Power Producer: Greg Berlanti, Hollywood's Busiest Man
For TV Guide Magazine's first-ever Power Issue, the staff looked at the juggernauts dominating TV, from events to franchises to actors, producers, and other multihyphenates in show business. Here, we take a look at TV's latest Power Producer. Plus, read how Bradley Bell made The Bold & the Beautiful a must-watch soap.
With five shows on the air (Arrow, Blindspot, The Flash, The Mysteries of Laura and Supergirl), one set for midseason (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) and at least two more in development (see “To-Do List” below), Greg Berlanti is either the hardest-working man in television, a member of a clone army intent on taking over Hollywood or a cyborg that doesn’t need sleep. “I actually wake up around 5 am and do the creative stuff first because my brain is so fresh,” laughs the youthful 43-year-old, adding that he typically follows his predawn work with a trip to the gym—“from, like, 8:30 to 10 am”—before heading to one of his two Burbank offices, at Warner Bros. or NBC.
Feel like a sloth yet? Well, get ready to, because we got a look at a week in Berlanti’s life and his schedule is more heroic than Oliver Queen, Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El combined. Not that he doesn’t go a little rogue. “The one thing I allow myself is to figure out things on the day of,” explains the busy Berlanti, who started as a writer on Dawson’s Creek in the late ’90s. “I list all the stuff that I have to get done that day, and then I just make up the order that I want to do it in, so things stay a little more creative.”
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After screening a cut of Supergirl’s sixth episode and hashing out potential story ideas for Episode 12, Berlanti meets with his fellow Flash exec producer Andrew Kreisberg about the sophomore hit’s 11th and 12th hours. Then it’s off to a party on the Warner Bros. lot, where posters of Supergirl’s Melissa Benoist and the stars of his other DC Comics-based shows (plus Gotham) are unveiled on the studio’s iconic water tower. “This was really special,” he says.
The day’s first meeting is with Arrow showrunners Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle, who present their plans for the show’s post-holiday return. But first, there’s the upcoming midseason finale, which Berlanti suspects “people are gonna be mad” about for how it leaves things. “You’ll definitely get a cliffhanger about who it could end up being in that grave from the [flash-forward scene in the] season premiere.” Following lunch with old pal and The CW prez Mark Pedowitz, the Arrow-Flash spinoff DC’s Legends of Tomorrow takes priority. “We’re going to be turning in the pilot in a couple of weeks, so I’m starting to work on the rough cuts,” Berlanti says.
Hump Day means finalizing the effects for Legends’ pilot, including a major piece that may be linked to time traveler Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill). “I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this since no one has revealed anything for that show yet, but there is a ship,” hints Berlanti, who also has to call up Mysteries of Laura’s New York-based showrunner, Jeff Rake, for a hands-off check-in. “There are a lot of [producers] who change stuff just to change it, and that’s really not my thing, so I just try to be helpful.”
Berlanti meets with The Flash writers to come up with a supersize storyline for 2016 before getting more Arrow intel from Guggenheim and Mericle. He proudly notes that Mericle began as a script coordinator on his short-lived WB series Jack & Bobby. “It’s been amazing to see her rise.” If he’s lucky, Berlanti will make it to a spin class, although yoga is his real jam. “That’s my favorite,” says the 20-year practitioner. “I should be a lot better at it than I am!”
A powwow with Blindspot’s “genius” showrunner, Martin Gero, leaves Berlanti excited about the thriller’s upcoming run of episodes. (Less than three weeks later, NBC picks up the series for a second season; it’s the first new show of the fall to get a renewal.) Berlanti’s long day—and week—won’t be over until after a gala for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Glamorous? Maybe. Exhausting? Definitely. “My favorite thing to do on Friday night is just go get a late bite to eat and then go home and crash.”
In case Berlanti gets bored in 2016, he has also teamed with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the chief creative officer of Archie Comics, on a pair of pilots in development: Brides, a Brides of Dracula retelling set up at NBC, and Riverdale, The CW’s moody take on the Archie and Jughead gang. “I’m so excited about [Riverdale],” says Berlanti. “The script is very contemporary.”