Monday, November 12, 2007

How "Snap Back" came to be...

From TVguide, here is an interview with Golden Brooks, star and writer of this week's episode of 'Girlfriends' entitled "Snap Back".

Strike, strike, strike. No matter how hard we try to carry on like it's business as usual, we can't. Normally, this article would start with something like, "This is a big week for Golden Brooks, when 'Snap Back,' the Girlfriends episode she wrote about how Maya secretly deals with her miscarriage, finally airs." But when we called the actress to talk about her career mile-marker, we ended up discussing the more pressing show business at hand. The CW's Girlfriends airs Mondays at 9 pm/ET. Am I calling you in your trailer at work?
Golden Brooks: Yes. This is my last day. Thanks to the strike. Does Girlfriends have enough episodes to last through February sweeps?
Brooks: You mean in terms of what we shot? I think so, but it all depends on what they've edited. Because a lot of people have walked. But I think we should be good. Although I can't say for sure. Is it weird?
Brooks: It's very weird. I drove into the studio today and I felt so bad because all the strikers are there, right in front of the driveway that leads into our studio. It's serious. It's a really, really big deal. So no one's happy about it. Speaking of writing, you wrote tonight's episode, "Snap Back." Could you not work even if you wanted to because you've written an episode and now there's a strike?
Brooks: It's weird because I'm wearing two hats. But, no, I'm still here. I'm in the Writers Guild. But I am contracted here as an actor, so I have to finish my obligations. How'd you end up writing this week's episode?
Brooks: Mara Brock Akil, the creator and show-runner, asked me what I'd really love to do in the last season and I just said, "You know I love to write." I went to undergrad for theater and I went to graduate school for writing. So writing has always been something that I've done. Was this your first TV-script writing venture?
Brooks: This was my first TV script. I mean, I've written treatments for shows, short stories and poetry. But nothing that had to be so formulated like a sitcom. You know, you've got to set up the person's joke. Everything is very strategic. So it was pretty interesting. And it was good because I actually got to write the words that I would want Maya to say. When did you write it, and how long did it take?
Brooks: I started in July. With rewrites and everything, [it took] three weeks to a month. And it was like being back in college. Every day I'd come home and tell my boyfriend, "I can't go out tonight, I've got homework." How much did it change in rewrites? Did you have scenes axed because producers thought, "That's way out there"?
Brooks: They toned some things down and pumped some things up. But they kept my true voice, which was important. Give us an example of a scene we won't be seeing.
Brooks: There was a Monica-and-William scene that I loved. It was about two people thinking they're talking about the same thing, but they're really talking about something different. Monica was thinking that William was talking about the fact that she's fat. But William was talking about the fact that, after you have a baby, certain things happen to your anatomy. They switched it around. And I was kind of hurt. That's the thing that a lot of people don't know. Rewrites are kind of painful because it's like watching someone throw red paint all over something that you've painted.

TV What did you learn in the process?
Brooks: That in sitcoms, you really can't be too ethereal. You only have 22 minutes. So you really have very little time to get your point across in each scene and to make sure everyone has a voice. I also learned that you can't hang on to the words. "You're going to cut the 'the,' how can you cut 'the'?!" [Laughs] [The words] are your own, but you have to have a little bit of freedom and allow other people to have a voice in the story as well.

TV In this episode, Darnell discovers that Maya is using pharmaceuticals to help cope with the loss of the baby. Which drugs does she take and why did you decide to go that route?
Brooks: She's on a prescription drug from a doctor. It's not an antidepressant. It's more something that kind of gives you pep. Uppers. The studio didn't want us to actually name the drug because you can get into trouble — pharmaceutical companies, that kind of thing. So we kept it vague. But I also chose the arc for Maya to lose the baby, too. I pitched that to Mara and she loved it. Maya was so happy to have this baby. But miscarriage is a [growing] epidemic. And I thought, "How wonderful is it to explore what losing a baby does to someone? Does your sex life fail?" You kind of feel like a failure. Like you're not good enough. "What's wrong with my body that I couldn't do it?" There's a lot of self-reflection, and through that self-reflection Maya didn't want to deal. So I chose to have her numb the pain, if you will, with the medication. I tried to make something that probably wasn't so regular, regular. Do you think you'll write another episode this season?
Brooks: I don't know. With this strike... Oh, yeah. Strike.
Brooks: I know. It's OK. I keep forgetting, too. But then I'm like, "God, this is really happening. [Mara]'s not here. She's out there right now striking, picketing." It's a little bizarre. It's not an easy place to be in, but we're making the most of it. This is our last episode, then we shut down. We finished the last show that was already in preproduction before the strike. And we'll finish this one, and then we just get on our knees and pray. Isn't the cast more involved behind the scenes in general this season? Persia White's a music director. Tracee Ellis Ross is going to direct.
Brooks: Oh, that's another thing. Guess what episode Tracee's directing? This one, the one we're doing just as everyone goes on strike. Great. But, you know what, she's getting through it. We're a family here and we're just getting through it. This is tacky, but I've got to ask: Since the writers are on strike but the actors aren't... do you still get paid?
Brooks: I was just on the phone with my lawyer asking that. But, no, we don't. It's jacked up. Look, I agree with the strike. This needed to happen because the writers are just not protected and they're not treated with the respect and the value that they should be. Let's say "Snap Back" airs and it airs over and over and over again and I don't get any type of compensation for that rerun or for that DVD. It all comes back. And everyone — from craft services to grips — needs to be protected, respected and taken care of. And that's what it is at the end of the day. Now that you've written an episode, I bet you appreciate writers even more.
Brooks: It's not easy to sit there and slave over the computer and make sure all the actors are happy. Before, I would be like, "How come Maya doesn't have enough to say?" Now I'm thinking, "Oh my god, we're writing for six, eight, sometimes 10 characters [in 22 minutes]. It's a lot of pressure!" Now I am much more sensitive to that. I'm like, I got it. You have to write for 10 other people. It's OK. Well, good luck. I hope the strike ends really quickly.
Brooks: Me too. Say a prayer for us.

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