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chapter 16 Televising Difference an interview with paris barclay Kevin Sandler (Arizona State University) “I get a feature film every week and 95 percent of them are black [in theme]. It’s true that I am black, but I also went to Harvard and have some experience with Caucasians. I’ve directed nypd Blue—having won two Emmys with it—and er, The West Wing, and many other shows. So you would think I’d start to get some scripts that reflect those experiences—police dramas and so forth. Nope, I get B.A.P.S. and Booty Call.” paris barclay I met Paris Barclay in November 2005 at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation Faculty Seminar, an annual five-day series of discussions, presentations, and interactions between college professors and the Hollywood production community. He immediately struck me as one of the most articulate and passionate media professionals I had ever encountered. At the seminar, Paris spoke of originality, knowledge, and wisdom as the cornerstones of success in the entertainment business. For students, he believed these foundations should be grounded in a well-rounded media arts curriculum, one in which theater, music, new media, and journalism join film and television in an interdisciplinary pas de deux. Paris’s advice mirrors that of his own career. At Harvard, where he graduated in 1979 with a B.A. in English and American literature and language, Paris wrote thirteen musicals, revues, and plays, including T4989.indb 323 T4989.indb 323 2/27/09 6:58:09 AM 2/27/09 6:58:09 AM 324 kevin sandler the score for two Hasty Pudding Shows. After graduation, he achieved success writing and directing television commercials, directing music videos for New Kids on the Block, Janet Jackson, and LL Cool J, and composing plays, two of which were produced off-Broadway. In the mid-1990s, Paris’s career turned to film and television as he directed the feature film Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, the hbo film The Cherokee Kid, and episodes of er, The West Wing, The Shield, and nypd Blue, for which he won two Emmys for directing. He co-created the 2000 series City of Angels and served as co-executive producer and principal director for Cold Case. Currently he is the co-executive producer and principal director for hbo’s new series, In Treatment, starring Gabriel Byrne, Dianne Wiest, and Blair Underwood. He also recently returned to his roots in theater, writing the book, music, and lyrics for One Red Flower, a musical adapted from the 1985 best-seller Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. Despite working within the constraints of broadcast television, Paris demonstrates that commercial media artists can produce socially conscious entertainment. Issues of discrimination, intolerance, and injustice regularly permeate his multicharacter episodic series. Combined with a bittersweet mixture of hope, affirmation, and justness , Paris’s dramas display complex and nuanced forms of storytelling not often seen in prime time. His progressiveness also extends to the inclusion of diverse casts in front of and behind the camera, as well as his commitment to increasing the employment of women and Paris Barclay on the set of The Shield. T4989.indb 324 T4989.indb 324 2/27/09 6:58:09 AM 2/27/09 6:58:09 AM 325 An Interview with Paris Barclay minority directors by the television networks through his work with the Directors Guild of America, now serving as the first vice president of the board. For his charitable and community service, Paris received the Stephen F. Kolzak Award from glaad for his work toward eliminating homophobia, and was given the Founder’s Award from Project Angel Food, a nonprofit organization that delivers meals to people affected by hiv/aids and other serious illnesses. He also was honored in 2007 with the Directors Guild of America’s Robert B. Aldrich Award for his service to the guild. I spoke with him by telephone from the set of Cold Case on April 21, 2006. kevin sandler: You’ve been quite busy these last few years directing episodes of Cold Case, Numbers, House, and The Shield, writing a musical, One Red Flower, as well as writing and producing Hate, a pilot for Showtime based on the activities of a hate crime unit in the New York City Police Department. Where did this interest in entertainment begin for you? paris barclay: I think it...


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