114 – Cameron Johnson (Empire, Zoe Ever After)

This week, host Gray Jones interviews Cameron Johnson, TV writer on ‘Empire‘ and ‘Zoe Ever After,’ who has sold several pilots. 

Cameron Johnson Biography

Cameron Johnson grew up in the Bay Area and studied political science at USC, because if you tell your family you’re going to be a lawyer, you don’t just commit to the bit – you get a degree in it. However, while there, he secretly pursued an additional education in screenwriting.

After several torturous years prepping the best and brattiest of Brentwood for the SAT, he became a writer on the BET show ‘Zoe Ever After.’ He then sold ‘White People Problems,’ an hour dramedy about a wealthy, dysfunctional black family to Bravo, and is currently redeveloping it as a half-hour for Peacock.

Cameron has spent the past two seasons working on Fox’s ‘Empire‘, where he wrote and produced six episodes and managed the 160,000 follower writers’ Twitter account. He also sold ‘Diversity Hire,’ a satirical look at race in the workplace, to Fox in 2019.

INDEX TO THE EPISODE:

2:02 – Interview start, Cameron’s background, from the Bay Area to Political Science at USC.
5:00 – from Poli Sci to his first writing gig.
7:07 – Writing material that wasn’t his voice.
8:12 – How he learned to write from his unique point of view, and what led to his first staff job.
13:13 – His relationship with representation.
15:21 – His first experience on staff, on ‘Zoe Ever After.’
19:10 – Sponsor break
20:16 – Selling ‘White People Problems,’ and what led to his job on ‘Empire.’
24:02 – The trial by fire in going from multi-cam comedy to one hour drama, and what he learned in the process.
27:42 – On developing and selling ‘Diversity Hire’ in a bidding war.
30:16 – Explaining a “put pilot” commitment.
31:02 – On the insecurities of a writer, and whether success makes them go away.
32:30 – How he got involved with Fake Empire, co-creating ‘Tom Swift,’ which will be a back-door pilot inside ‘Nancy Drew.’
36:31 – How he develops and manages his various projects.
38:59 – Advice to greener writers.
46:22 – How does someone develop their own voice, and learn to tell authentic stories?
49:05 – Conclusion.

Follow Cameron on Twitter: @CameronJAwesome.

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Didn’t get your questions asked? Make sure you follow Gray on Twitter (@GrayJones) so you can get the scoop on who is being interviewed and how to get your questions in. Also check out our TV Writer Twitter Database to find Twitter addresses for over 1,200 TV writers. Find previous episodes and other resources at www.tvwriterpodcast.com.

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