Writer and Director Greg Berlanti Talks Up His Latest Film: Life As We Know It

It seems that Greg Berlanti may be the most successful gay writer-director-producer you don't know. With six network TV shows and a feature film under his belt in just nine years, -- such as Brothers & Sisters, Everwood and Dawson's Creek --  Berlanti returns to the big screen.

I met with the very handsome and charming 38-year-old director at the Four Seasons Hotel to

Thumbnail image for GregBLargeImageBox.jpg

discuss his latest film, Life as We Know It - a romantic comedy-drama with Katherine Hiegl and Josh Duhamel. He is writing and executive producing ABC's No Ordinary Family as well as producing the big-screen adaptation of Green Lantern while working on a screenplay for a film about another DC Comics icon, the Flash. And, Berlanti is still the executive producer on the ABC drama Brothers & Sisters and has at least six other feature films in various stages of development; it's understatement to say that this man is quite busy.

From the unconventional springboard of a hit gay movie, 2000's The Broken Hearts Club, which he wrote and directed at the age of 26, Berlanti's ascent has been rapid. The following year he became executive producer of teen drama sensation Dawson's Creek and signed a multimillion-dollar three-year contract with the WB under which he created Everwood and Jack & Bobby. After signing another multimillion-dollar deal with ABC in 2006, the 35-year-old is now the mastermind of three of the most talked-about dramas on television: Brothers & Sisters, Dirty Sexy Money, and Eli Stone.

Berlanti wrote and directed the Broken Hearts Club and he admits that it was a semiautobiographical ensemble piece in 2000, making it the first major studio-produced movie with all gay characters in 30 years--since 1970's seminal The Boys in the Band.

"By the time I'd shown the Broken Hearts script to Kevin, I'd had all these meetings with people who would go, 'I loved your script, but could it be all women?' or 'Can it be about a bunch of straight guys and one of them is gay?' I decided I'd rather it just be what it was, and if it ever got made, it got made, and if it didn't, it didn't. It was the first script that got me work, so I was sort of too grateful to it to fuck with it."

Its fair to say that Berlanti has spent the past decade as a driving
creative force behind some of the most compelling and LGBT-inclusive TV
programs in history. Gay careers and story lines now thrive on TV more
than any other medium. Five of the top 10 Nielsen-ranked shows in a
recent period had recurring gay characters or hosts. And openly gay
network presidents include Showtime's Bob Greenblatt, the Disney Channel's Rich Ross, and MTV Networks' Brian Graden. Though well-deserved plaudits often go to executive producers and writers like The L Word's Ilene Chaiken and Six Feet Under's Alan Ball for breaking queer-content boundaries on premium-cable TV, Berlanti was there first -- and on broadcast television to boot.

The
film "Life as We Know It" is an opposites-attract tale in which two
people who instantly dislike each other are united to care for the baby
daughter of their deceased best friends. The plot is definitely
something I've never seen before.

"Their is lots of comedy in it
and lots of drama in it.I think its both. Its disarming in that way.
And, I liked the combindation that it wasn't jsut a baby movie and it
wasn't just a romantic comedy."

He says that from a pile of
scripts he chose Life. But, it was Katherine Heigl  (already attached
as star and executive producer, she had director approval) who lobbied
for Berlanti to direct.

"He is a really seasoned, fantastic writer, and I knew he could bring that experience to the table," she told Advocate magazine. "I think he has a great sensibility for honest, grounded relationships."

Berlanti got his start in the business while attending Northwestern University when a friend passed along his screenplay to Kevin Williamson,
creator of the Scream franchise and whose Dawson's Creek series was
about to debut. Williamson hired Berlantis as a staff writer for
Dawson's second season, and the rest is history. Acclaimed series like
Jack & Bobby, Everwood, Brothers & Sisters, and Dirty Sexy
Money followed.

This fall will bring the premiere of Berlanti's
latest, No Ordinary Family, a weekly series about a family who emerge
with superpowers after their plane crashes into the Amazon. The series
is in some ways a departure for Berlanti, yet the fantastic element is
a natural fit for the comic book fanatic. 

"They're soap
operas for boys," he says of the appeal of superheroes and comic books.
And as a gay man, he identifies with the stories. "So many superheroes
are of this world - but not. There's a real hint of melancholy that no
matter what you do, you can save this world and you'll still never
totally be a part of it," he says. "You'll always be one step removed."

What
does Berlanti do for fun? He says when he does have a day off he enjoys
hanging out with his boyfriend of five years, Brian Young, who
coincidentally has launched his own career as a staff writer on another
Kevin Williamson program, The Vampire Diaries.

Something tells me, we're going to be seeing a lot more of Berlanti in the upcoming years.

Leave a comment