Carina Adly MacKenzie – Writer: The Originals / The Flash
When did you realize you wanted to work in television?
I can’t remember! I wasn’t really allowed to watch much TV as a kid — I was a big reader — but I was very into Dawson’s Creek. I remember seeing an interview with Kevin Williamson about how Dawson’s Creek was based on his childhood, and, for the first time, really understanding that someone writes this stuff. When I was in college, working in TV started to seem more realistic, and I took some screenwriting and production classes. I’m a fan and an artist and a nerd and a daydreamer at heart, so I was always looking to find a way to turn those things into a career.
What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?
Two pieces of advice. First: study what you like to study. I majored in creative writing and studied a lot of poetry in college because that’s what I loved to study, but I didn’t ever think I was going to grow up and be a poet. I like money too much for that. I strongly believe that your priority when you’re in school shouldn’t be only about career — it should be about loving what you’re learning. You’re paying too much money to not absolutely love what you’re learning. Being engaged and interested and passionate makes you a better, more interesting person, and makes you more alive, and that makes you more hireable, especially in a creative field. Don’t waste four years and thousands of dollars on something that doesn’t fill your heart up. Piece of advice number two is: Move to LA. I know there are TV industries booming in places like Wilmington and Atlanta and New York and Vancouver, and you could also move to one of those places, depending on the path you want and what position you want. But you’re going to have more diverse opportunities, and an easier time meeting the right people, in Los Angeles. (I don’t love living in LA, but I do love my job, so it’s worth it.)
First job in the industry? What you learned from it?
I was a personal assistant to an actor for five minutes, and then a production assistant for five minutes, and then an agent’s assistant for a few months. All of those things made me miserable. I learned, basically, that I am not cut out to be an assistant… and that I might have a bit of an attitude problem. I really needed to be doing something creative with my life, otherwise I went a little bit crazy, and not in the fun way.
What is something you wish someone would have told you about working in the entertainment industry?
People told me everything they were supposed to tell me and gave me all of the right advice. I just didn’t necessarily listen all the time! Ha. I might have benefited from being a little less trusting of people before they earned that trust, I think, but that’s not specific to the entertainment industry. I think in creative work in general, you put your heart on the line, and you pour your whole life into something, and so you end up making yourself a little vulnerable, and you have to find the balance between being vulnerable enough to create and keeping walls up to protect yourself.
What is your writing process like?
First I spend a whole lot of time talking to people who are much smarter than I am — the other writers on The Originals. We work the story out together, until we understand the ins-and-outs of scenes, the most exciting moments to break for commercial, and the character journeys from point A to point B in an episode. Then, we outline, and then write. For me, writing involves cleaning my entire house, making a lot of playlists, drinking a lot of coffee, and crying on the phone with whoever will listen… and then once I’m done with all of that, I write pretty quickly and efficiently.
How has your time been so far on The Originals?
Amazing. I started as a writer’s assistant in Season 1 and we just got picked up for Season 4, so it’s special to have been with the show from the beginning. Our showrunner, Michael Narducci, used to be a high school creative writing teacher and the writer’s room has often felt like a classroom to me, which is great, because obviously I’ve had a lot to learn. This show is special in that the people in leadership positions really went out of their way to spend the extra time to teach the people who were new to the TV world, which a lot of us were. We work really hard, and really long hours, and we put our hearts and souls into it, so I think that it comes down to the people that you work with and building a real family. Some of the most important relationships in my life stemmed from this show and I’ll always value that the most. It sounds kind of ridiculous, but the writer’s room is genuinely my favorite place to be, and I’ve never laughed as hard in my life as I have with some of our cast. I’m so grateful that this was the first show I worked on.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written that’s made it into an episode?
Two things. In episode 120, which was my first episode ever, Hayley and Klaus shared a scene in the baby’s nursery that I still think is the best thing I’ve written for this show. Then, in episode 214, there was a scene between Jackson and Aiden, in which Aiden finally ‘fessed up about his romantic relationship with Josh, that I was really proud of. LGBT representation has always been very important to me and that moment of acceptance was kind of my homage to Pacey and Jack on Dawson’s Creek, which was a really powerful moment for me to see on TV as a kid.
What show made you fall in love with television? What shows are you currently loving?
Dawson’s Creek made me fall in love with TV, for sure, and the first season of The O.C. made me want to engage with the TV world myself. I currently watch The Good Wife, iZombie, The Fosters, and I’m obsessed with “The People Vs. OJ Simpson.” I can’t stop talking about it. Plus, I always keep up with my BFFs Emily Bett Rickards on Arrow and The Flash and Italia Ricci on Supergirl — I’m very glad that I live in a world where Greg Berlanti is a TV titan, because he’s partially responsible for those Dawson’s Creek moments that inspired me as a kid.