Russian Doll showrunner on spearheading Star Wars TV series as a gay woman
"The number one way to get into the room is when people send the elevator back down for you," says Leslye Headland.
There are many reasons to be stoked for Leslye Headland's planned Star Wars TV series. One, she's a major Star Wars fan. Two, it's almost like she can't write a bad project. Seriously: 2012's Bachelorette, 2014's About Last Night, 2015's Sleeping With Other People, 2019's Russian Doll. Three, it's another expansion of this beloved sci-fi world after the serialized success of The Mandalorian. Who knows where we'll go next?! And four, Headland is quietly making history.
The writer-showrunner appeared on EW's Untold Stories: Pride Edition podcast to celebrate the impact of prolific wordsmith Fran Lebowitz. Discussing a wide range of topics, from how Lebowitz influenced her work on Russian Doll to realizing her own sexuality, Headland acknowledged the impact that comes with being a gay woman taking the reins of one of the most iconic Hollywood properties.
"It's shocking to hear that to me," she says when asked if she thinks about her place in the herstory of Star Wars. "Although I know it's true because there are so few of us that are allowed to sit at the table, so to speak, and many, many more that are still not allowed. It's an honor in the sense that I feel incredibly grateful and lucky. I also would say that... I think Fran would agree with this, that a lot of this business is luck. A lot of it is."
Headland will serve as writer, executive producer, and showrunner on an untitled Star Wars series for the Disney+ streaming platform, the home of The Mandalorian. The Star Wars films at large have been criticized for the LGBTQ representation shown (and not shown) on screen, as well as the lack of women appointed to director positions behind the camera. It's what adds to the significance of Headland's role in this next iteration. "I think that when you're working at a disadvantage, meaning you are part of an oppressed or marginalized community, it is very difficult, as they say, to become what you cannot see," she says.
It's that reason that motivates her to keep writing, even though it's perhaps her least favorite part of the entire movie-, TV-making process. "I don't love writing. Writing is terrible," she admits. "Pitching is exhausting. When people are like, 'How do I pitch?' I'm like, 'Well, sit down for a second, let me explain it to you because it's working on the project for six months until they tell you you didn't get the job.' Especially larger-level projects like big IPs, like Star Wars and Marvel and DC. It's like, 'Strap in, because it's a lot of work.' But the hardest part is getting in the room."
She continues, "The number one way to get into the room is when people send the elevator back down for you." That's what she hopes to do more of. "The real joy is when I read a young woman's script, or a young woman of color's script, or a young LGBTQ writer and say, 'Oh my God, this is great. This is great. I'm going to send this off to this person. You know who I know would love this? It is so and so. I'm going to send that to that person.' I don't say that in an altruistic way or yay me, or I'm a good person. I'm saying that actually makes me happy."
Listen to the full edition of EW's Untold Stories Podcast: Pride Edition in the player above or wherever you listen to/download podcasts.