Tag Archives: Constantine

Interview: Sneha Koorse #SundayGuardian #Writer #TheAmericans

Note: This interview was taken by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor The Sunday Guardian. An edited version of the interview can be found here: https://goo.gl/2o1DrX.

‘I excel at writing torture scenes’

It is now a well-established fact that Indian American actors, from Kunal Nayyar in The Big Bang Theory to Mindy Kaling in The Mindy Project, are making a splash on American TV. But over the past few years, some Indian writers have slowly climbing their way to the top of the Hollywood ladder and it’s not an uncommon sight today to see Indian names in the ‘Written by’ credits of a TV series. From Luvh Rakhe in The New Girl to Vali Chandrasekaran in Modern Family, Indian origin writers are becoming a familiar part of the TV scene.

One of the youngest such writers, 29-year-old Sneha Koorse, has a CV that would be the envy of most writers. In the few years since she graduated from the University of Southern California, she’s won the prestigious Slamdance Film Festival Writing Competition, worked with legendary writer-directors like JJ Abrams (Star Trek) and Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) on the show, Believe; written on the critically acclaimed FX show, The Americans, and is currently working with The Dark Knight writer, David S. Goyer on a DC Comics show, Constantine. In a Google Hangout interview, Sneha gives the dirt on what it is like working as a writer in Hollywood.

How do you get a job on a DC Comics show? One would imagine you’d have to pass a geek test before it!
We are all geeks in our own way. It wasn’t so much about being a comic book geek, but being able to appreciate the character and what stories of our own we could tell with this particular character. We have a good mix of people, some of whom read all the Hellblazers back when they came out, others who were just being introduced to the character and comics. It’s good to have a variety of perspectives.

Is it easy to write for a fan favourite comic book like Constantine? Especially one that is even more fantastical than other comic books.
Some of the comic issues are really best suited for the comic book format and aren’t easily adaptable to television. Some issues are so fantastical – like tripping through different dimensions and all that – it might not feel grounded on a series. But the issues are all incredibly imaginative, and the writers have created this great character that you just want to spend time with. The challenge is in taking this uniquely appealing character and finding a story structure that fits the television format.

You’ve worked on Constantine with writing legend David S. Goyer. Earlier, you’ve worked with JJ Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron. What have you picked up from these greats?
They are all legends and so different from one another! What they all have are strong points of view. I think that’s the biggest thing. Having a vision and being able to communicate that vision with confidence. The idea-generating part of their brains is also very strong. It’s like a muscle that has been strengthened with years of practice.

Sneha Koorse
Sneha Koorse

The other common theme in your career seems to be that you’ve only worked on gritty shows. What’s the fascination with the darker side of things?
(Laughs) I am a very happy person so I wouldn’t say that’s come from anything I have experienced in my life. But I’ve always been fascinated by why human beings are bad and what are the emotions behind them doing something ‘evil’. I’ve always been curious to try and understand them. I have also always been attracted to things where the stakes are raised to life and death. For example, In The Americans, the fact that any decision the lead characters take could lead to death is more interesting to me than a break up (smiles).

The Americans was the first major TV series you were hired for. How did you manage to start your career with a niche cable series, which area far harder to break into?
I had written a bunch of stuff – some feature length scripts, some TV pilots, episodes of Homeland and Breaking Bad – that I applied to the showrunners with. But I think it all comes down to being in a room with them and connecting to them as a writer. Although my interview with them was over the phone, I think when you are speaking to another writer and if you are passionate about being a writer and about the subject matter, they can see that. They can see that writing means something to you.

I think what worked for me was the fact that I was an immigrant and that my parents had an arranged marriage just like the Russian spies in The Americans. In it, the lead characters fall in love after 17 years of arranged marriage. And the fact that I wasn’t from this culture really helped me. Funnily, I have contributed more in terms of the action on the show, because I love writing action. I also somewhat excel in writing torture scenes, which has kind of become a joke now (laughs).

In The Americans, the fact that you are an immigrant worked in your favour. But as a female writer and as an Indian-origin writer in an industry predominantly dominated by white males, did you face a tough time breaking in before this show?
For Believe, the room was about 50% females because the show creator Mark Friedman wanted a strong female perspective for our young female lead. And on Constantine, there are several diverse writers regardless of quota or subject matter. It seems to be about the writing. Every show is different. And you just hope that your show runner is smart, socially aware, and seeking perspectives other than his or her own. I’ve been lucky, as far as who has hired me.

So would you say that Hollywood is now embracing change when it comes to diversity in the writers room?
I would say, yes and no. You know, you can count the number of female showrunners in Hollywood – Meredith Stiehm of The Bridge, Ann Biderman of Ray Donovan, Jenji Cohen of Orange is the New Black, Mindy Kaling. It’s still some time to go before there is balance between white male-dominated rooms and diverse rooms. The thing is that white writers have traditionally tried to work with friends so they can sort of have a room where they can be unapologetic, and don’t have to be politically correct or be aware of women in the room. When there is another perspective they can’t be who they are. It’s been a boys club so they are just more comfortable making jokes and not having to be diplomatic. But that’s changing because there is now a drive to hire more female writers and more writers of colour. Of course, if you are not a good writer you will not be able to stand the test of time.

Do you think such drives of diversity quotas are a good sign for writers? Doesn’t it mean we are still not at the point where great writers would be hired irrespective of the colour of their skin?
I think it’s complicated. I think quotas still exist because they’re still needed in a predominantly white male industry. People tend to hire who they know. However, people are also more accepting that diversity provides the kind of perspective needed for complex writing. The great thing about television right now is that there are so many niche markets that these diverse perspectives can take center stage.

So ever plan on writing or making anything in India?
Definitely. India is a rich setting for stories. I have some stories set there, but with some American characters as well. A clash between the two cultures, or any story that involves an interweaving of the two cultures, would best represent me, since I’ve grown up in the U.S. but I’m still connected to my Indian heritage. If I was ever to write an epic, maybe I would look to a Bollywood film. They’re sprawling stories!

What would you say has been your ‘Hollywood moment’ so far?
I’m not sure I would call it a “Hollywood moment” because it wasn’t this big glamorous thing, but it was a very proud moment — when my first episode of television aired, I had a group of my close writer friends in Los Angeles gathered at a friend’s place to watch it. When my “Written by” credit appeared on screen, we paused the show and they snapped photos of me standing next to my credit, a big smile on my face. It was a special moment, I think for all of us, because it’s a challenging thing to achieve, that first credit. But we’re all in the fight together, so when one of us “makes it” it’s a victory for the team. We all root for each other and look forward to those moments in all our careers.
Liked/disliked the interview? Leave comments below! 🙂
Note: An edited version of this article first appeared in The Sunday Guardian in the January 31, 2015 issue.
Link: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/sneha-koorse-i-excel-at-writing-torture-scenes
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.


Small Goes Big: Superheroes on TV! #SundayGuardian #Column #TV

Weekly column by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) for The Sunday Guardian. Original article: http://goo.gl/2MSlmS

You may have heard that DC Comics and Marvel have locked down a total of 30 release dates over the next six years, right up to 2020, for the their upcoming planned comic book hero adaptations on the big screen, which include Avengers movies, Justice League movies, Guardians of the Galaxy movies and Fantastic Four movies. Add the X Men movies and the Spiderman movies to this roster, and you have around 40 superhero movies to look forward to (or escape from) in the coming years.

And if you thought that you could avoid this assault by altogether barring movie theatres from your lives, guess what? There are over 15 TV adaptations of comic books in the offing, and three of the biggest ones launch this fall season, starting from September. Wait… did I make all of this sound like this was bad news? Because, OH MY GOD, this is FREAKING AWESOME!

There are already two major superhero shows currently on TV, DC Comics’ Arrow and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, both of which return for their next seasons in October. But things are going to get *massive* this year with three mega shows (and a fourth in January) that will considerably expand the DC and Marvel shared universes on TV and possibly be the BEST THING EVER.

  1. Gotham (DC Comics): Gotham is the prequel to Batman and will feature the origin stories (of the origin story) of heroes and villains of the town where s**t’s been going down since ages now. The show will follow a young detective James Gordon, as he tries to solve the twin murders of 10 year old Bruce Wayne’s parents Thomas and Martha Wayne, and encounters villains like the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman and Poison Ivy, just as they started to go batshit crazy. Epicness is guaranteed.
  2. The Flash (DC Comics): A young Flash will rise and discover his superhuman speed and strength this fall in Central City, not far away from Starling City, where the green-masked Arrow has been fighting crime for two seasons now. The buzz around The Flash is tremendous, thanks to a leaked pilot that went viral over the internet. We may or may not have seen that leaked pilot depending on who’s reading, but we can definitely confirm that it’s AWESOME.
  3. Constantine (DC Comics): While Constantine may not be the hottest comic book property because of the sins committed by its 2005 big screen adaptation, the upcoming TV series is developed by The Dark Knight trilogy writer David S. Goyer, stars a British actor in the lead and falls in the action horror genre, which is a TV favourite these days (The Walking Dead, Sleepy Hollow, etc), so there are full chances that the show may break out into a huge hit.

While DC consolidates its foothold in TV, Marvel will be trying the same come January, with the premiere of Agent Carter, starring Hayley Atwell, who’ll be reprising her role as Peggy Carter from 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger and the badass Marvel one-shot short film, which is available on YouTube and is a *must* watch.

And if you think Marvel’s been slow to the party, wait for Daredevil in 2015, which will premiere on Netflix, and be the first in a series of four superhero TV shows, that will lead up to a superhero team-up miniseries, The Defenders, which will be much like The Avengers, but on the small screen. And at the moment, we’ve only discussed DC and Marvel – there are many more shows from many other comic books coming too.  The small screen is never going to be small again!

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Note: An edited version of this article first appeared in The Sunday Guardian in the September 13, 2014 issue.
Link: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/superheroes-take-over-the-small-screen

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.