer on ABC Family’s Kyle XY.
What’s next An April episode of TVD will serve as a backdoor pilot for a New Orleans-set Originals spin-off, and she’s developing an adaptation of the British sci-fi series The Tomorrow People for The CW with college pal Greg Berlanti. She’s also penning Paramount’s big-screen adaptation of Tiger’s Curse. ”They said, ‘We’ve really been struggling with finding someone who can latch into the love story.’ And I went, ‘Oh, good, you’ve called the right place.”’—Mandi Bierly
When Rogien started getting interview requests after the first episodes of the HBO series hit the air, she was flummoxed. ”It’s not a show about fashion,” she insists. But the 35-year-old’s inspired costume choices — from kimonos to jean shorts to granny panties — have defined the girls on Girls through ensembles that are a lot like the show: unflinchingly real, endearingly awkward, and surprisingly brazen.
Biggest misconception about the job ”It’s not glamorous. It’s really down and dirty,” explains Rogien. ”You’re in a dingy thrift store trying to dig things out of racks of really old and decrepit clothing.”
What’s next With season 2 of Girls wrapped, Rogien is at work on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, adapted by Weeds‘ Jenji Kohan. She has also signed on to consult with teen lingerie brand Aerie — a fitting role for a woman who’s turned underwear into a conversation piece.—Nuzhat Naoreen
Scandal, Mad Men
If you think of Grey’s Anatomy every time you hear Snow Patrol’s ”Chasing Cars,” you can thank this music supervisor, who’s set the tone for countless shows, including Scandal, Suburgatory, and Mad Men. Along the way, she’s cemented the fact that you don’t just have to look to your radio to discover new music.
Proudest moment In 2000, Patsavas, now 44, persuaded rock legends Radiohead to let her use a song for Roswell. ”That changed my definition of what was possible for television,” she says. ”Since then, sometimes we get a no, but I’m not afraid to ask.”
What’s next After putting together the soundtrack for the zombie flick Warm Bodies (out Feb. 1), Patsavas is now revisiting her high school playlist for The Carrie Diaries and sampling electronic music for The CW’s Cult. ”Music was my identity as a kid,” she says. ”I’m one of those lucky individuals who turned their passion into a vocation.” —Nuzhat Naoreen
Ones to Watch
Here’s more TV talent we’re keeping an eye on
She broke our hearts (in a good way) with The CW’s Life Unexpected, and wrote some of our favorite hours of Revenge and Nashville. Next Tigelaar brings her fairy dust to Bravo as the network ventures into scripted TV with her adaptation of The Joneses.
The HIMYM exec producer (who’s written many of the Robin Sparkles episodes) is at work on the pilot Nerds in Love, loosely based on her friendship with writing partner Tami Sagher.
ABC may have just evicted Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, but TV for/about/in the vicinity of women needs Khan’s saucy sensibility. We’re excited to see what she creates next.
The Happy Endings star just premiered her indie Ass Backwards (co-written with June Diane Raphael) at Sundance, and the pair also sold a pilot called The Housewives to ABC.