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New Girl creator Liz Meriwether: I owe my career to Emma Stone

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Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic file

As part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s Daring Women Summit panel, writer and showrunner Liz Meriwether revealed the road to her hit comedy series, Fox’s New Girl, was paved with a little help from a 16-year old Emma Stone.

Meriwether told EW’s Danielle Nussbaum, who moderated the discussion, that a young, fresh-to-Hollywood Stone was cast in a showcase of her plays that ultimately led to a job writing the screenplay for the 2011 Natalie Portman comedy No Strings Attached. “I kind of owe my whole career to [Stone],” she said of the Easy A star’s involvement in her early work. “I think she just moved to L.A., and she was like, ‘I’m getting a lot of auditions!’ and I was like, ‘Good luck!'” Meriwether said, laughing.

Sluts, one of the plays Meriwether worked on after first moving to Los Angeles as part of a program aimed at helping aspiring playwrights turn their scripts into TV shows, was ultimately filmed as a pilot, but never made it to air. Still, the experience motivated her to treat herself like a boss-in-training. “I was a receptionist in New York, and, all of a sudden, I was producing a pilot on the Fox lot without a driver’s licence, in L.A., hiring people, pretending I knew what I was doing,” she said. “I was like ‘I’m the executive producer of Sluts! [I had] meetings with people who were like, ‘Is that from personal experience?’ I was like, ‘Actually, I’m a virgin.’”

The panel also featured TV writers and creators Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off the Boat), Julie Klausner (Difficult People), and Keli Goff (Being Mary Jane), who addressed the difficulties of carving their own lane through a male-dominated industry.

“We’ve created our own opportunities. You put in the work, you do the heart of it, and you try to preserve your voice as much as you can… We’re all at a time where that’s happening for us… It’s progressive, it’s the future, and this is the future,” Khan said. Meriwether added: “[Our] shows are working because women like to watch women [who] are women.”

Klausner, who also stars opposite comedian Billy Eichner on Difficult People, told the audience she feels bad for women suffering from movie studios’ unwillingness to produce more female-driven films. “There’s a whole genre of films that I call ‘Men and their Ideas’ movies. [Aaron] Sorkin is the king… No disrespect, but I remember I specifically fell asleep during Good Night, and Good Luck because there wasn’t’ a single woman until halfway through… I remember being so bored; there’s just something primal about wanting to watch someone [who] looks like you.”

Still, Khan, who also created the now-canceled ABC series, Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23, noted that there are certain challenges, as a female writer, in connecting with men in  the television industry. “We [wrote] the term, ‘He gave me blue tubes’ [in a Don’t Trust the B— script], and we got notes back not understanding it, like, ‘I think there’s a typo here.'”

Meriwether also touched on the lack of well-rounded male writers willing to tackle writing experiences outside their own. “I think there’s still this mystique… where men are afraid to write female characters, but, as a woman, I do, and I’m expected to write male characters all the time… male writers are nuclear; they can’t get their heads inside a female character… There’s a feeling in Hollywood of, “Well, women will write the women.'”

Watch the full conversation between Meriwether, Klausner, Goff, and Khan in the video below.

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