Eric Haywood– Writer: Empire
When did you realize you wanted to work in television?
I came to Los Angeles several years ago with only one plan: to write and direct feature films. After pounding the pavement and getting nowhere, one of my feature scripts got me a job writing a freelance episode of a premium cable TV show. Not long after that, the showrunner hired me for the show’s staff full-time, and I’ve been a television writer ever since.
What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?
That’s a tough question because it’s so broad. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different careers to pursue within the television industry – writing, producing, directing, production design, cinematography, and so on. For those primarily interested in writing for television, I suggest writing as much as you possibly can – scripts, plays, short stories, and whatever else you’re inspired to create. And, of course, educate yourself on what’s currently happening in the industry. That information is easily accessible thanks to the internet.
First job in the industry? What you learned from it?
Like I mentioned earlier, my first job in the business was writing an episode of a show called Soul Food for Showtime. That launched my career. I was able to learn first-hand how a writers’ room works, and what’s expected of every member of the team. I also learned how to write quickly, because you can never afford to miss a deadline.
What is something you wish someone would have told you about writing for television?
I pour everything I wish I’d learned earlier in my career into a bi-weekly blog called “Writers’ Room 101” for Script Magazine. Anyone interested can find the series of articles here: http://www.scriptmag.com/author/erichaywood/
What is your writing process like?
I’m a morning person, so I tend to write as much as possible as early in the day as possible. If I’m in the middle of a script, I have to give everyone I’m close to fair warning that I’ll be disappearing from their lives until the draft is finished, because I immerse myself in the writing and tend to forget about everything else until it’s done. When I’m not working on a draft, I try to dedicate at least one hour a day to fleshing out one or two ideas of mine that I have on the drawing board.
How has your time been on Empire?
It’s been fantastic. I don’t expect to be associated with anything quite this popular again in my career, so I’m taking it one day at a time and trying to appreciate and learn from it all.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written that has made it into an episode?
I try to sneak at least one small personal detail into every episode that I write, but I don’t like to give them away. One thing I like to do is name a supporting character after one of my relatives, sort of as a private little wink to my family.
What show made you fall in love with television?
I can’t recall a time when I didn’t love television, but from a professional standpoint, I’d have to say “The West Wing.” It’s still a show that I go back and watch every now and then to remind myself just how great television drama can be.