Welcome back for the third and final segment of my interview with Arrow showrunner Beth Schwartz! (If you missed parts 1 and 2, definitely check them out!) In this part, we talk about how Beth stays grounded and inspired, what it’s like running a show while pregnant (yep!), and her advice for writers working to break in. Here we go!
I saw you tweet that your husband was directing an episode of The Flash. How long have you known him?
I’ve known him for almost five years, and we just got married (last year)
Thank you! And now we’re pregnant. Everyone here makes fun of me because, “you’ve taken care of all of your big life things – you’re very efficient, you’ve had them all in one year!”
You must be very good at handling stress.
I think it’s that I don’t have time. I don’t really get super stressed out because I don’t have time to get stressed out. So I just sort of had to keep moving forward.
So yes, he directed a Flash episode – he’s a director/writer. I’m a writer – NOT a director. I definitely don’t want to direct.
Have you ever wanted to act?
No…I mean, when I was little I did, I was in theatre – I LOVE theatre. I was never good at it, I just liked being a part of it all. If I were ever to direct, I would love to direct a play because I love theatre life SO much.
So this may be a bit of a different question now that you’re pregnant, but what do you do to keep yourself grounded – mentally and physically healthy, etc?
I think before I was pregnant I didn’t really think about that stuff because your selfcare is not as important as working. But when you’re pregnant, and you’re growing a human, that human sort of trumps everything. My assistant has definitely been the one to make sure that if I needed to take a nap in the middle of the day, or have the right foods, I got it. And the staff has been so supportive. If I feel like I’m doing too much, I’ll go home early and work from home. So definitely – being pregnant and showrunning is different than not being pregnant and showrunning.
Yeah, you’re working in more of a deficit.
Yeah. But it was funny because before I was pregnant, I was leading up to my wedding.
Okay, so before you were getting married and pregnant and you had those 4 weeks off a year, how would you spend them in order to refresh and step away from the show?
I would go on amazing vacations. I need to get out of the city, to detach my brain from anything Arrow or any sort of work. I would try to not write at all, unless I felt I was inspired by something that was totally my own thing, and just an idea. Every aspiring writer wants to become a professional writer, but then when you become one, it turns into work. So then you have to balance finding the creative aspects that took you to the place to become a writer, otherwise it can ruin it for you, if that makes sense.
Oh yes, 100 percent.
It becomes a job. And that can be very dangerous, because then you can lose the passion and creativity. So that’s a time for me to recharge and see the world, read books that I never get a chance to, and maybe watch some shows that inspire me so when I come back for the new season, I’m completely refreshed with new ideas and life experiences. Because that’s the other thing – when you’re working all the time, you experience a lot of your office and the writers room. What inspires me to write is meeting new people, being in different cultures in different countries. And you don’t always have time for that. I encourage everyone to travel and to take that time to just enjoy your life, because that’s what makes you a better writer.
What do you prefer to read when you’re staffing newer writers? Spec episodes or Original pilots?
I’ve only read original pilots. I wouldn’t be opposed to reading someone who had a spec of another show, it just didn’t come up when I was staffing. I think a good script is a good script. Whatever they think is their best sample, I’ll read.
What is your advice for new writers working to break in – who have the materials and are truly ready, but maybe don’t have rep – and don’t feel they can look for rep until the WGA/ATA negotiations shake out?
All I can speak of is from my experience. I started as an assistant, and that’s how I grew, and I still think that’s the best way to do it. Most up and coming writers would be in the same position, even without the agency drama that is going on right now, because it’s hard to get an agent.
I’ve heard that most writers get repped after they get their first job anyway.
Yep. Although, even if you had an agent, it’s still so hard to get your first job because most people promote their assistants, or they know someone, or they worked with someone else on a different show and they’ll bring them over. So you just have to keep going – you have to be talented, but it’s a lot of luck, getting that first job. It’s knowing the right people – you just have to keep trying.
Your show has a lot of tech stuff in it – do any of your writers have backgrounds in computer programming or government agencies or anything?
We actually don’t – but our staff is really good with tech language.
I ask, because I have a neuroscience degree and I would love to work on a show that had a medical or scientific research bent.
Yeah, those kinds of things are assets for new writers. If you were a former lawyer or had some sort of specialty area that is helpful for the show, that’s a really good way to break in because as a lower-level staff, that’s an asset that separates you from someone else.
You just signed an overall deal with Warner Brothers – congrats!
Do you already have projects in the works?
Definitely not, since I’m still on Arrow full-time. I’ve always wanted to create my own show, so I’m super excited about that. I care about creating interesting characters and putting them in a unique world. My taste is all over the place. What all the shows that I like have in common is incredible characters.
What are you watching? Any current TV you’re a superfan of?
I cannot wait for Game of Thrones, I can’t believe it’s their last season. There are so many shows doing their last seasons this year! It’s sad.
I’m also watching Veep right now. Barry is another favorite of mine. I’m watching Good Trouble, which is on the other side of the spectrum. It’s a Freeform show that a couple of us in the office are really liking.
I watched Umbrella Academy, which I thought was really good. Oh, I was sick for like a week and I binged Shrill. I like the half-hour dark stuff, and I like one hour a mixture of genre and soap.
What’s inspiring you these days? (entertainment industry-related or not)
My pregnancy. It was kind of funny, the timing, because we knew Felicity was going to be pregnant WAY before I knew I was going to be pregnant. But it just happened that when I found out I was pregnant was around the same time I was writing about Felicity finding out she was pregnant. So there are a lot of fun nods and jokes to pregnancy with Felicity that my staff wrote about me. There’s certain, little tiny things in there that they’ve seen me go through that they put in the script.
Even more specific pieces of you in the show.
Yeah, and Felicity is just one of those characters – I’ve always related to her, even though I’m not a tech person and I’m not a superhero. But her voice – saying the wrong thing, and kinda babbling, and just a little silly, and sticking up for herself and being a strong female – I’ve always related to that character, so the fact that we shared our pregnancy together was a nice surprise.
That’s super cool. Could you speak more about what it means to be a working writer and showrunner while pregnant?
It has felt very empowering to be the boss and be super pregnant, and people being like, “Whoa, how can you do your job and be pregnant?” And that’s also something we carried through for Felicity, in terms of – she’s still kicking ass and she’s still doing her job, just like I’m still doing that in my real life. It’s definitely more challenging because physically, you’re not the same. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean your life has to stop. And there’s something kind of cool about being a very pregnant woman and being the boss at the same time.
I hope that that inspires. I didn’t know that that was a possibility, because I feel like when you’re pregnant a lot of writers take time off because they feel like they’re not going to get support or they’re not going to be able to do it, or whatever their reasons are. I also felt that way in the beginning and was completely supported by Greg when I told him, and it’s been great.
It’s been really inspiring having that huge support, which is probably more rare in the workplace. I feel very lucky.