Tuesday Mar 12, 2019
Tuesday Mar 12, 2019
Tuesday Mar 12, 2019
Writer/producer Elle Johnson is currently an Executive Producer on the Amazon series Bosch. Previously she has worked on other TV series including CSI: Miami, Law & Order, Ghost Whisperer, Saving Grace and The Glades. Listen to this episode to find out how a New York City parole officer's daughter became a Los Angeles TV writer.
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Passionistas: [00:00:00] Hi and welcome to the Passionistas Project Podcast. We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and if you enjoy listening to the show, please consider becoming a patron. Just a small donation of one dollar a month can help us keep the project going and you'll get rewards like buttons, access to premium content and invites to Passionistas Project events.
Today we're talking to writer/producer Elle Johnson. In addition to her current role as Executive Producer on the Amazon series Bosch, Elle has worked on the TV series CSI: Miami, Law and Order, Ghost Whisperer, Saving Grace and The Glades. So please welcome to the show Elle Johnson.
Elle Johnson: Thank you it's really wonderful to be here.
Passionistas: What are you most passionate about?
Elle Johnson: [00:00:40] This is going to sound bizarrely selfish but I am most passionate about telling my stories. I have gotten to a point in my career, in my life, where I realized that the way I best communicate with the world and also the way I best process life is through telling stories. Writing them down. I came to writing late in life, or later I wasn't one of these people who started out as a kid and knew that I just wanted to be a writer. I had to discover that for myself. And once I discovered that that was the thing that made me happiest, I just wanted to learn how to be the best writer I could be and tell stories the best way that I could.
As I've written I've come to realized that I'm what I would refer to as a method writer in that I like to have an experience with something. So in order for me to write about something I feel like if I haven't already had a personal experience with it or some involvement with it, I like to go out and get that personal experience with it and kind of use that to inform my writing. And so that's enabled me to learn about everything and anything in the world that I want to and kind of insert myself into situations that I have no understanding of or no business being a part of. But suddenly I can learn about another part of the world. And to me that is I think the thing that drives me as a writer is being able to find stories that I can make my own and tell my stories.
Passionistas: [00:02:19] How do you translate that into what you do for a living?
Elle Johnson: [00:02:23] The great thing about being a television writer is so much of writing TV is exploring other worlds. And I primarily write cop shows. My dad was a parole officer in Manhattan for 30 years. My uncles were homicide detectives. I have a lot of law enforcement in my family and so I'm really comfortable with that world and also kind of with that character. It's a very particular personality who goes into law enforcement. I really feel like I understand that.
So while I generally have ended up working on cop show. And when you do a cop show, usually what happens is you have the detectives kind of walking in and out of different worlds. Whoever the victims are, whoever the suspects are you're usually entering their world. And that's what makes it fascinating for me because it makes it, I get to enter worlds. I get to decide OK this this week I want to discover what's going on in the world of fashion or in the world of anthropologists or just whatever it is. And then you get to do kind of a deep dive and really explore that.
And the best experience or one of the best experiences that I had in my career was working on a show called The Glades. And we had been approached about or asked by the network if we could find a way to do a story about NASCAR. And I said, "I'm a black girl from Queens. I don't know anything about NASCAR." But I started to do research and I realized it was this incredible world that in many ways was similar to being a writer or being in television in that they worked, most of the year. Like their season was I think you know 10 out of 12 months and the intensity of it and the passion with which they approached it I thought, "OK I kind of get what this world is." And I went to the Daytona 500 as part of my research and NASCAR opened their doors to me. They got me a hot pass. I was in the pits. I was meeting drivers. I was in the garages all of a sudden. And I just fell in love with this world and started going to races. And writing that episode I really had to kind of have my own experience with NASCAR and it ended up being a fantastic experience.
NASCAR gave us cars to put it in our show. They gave us the trucks. We shot at a Homestead in Miami. We had four drivers in our episode. And it just ended up taking over my life. But it was such a wonderful experience because I really got to do a deep dive and understand that world. So much so that they invited me at the end of the year to their championship dinner and put me on panels and flew me out to Las Vegas to participate. And it's just like I was included in this family and that's exactly the kind of experience I want to have as a writer where you say, "OK I don't know anything about this world but I'm going to find out about this world." And I really found out about a great.
Passionistas: [00:05:25] Tell us your path to becoming a writer/producer.
Elle Johnson: [00:05:27] I really didn't know what I want to do after college. And the smartest thing I did. Through all of the mistakes that I've made was saying to myself that I needed to take time to figure out what my passion was. Like what it was that I really wanted to do. So right after college I rode a bicycle across country with a group of students called the Ride for Life and we were raising money for Oxfam America and Save the Children. So it was during that bike ride where we biked back from San Francisco to Boston that I just kind of allowed myself to think about what do I want to do with my life? And being on the road on a bicycle, seeing the country thinking, seeing the country and meeting all kinds of different people and really just seeing how other people lived, helps me to understand that I had stories that I wanted to tell.
At the end of the ride, I ended up taking a job working at the American University in Cairo — an intern at the school. And I started my job was to write grant proposals for Egyptian students like soliciting American companies primarily like Raytheon. A lot of kind of defense contractors who were giving money to educate Egyptian students. And so I started, that was kind of my first quote unquote writing job writing those grants and proposals. And while I was in Egypt I just started writing stories about my life in the states like short stories.
When I got back to the states I got a job as a technical writer for a small company called Lutan Technologies that had created the computer program that allowed the Bank of Boston to track asset backed securities. I know this sounds crazy. It was that it was the computer program that allowed them to track their home mortgage loans or mortgage loans. And it was one of the first computer programs that did that and it was a startup company. I mean I didn't realize I was in a startup computer company but I was. And I was tasked with writing the technical manual to explain to the bankers how to use the system. I was a fine arts major. So this was not in my wheelhouse at all but I needed to use the system and figure out how to write it clearly so that people could understand. So I sort of started doing a little bit of technical writing and while I was doing technical writing I realized this was not the type of writing I wanted to do. I wanted to write stories and short stories.
So I applied for a Rotary scholarship to go to the University of East Anglia in England and learn creative writing. I did that for a year and started writing screenplays and while I was in England I was like, "Okay I've tried all these different types of writing. I want to try to get into film and television." So I went back to New York where I'm from and managed to get a job on a television show as a script coordinator, was my first job in television.
I did not know what a script coordinator was but they said don't worry about it will teach you what it is and it's basically using the computer program to generate the scripts that someone showed me how to do it. And all of a sudden I was surrounded by these professional television writers and working very closely with them and taking notes for them and working on the scripts and seeing how scripts come together and I was like, "Okay this is what I want to do." I want to write TV for the reason that I saw that there was so much that you could learn every day as you're trying to write your episode.
And also unlike film, television you have to produce a script. Like what you write is going to be produced because they need something for air. So something's going on the air whether it's good or bad and you're going to have something going on the air. And I thought this is great. This is a way to actually get your stuff made. And that was really my entree into writing for television.
And when I was writing on this show I met a writer by the name of Eric Overmeyer who became my mentor and has helped me throughout my career. He gave me my very first job in television and he's hired me on other shows including Bosch where he was the showrunner. He also hired me to work on Law and Order. He got me a job on a show called Street Time that was about parole officers and parolees which he knew was in my wheelhouse because my dad was a parole officer. So through that one job basically I found my mentor and kind of got my career.
Passionistas: [00:10:05] And what show was that?
Elle Johnson: [00:10:07] It was a show called The Cosby Mysteries staring Mr. Bill Cosby as a forensic expert in the NYPD. It was a very quirky show. His character had a housekeeper who had been a dancer and she was a very eccentric woman who never clean the house and she was played by Rita Moreno. He had a sidekick who was a young African-American kid who, the actor's name was Dante Beze and he left the show to become Mos Def. So it was just in terms of the people who were involved with it was kind of incredible. And on that show were a bunch of writers also who who worked on Law and Order. And it filmed in New York on Pier 62 which at that time, before it got built up into the pier that it is now, was kind of well known as a Mafia dumping ground for bodies. Just like abandoned pier situation that has since been refurbished and is now a place where a lot of television shows shoot. But it was kind of like the one hour drama ghetto. Law and Order was filming out of there and a show called Homicide was filming out of there. And Eric Overmeyer who was a writer on The Cosby Mysteries when that show got cancelled went to work on Homicide.
And I at that time was just trying to figure out how to actually become a working writer — make the jump from being a script coordinator to a working writer. So I'd moved out to L.A. and Eric Overmeyer and Tom Fontana were like, "Oh okay she's serious about becoming a writer because she actually moved out there." So Eric approached me about writing an episode of Homicide. And I was so grateful for the opportunity to do a freelance. He was doing something that at the time I didn't realize how incredible a gesture it was. He offered to split a script with me. Which I now realize is taking money out of his own pocket to give me an opportunity. But at that time Homicide was an NBC show and it was always on the bubble. They never knew if they were going to come back or not. So he offered me this with the caveat that they didn't know if they were going to have enough episodes or not.
And as it turned out they ended up saying you know we can't give you an episode because we have a writer on the show and her grandfather was a writer and he needed a credit to keep his health insurance which is a situation that happens all too frequently in this business. You know it's so hard to have a consistent career and sometimes you just need to do a freelance episode to keep your health insurance. And I totally understood that. So they were gonna give him the episode that was supposed to go to me. His name was Julius Epstein. And if you know anything about writing you know that he is one of the twins who wrote Casablanca. So if I had to be bumped by anybody needed health insurance I was like, that's totally fine go for it.
During the course of all of this happening Jerry Seinfeld decided that he was not going to continue with Seinfeld. So he told NBC. And NBC basically panicked and picked up all of their shows including Homicide. So all of a sudden they had more episodes so the guys say Homicide came back to me and said, "Oh we can give you an episode you can have one." I was like great. So I ended up writing the first part of a two parter. It was the ninety ninth episode. It was a big shoot out in the station. And they'd also said to me they wanted to do a story in the world of parole. And so they knew that I was a parole officer's daughter and that I would have a bunch of stories. So I went through my mental file of all the stories my dad had ever told me and came up with this story a very personal story to him that had really influenced him.
There was one of the few parole officers killed in the line of duty in New York. He was gunned down in the streets by his parolee. So I kind of knew a little bit of the inside story of who they thought it was and why it had happened. And so I basically just pitched them that story and that was the story that I ended up writing. My first episode of television. It was directed by Kathryn Bigelow. It was a great experience and a great way to get my feet wet in television.
Passionistas: [00:14:42] So then how do you make the transition from writer to producer?
Elle Johnson: [00:14:46] Making the transition from getting a freelance episode to staff writer is the first difficulty as well. So I was already in Los Angeles when I got this freelance episode. But I was working as a secretary at Sony Animation. And my boss was a lovely gentleman who understood that I wanted to be a writer and that this was kind of a day job for me. And that I was going to get out of there at 5 and go home and start writing. I had written this freelance episode and was in the process of just trying to get a staff job. The writer who helped me was a gentleman named Kevin Arkadine. A friend of my sister's who was in the industry got in touch with him and said, "Will you read this woman's samples and give her notes? She's trying to get into the business." And Kevin said to me later that he does this favor once a year for people. So I was once a year favor of reading my script.
He gave me notes. I didn't agree with all of the notes but I executed all of the notes because he'd spent the time to give me notes and I thought I want to show him that I can execute his notes. So he did his notes and gave him the script back and he was impressed. And when he got his own show he called me to come in and interview to be a writer. And that ended up being my first staff job on television. And he'd said to me because I had not only taken his notes but executed them, that he knew that I could do the job because I'd already kind of proven it to him.
So it was a show called Rescue 77. It was about firefighters and it was another great experience because we, I knew nothing about firefighters especially firefighters in L.A. So one of the first things that they had to do was go out on ride along with various fire departments. Sleep over in the station houses. I mean it was incredible in terms of doing research. And I went to a bunch of different station houses and rode with the paramedics and the firefighters. And they loved having people because according to them, it seemed busy to me, but according to the firefighters inevitably have when you have a ride along nothing happens. So it was like a superstition like great somebody in a station house so it's going to be quiet nothing's going to happen we'll be able to sit down and have dinner. It seemed busy to me but to them they're like others is the great we're not getting as many calls because you're here. But it was just kind of my entree into the power of being able to call someone up and say, "Hey I'm writing a television show. Can I come and do some research?" And then like the door gets opened and suddenly you're invited into all kinds of people's different worlds. And you can see how they do their jobs and how they live.
So that was my first staff writer job and I have been lucky enough to have worked every year since then. I've always had either a job on staff or have managed to sell a piece of development. That show Rescue 77, I think we only lasted five episodes. So this was at a time when it was primarily network television. We were on I think it was the UPN, like the Paramount Network, but there weren't too many choices in terms of television at that time.
So we're dealing with a network and it was my first experience of being on a set and feeling the panic when network executive shows up unannounced which I then learned means that you're going to be canceled. Like at first you think, "Oh how wonderful they're coming to check up on your show." And then all of the more seasoned people are like, oh no, this is what this means, because they don't ever come to check up after a certain point especially not like on the fifth episode. So we were canceled when the network executive showed up and everyone's like all right we're canceled. So after that you know I had an agent and my agent was great in terms of getting me onto my next gig.
Passionistas: [00:18:55] At what point did you make the step to be a producer as well?
Elle Johnson: [00:18:58] So on Rescue 77 I was a staff writer and then I went on another show. I think I was a staff writer again on a show called Ryan Caufield which is a show about a 21-year-old rookie police officer. And that was another show again that lasted I think I think we got canceled after maybe seven or eight episodes. At that point I was able to get on a show called Any Day Now, which was more a character driven show starred Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussant as friends, two women who had grown up together in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. And it kind of followed their lives when they were little girls and also adult women. And we cut back and forth between their lives and their stories and it was a great show. I was a story editor on that and I stayed on that show for two years and made it into the Co-Producer ranks before Annie Potts decided that she she wanted to stop acting for a while. I think that lasted for a year and then she did another show. But because that show went down. I kind of ended it as a Co-Producer.
And at that point Eric Overmeyer stepped back into my life. He'd met a gentleman who was doing a show about parole officers. The gentleman named Richard Stratton who had been like America's biggest pot smuggler had done 20 or was sentenced to 25 years in the federal pen for smuggling pot and he found a loophole in his sentencing and got out. And of course with that kind of background the only place that will take you was Hollywood. So he was able to sell his show about his experiences being a parolee and being a pot smuggler. And he'd met with Eric looking for writers. And Eric was like I have just the person for you about a show that includes a parole officer and his parolee. And so I met with Richard Stratton and he ended up hiring me to be on the show called Street Time which was a Showtime show that was like completely in my wheelhouse. It was so great we got to tell a lot of my dad's stories. You know a lot of kind of parole stories that I don't think I would have ever been able to put anywhere else because they were so specific.
And it was a really interesting experience for me as a young writer. It was a very small room. I think we had I think we had there were only four of us in total. And I was the only writer kind of in a lower level producer range everybody else was an EP or a Co-EP but very seasoned writers but they didn't have the same experience as I did having a parole officer for a father. And a lot of the show also dealt with the families of the parolee and the parole officers. So I know I had a ton of stories and kind of understood what it was like to be raised in a parole officer's house. And in terms of building confidence and navigating that experience I was interesting to be in the room with Richard and myself and then these kind of TV writers who were used to writing cop shows and they'd be like, OK well in this episode you know we had a storyline where one of the parole officers had to kill a parolee in the line of duty. And the other writers were talking about how, "Yeah we want to do a follow up episode where the parole officer is kind of wracked by guilt over having had to kill this parolee and how that affects him."
And I remember Richard and I looked at each other and started laughing and we're like, "That's not how the parole officer feels." And we were kind of just talking about from our experiences what we knew would have been going on and the parole officers had it's like it's him or me. This is part of the job. He's not racked with guilt. He did what he had to do. And so it was interesting to be in a situation where even though there's a lower level writer I kind of had experiences that could make the show more authentic.
And that was another show where I met met a writer, a wonderful writer named Clifton Campbell who then became definitely another mentor to me and has hired me on other jobs. He was the creator and showrunner of the show called The Glades. That he then hired me to work on because we had such a good experience working together on Street Time.
So a lot of it is relationships. A lot of it for me is getting into a room and doing the job and doing the job well with integrity knowing that you are mimicking somebody else's voice. You're there to make the showrunner job easier your job is as much as you want to infuse the stories with parts of yourself and tell your stories which I definitely want to do your main job is to execute the show and help the showrunner and get the voice of the show. So having learned that and having learned how to do that, that's always kind of kept me in good stead because I feel like people value that I'm going to come on a show and really try to give them what they need and what they want so that they're not constantly having to rewrite me. That they know that I'm going to try and hand in a script that's going to be as close to their voice as possible. As network ready as possible. And through that experience I kind of started to develop a set of rules for myself about how to how to be in a room what I wanted to be in terms of a writer. And I remember early on just through observation and how I interacted on a staff.
I came up with three rules that seemed to be the way that you had to comport yourself in a writers room. One was even if you didn't respect someone you always had to respectful because I want to be respected. But even if I don't agree with someone or I think you know always treat people with respect. The second thing was to do every note even if I don't agree with the note our I don't think it's going to work. I have to try it and prove it. Like execute the note. If it doesn't really work then at least you can say I didn't. It doesn't work. I tried it. I've really tried it but then it might work. Find a way to make it work. So execute every note.
And my last rule was more of a self-preservation one which was the money always wins. Which is you know we're artists we all want to we try to be good craftsmen you want to write something that's artful but at the end of the day you know the Medici is paying for them the Medici is the studio and the network and if they want something you have to give it to them because you'll get the note once and you might be like ah, I'm not going to. I'm not going to do that. And then you'll get the note again and you'll get the note and you'll get the note and you'll get the note until you execute the note or they fire you. So the money always wins. So you know we're there to not only execute the vision of a creator of a show but to provide a brand to provide something that the network is buying. And you have to find a way to maintain your integrity. Tell stories that you want to tell but also give the people who are buying it what they want.
Passionistas: [00:26:46] We're Amy Nancy Harrington and you're listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Elle Johnson. Check out Elle's work on the TV series Bosch on Amazon.com, Now here's more of our conversation with Elle.
What challenges do you feel like you've faced as a woman and as a black woman in Hollywood?
Elle Johnson: [00:27:04] My experience as a woman of color writing in Hollywood has been I am... The reason I get in the room is because they're looking for a woman of color. They are specifically looking to fill that quota. They either feel like they have, there's a female character in the show so they're like oh we need a woman's perspective. There's a minority character in the show that they feel like they need that perspective and I kind of click off a couple of boxes for them. That's the reason that I get the first job usually. But then the reason that I get hired again by the same people is because I'm good. Yes I feel like that in a weird way, it's you know it feels like okay, maybe I'm being hired for something that seems like well it's limiting. But once they get in the door it's like I realized that my responsibility is to prove that I can write the show and write it really well. And also bring a perspective that people might not have. I know some writers feel like oh you don't want to be that person in the room where you're always pitching the black story or their gender story. And I feel the opposite way I feel like that's my responsibility. It's my... because nobody else is going to tell those stories. People are not... and I understand that to a degree when you're in a room and it's predominantly white men. They're not thinking from that perspective. So I have to bring that perspective. And always point out, "Hey there's another way of looking at this situation." Or you know this character has no life.
I've been in rooms where you know you have kind of the black female character. She's usually a lieutenant. An interesting thing kind of happens where you're on a show and they're staffing a show and people will realize that they they're not representing women or they're not. You know they want to have a person of color. And that and usually that person is usually delegated to like the lieutenant or somebody who's not there on the periphery there. They're there in a high position.
But you don't end up having to tell a lot of stories about them because they're not the main focus. I remember hearing someone joking about how if you watch television you would think that every judge in America is a black woman because that's what they cast because it's like, "oh right we need to put a black woman in here" or "we need to put a person of color." So they stick them into a role that you really don't get to see the full life of that person. There are a mouthpiece. You know they have a position of power but it's in terms of the story it's not really ever the main focus of the story. So I've been in situations and shows where you have the lieutenants or you know that that one character where it's like you don't go home with them. They seem to have no life. It's almost as though they only exist in the gaze of the main lead character who's usually a white man. And I feel like my job is to try to fill that character out. Like what do they do when they go home.
I've been on shows where I've said, "If this character for our Christmas episode ends up having Christmas with the main character because they have no family or friends I'm going to slash my wrists." Like this is completely ridiculous. This person has loved ones. They have friends. They have a life outside of this office. Please do not make them show up at somebody else's Christmas. Let's give them a life. And let's make a bigger story for them. So I feel like that is part of my job. To fill out the world of these other characters and say you know there's more going on with them than just the job. Let's do for these characters as we do for all the other characters.
Passionistas: [00:30:54] Do you have a mantra that you live by?
Elle Johnson: [00:30:57] Over the years I have had several mantras. It's really interesting that you ask that because I I'm a person who likes to make New Year's resolutions. So I like I love the holidays. I love December because I start to close out the year mentally and reflect on what I've done and start to think about what I'm going to do next year. And project into the next year. And over the course of my career, particularly when I first started out, I would come up with these mantras that I'd be like okay this is the mantra for the year going forward. And I remember one of my earlier ones was "You know it you must do. It's inside of you for a reason. Don't deny yourself any longer." And I would say that to myself every day. Like I'd wake up and be like "OK. You know what you must do. It's Inside of you for a reason. Don't deny yourself any longer." And that's how I kind of got myself to be a writer.
And one of my other mantras was it had to do with... "There's magic in the ether. You can do whatever you want. And you're responsible for whatever you have or don't have." But I love the idea of you know sometimes you look at a situation you look at like how do I become a television writer? How do I do this? How do people do this? And for me it was there's magic in the ether. You just got to go for the magic. There's there's something out there, I don't know, I can't explain how it happens but I'm going to believe that there's magic in the ether. And I'm going to make it happen somehow.
Right now it's you know December I'm kind of trying to figure out what my mantra for the year going forward is. Two years ago my mantra was "This is the year that you're going to fail at everything. And I decided that I was just going to start swinging hard. I knew I was going to fail. This is the year that you can make mistakes. You're going to fail. You're going to fall on your face and it's OK. But you got to take those big swings, big risks for big rewards. So my mantra was "This is the year that you fail at everything." And I really approached it as just try to try and allow yourself to fail miserably and see what happens.
Passionistas: [00:33:18] How did it turn out?
Elle Johnson: [00:33:18] It was great. You know, that was a year when I believe I had started pitching pilots for the first time. And I sold a pilot like my first time out it was an amazing experience. But I was willing to fail. And that was also one of the things that someone had said to me early on in my career when I first moved out to Los Angeles from New York he said you have to gamble Vegas style. You've picked something that you know it's impossible. There's no reason why you should succeed at this. So you're already gambling. So if you're going to gamble don't do scratch off if you're going to gamble gamble all of it. All of it go all end. Gamble Vegas style. And I was like You're right that's how you do it just go all in. There's no plan B. This is working. I'm spending everything on the table and that mindset of like this has to work because what else I going to do that works.
Passionistas: [00:34:24] So the journey so far what do you consider the most courageous thing you did?
Elle Johnson: [00:34:29] Moving out to L.A. I know I was... I'm a born and bred New Yorker... Didn't learn to drive 'til I was 21. The idea of having to come to a city where I owned a car and car insurance that alone was like, "How do people do that? What is that? I don't understand that. There's no subway? How will I exist here?" So the decision to leave my life in New York which included a boyfriend who was a neurosurgeon and African-American. My mother wanted to kill me like that relationship. I ended that relationship because I realized I that wasn't my life. I had to try this. I had to come out to L.A. and my parents were not supportive at all. They like you're insane you're ruining your life. We're watching you ruin your life and getting on a plane and coming out to sleep on somebody's couch with no job. And I'm like I'm just going to get a day job and trying right.
Passionistas: [00:35:38] Worked out okay.
Elle Johnson: [00:35:38] Yeah it worked. It worked out. Yes.
Passionistas: [00:35:42] Have you ever thought of quitting?
Elle Johnson: [00:35:45] No. Once I started it was like I'm doing this. This is you know I tell people who young writers who are coming up like, "Don't get out of line. Once you're in line don't get out of line because the person behind you is going to take your spot. You're going to move up. Just stay in line and keep doing what you're doing. You only fail when you stop trying. So just don't stop trying. It's still trying. You're still you can still do it. Keep stay in line and keep doing what you're doing."
Passionistas: [00:36:16] What's your secret to a rewarding life?
Elle Johnson: [00:36:19] Secret to a rewarding life is finding a way somehow to do what I want to do which is write. Finding a way to tell my stories and within my career early on I realized that I had to learn craft to get on shows that would challenge me even if it wasn't exactly the type of show that I wanted to write. Finding a way to express myself and to learn craft and really write well. So that now, 20 years in, I'm at a place where I kind of look around and not that I can pick and choose but that I can be more selective in terms of the things that I do. So you know as I get older I just realizing you only had a limited time and what do you want to spend time doing taking shows that maybe have fewer episodes but you love the material.
This last year I've been an Executive Producer on Bosche which is a dream job. A show that I love. It's just writing about L.A. Writing about cops in L.A. Writing the Harry Bosch character. Getting to work with Michael Connelly who's in our room is an amazing experience. And working with Eric Overmeyer again who was the showrunner who brought me on. It just it was an incredible experience.
But I only did half a year this year so that I could work on another show... Helped develop another show about Madame C.J. Walker. Which is she was the first African American millionaire in the late 1800s early 1800s. And telling her story of how she created an empire of haircare products for black women. It's just such an amazing story and I had to do it. I've really wanted to work on this show. The only way I could do it was if I spent half of my time on Bosch and the other half working on this show.
So I was co-running it with a woman named Janine Sherman Barrois, who runs a show called Claws. We were both in our writers room she was on Claws. I was on Bosch during the day. At 5 o'clock, we meet and start a second writers room to break the Madam C.J. story. But we were both so passionate about this story and the woman who created it. Nicole Jefferson Asher was this incredible feature film independent film writer. So the three of us were kind of like working on other projects full time and then coming together in the evenings to break the story because we wanted to. It's like I want to do this and that's what makes me happy even though it was like you know you're working until 10:00 at night doing two shows at the same time. But we were so passionate about the material and that's what makes me happy. Being able to work on stories tell stories that I want to tell. And incredibly like it having no time at all somehow you figure out how to fit it all in because you just you have to tell these stories.
Passionistas: [00:39:23] What's your definition of success?
Elle Johnson: [00:39:25] My definition of success is being happy. Being happy doing what you're doing. Being satisfied and being able to pursue something that is of interest and value to you. That's my definition of success.
Passionistas: [00:39:42] Thanks for listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Elle Johnson. Check out Elle's work on the TV series Bosch on Amazon.com. And be sure to subscribe to the Passionistas Project Podcast so you don't miss any of our upcoming, inspiring guests.