They passed. The networks passed. It’s not an easy thing to admit or even to look at, written out like that, so buck-naked.
I pitched a half-hour comedy series, focused on the lives of three former sorority sisters, and the one woman who was rejected during rush, a decade after graduation, all living in the South. “Greek Tragedy” was a comedic look at rejection, with the tone of YaYa Sisterhood and Steel Magnolias meets Golden Girls and Designing Women. These women were “sisters,” and sisters will fight—they can whip out the biting insults and deliver a sad truth that’ll plant you on your ass—but in the end, they’ll see you through anything. It was a show with heart.
When we’re rejected, we question everything, and our confidence is rattled. Yet as universal as those feelings are, we all handle rejection so differently (and so did the characters of the show). “Greek Tragedy” explored how far each of us is willing to sacrifice our authenticity for likability, and ultimately how we emerge from the setbacks in our lives. It’s something we all live daily, something I know down to my bones and have faced so intimately.
An unspoken treat for fans: each character was based off a real God or Goddess from Greek mythology. I did for mythology what Clueless and Brigit Jones Diary did for Jane Austen’s Emma. I took weaver goddess Athena and turned her into a fashion reality contestant, the first to be unanimously “Auf’d,” landing her on her hands and knees, back with the women who’d shunned her years ago, now a seamstress at a dress shop, catering to privileged debutantes and momzillas. My version of foam-born Aphrodite? She was adopted from China, and being Asian, everyone assumed she’d be good at math, making her former sorority treasurer. Artemis/Diana, the huntress, became a female Simon Cowell, a child talent scout, hunting out girls at pageants and purity balls. In one scene, when asked if she’s ready, she responds with a mythic truth, “Shug, I was born ready, so ready that I helped my mama deliver my twin brother!” Apollo, her twin… I could go on, but that’s just the thing, I need to move on. I still dream about these characters. It’s hard to let go.
The pitch, at first, was far too long. I was told to bring it in at 20 minutes, which I’d done, but still, it felt far too long, weighed down in details. And that’s the feedback I received. It was too long, and my southern accent came off as mocking and cheesy. Okay, good note. I can work with that. I do actually listen to people. So I cut the pitch to 12 minutes, dropped the accent, and made it clear that I was enchanted with the South and had no intention of mocking it.
I also has great Producers. The kind of talent that have brought us some of the most successful movies and television but the concept and characters were my baby.
“It’s in the good Lord’s hands now.” It’s what my grandfather would say if he were here.
What’s hardest to swallow with this is that I followed my bliss. I left it all out on the field. Put my heart into it, all the way. The characters were real to me. I knew which woman would say which line. It’s so hard letting go of everything you’ve been working on. But this is the way it goes. I’ve gone through it before. When “Straight Up And Dirty” didn’t get picked up, it felt like a crash, a disappointment. I took a week, sulked, felt sorry for myself. But then I moved onto the next. And that is what makes you a success. It’s what shapes you. Just continue to follow your heart, do what brings you joy, and you’ll be fine in the end.
How we respond to these misses, these disappointments, letdowns, failures, is what defines who we are. It’s not the triumphs and taste of success that makes us; it’s how we emerge from the setbacks in our lives. What makes us successful is how fast, how confidently, we’re able to rebound in the face of heartache, maintaining the same enthusiasm, if not more, in the pursuit of happiness.
I wanted this so much. I still want it, the opportunity to create a world and see it come to life, to have a team of creative writers, coming up with really fun ideas, brainstorming, laughing, working too hard, drinking too much coffee. My whole body comes alive when I tell stories of this world, when there’s this idea of camaraderie, of a writers’ room. But maybe this is meant to be a solo journey.
I will, I’m sure of it, become known for a romantic comedy. I will write one, a Nora Ephron, Nancy Meyers of a Baby Boom Harry Met Sally film. It will happen. Of course it will. They need a new generation, a new Ron Howard and Rob Reiner. I’m the young female version. And why couldn’t I do it? I’m a good writer. Anything can be learned. You work hard enough, read enough scripts, and you CAN do it. You can, no matter what anyone says. You have the talent; you just need to keep breaking it in.
Still, I would kill for a female mentor. I want one more than anything.
I need help and time with story, to be able to bang ideas off smart people, funny people, and I’ll be fine. I also must trust my own sensibilities. I know what’s funny is what’s true. Those odd behaviors we have, when someone walks in on us in the bathroom, and WE apologize to them. Those truthful odd behaviors are what’s funny. Humans are funny to watch, the way we don’t want to admit we were awoken in the middle of the night. The way when Deborah Winger has a bird glued to her face in Forget Paris, she tries to act composed and civilized, anything not to cause a scene. But she has a pigeon glued to her face! THAT is funny because it’s true. That is what excites me.
Remember this, Klein: I don’t want to be told what I can be doing. I want to be excited about what I’m doing, to have to be pulled away from it, not steered toward it. I don’t want to work on anything that doesn’t keep me out past dark, playing hide and seek, not realizing it’s even time for supper. Because that’s the only kind of joy I want to be chasing. Everything else is filler.