Peter and Liam Neeson (guest-voicing as himself) in the 250th episode of Family Guy, written by Jaydi Samuels.
My first day in the Family Guy writers’ room was hard. Not because of all the boners that likely popped up from my presence, but because I was viewed as an assistant there. For the last three years, I was the girl who reminded Seth MacFarlane about his appointments, not the comedy writer who would build the bones of what would eventually become Family Guy’s 250th episode.
So was it blind luck that brought me here, a specific game-plan that would inevitably make me the Aaron Sorkin of fart jokes, or a combination of the two? To answer that, I bring you back to late 2007, when my friends and I were picketing during the writers’ strike with the likes of Diablo Cody and Denzel Washington. We were seniors set to graduate from USC’s Writing for Screen and Television program, a department statistically harder to get into than Harvard, and our future looked grim. The industry we spent years dreaming of breaking into was now broken.
While writers sought a more equitable share of studio profits, film and television production came to a halt. As future members of the Writers Guild, my friends and I determined that cutting classes to picket with our comrades and make screamy faces like the girl from The Ring was of the utmost importance; however, I never could have anticipated being at Fox Plaza on the day that Seth MacFarlane gave a speech about screenwriters deserving fair royalties for their work, and how they should pay their assistants (whom the studios had laid off) during the strike if they could afford to. I remember thinking, Wow, I bet working for that guy would be pretty cool.
But after graduating USC in 2008, I had no contacts in television. So, in a move I hoped was more resourceful than creepy, I looked up every scripted show in production on IMDb and cross-referenced names of crew members with their accounts on Facebook. I direct-messaged everyone I could find, detailing my background and claiming I would do almost anything to get onto their show.
Many messages went unanswered, but Jill Soloway (creator of Transparent, who had sold a pilot back then) agreed to read my writing samples, and Kenya Barris (creator of black-ish, then a producer for The Game) encouraged me to send my résumé. As luck would have it, a production assistant who was planning to leave Family Guy also heard my plea, and passed my résumé on to the producers on his way out the door. I was interviewed and hired two days later.
After two years on the show (I was later promoted to production coordinator), Seth finally had an opening for an assistant position. Like Stewie on Family Guy, I plotted for how victory could be mine. I wrote Seth a letter detailing why I would make his perfect assistant and basically stalked him around the office until we were alone in the kitchen one day. I had heard the job was going to someone else and was determined for him to know directly why that would be a mistake. He read my letter (probably out of fear), and I was granted an interview the following week.
Since then, Seth has followed me on Twitter, where I’ve accrued over 10,000 followers; I’ve accompanied him on trips to places like San Diego for ComicCon, Boston for the Ted shoot, and London for one of his performances with the John Wilson Orchestra; I’ve had my own parking space at the Academy Awards; and I’ve appeared in Marie Claire magazine as one of “Hollywood’s Top Assistants.” But no opportunity can compare to the one Seth gave me recently to finally earn my first writing credit.
When I saw Seth speak at Fox Plaza, he reminded his audience that when Fox first picked up Family Guy, he was inexperienced, had no credibility, and was facing a lot of skeptics. That was my situation when I first stepped into his writers’ room — only Seth was not one of those skeptics. He believed in me, and that was why he called me up one day from the set of his 2014 comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West to inform me that I would be writing an episode of Family Guy later that season.
Writing for Peter, Lois, and the rest of the Griffin family was a dream, but I never imagined that my first writing credit would also include scripting dialogue for Liam Neeson. He was booked to guest-star in the episode, immediately inspiring several of our writers to start pitching jokes in Irish accents. We were all giddy because Liam was game to say any line we would put in front of him — that is, every line except, “I’ve been a world-famous tough guy since 56.” He added in the record booth that he was actually 55 when he shot Taken.
I hope you all tune in to Fox this Sunday at 9 p.m. to watch my name appear on the small screen for the first time — and again during reruns and online — so I can collect those nifty residual checks Seth and I picketed to collect!