Lisa Joy, showrunner of “Westworld” and “The Peripheral,” says the Writers’ Guild of America is “acting for [writers’] collective good” in its negotiations with studios, even if it could potentially lead to a strike in May.
Joy, who runs production company Kilter Films, is being honored at French TV drama festival Series Mania this week. She took part in a keynote conversation on Wednesday, at which she quipped that a strike will mean “more time with my kids.”
“It’s a little stressful because I’ve reached a point where I can manage without work for a while,” said Joy. “As it is, we have shows coming out and we’re in the editing process. We have a rotation of shows that aren’t dependent on writing at the phase they’re in. But I always stand by the decision of the Writers’ Guild — I know they’re acting for our collective good.”
Joy pointed out that America’s lack of universal healthcare or a social safety net deeply impacts writers that are coming up in the industry.
“I remember struggling to make it in Hollywood and worrying about all the basic needs,” she said. “Even if you’re lucky enough to get staffed on a show, there’s no guarantee that if that show ends you can get another job immediately. It’s very stressful. The Writers’ Guild is working to make it possible for writers at all levels to support themselves. It’s incredibly important.”
Nonetheless, Joy admitted that it is “scary” for writers and others in the industry “because it means a work stoppage for a while, which affects work down the line.”
Added Joy: “There is a result that we’ll get to, so let’s get to it quick.”
The WGA held its first bargaining session on Monday with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Talks will continue for the next two weeks before the guild reports back to members on next steps and a potential strike. The contract expires on May 1.
In the 35-minute keynote, Joy mused on her love of Greek mythology, and how it influenced her interests as a writer. Some of that mythology is certainly reflected in Joy and co-showrunner Jonathan Nolan’s sci-fi drama “Westworld,” which ran on HBO for four seasons before being abruptly canceled in late 2022. The show was subsequently removed from streaming service HBO Max and sold to ad-supported platforms Roku and Tubi — one of the most high-profile AVOD deals for a premium show.
Joy was coy about whether HBO, given the wider growing pains of Warner Bros. Discovery, would commission “Westworld” today. However, she noted that the show is in fact even more topical than ever.
“The issues ‘Westworld’ was exploring, it was sci-fi when we started and now it’s a documentary film, with AI,” said Joy. “These issues are more relevant today. These topics will continue to be explored, if not in ‘Westworld’ then in other series. So I do think it’s an area that’s rife with possibility.”
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