How Greg Berlanti went from aspiring puppeteer to TV superproducer

This being the week after Marvel and Disney proved themselves the undisputed Emperors of cinema superheroes, we think it’s time to call attention to another comic book empire – the DC Comics TV universe, by any criteria way more successful than Marvel’s TV push and run by one amazing dood – Greg Berlanti:

by Anthony D’Alessandro

[Last March’s] INTV conference in Jerusalem, Israel kicked off with a discussion with Greg Berlanti, who chatted with WME Partner, Scripted TV Development Marc Korman about his ascent from his childhood in Rye, NY as a puppeteer and head of the AV Club to having 15 TV series on the air at the same time through his production shingle (a record for a TV producer) and a Warner Bros. TV deal worth $400M in cash guarantees.

In an opening sizzle reel, one of Berlanti’s peers said that if they had to liken him to a DC superhero in his Arrowverse, it’s The Flash, because he’s everywhere.

But if there’s a theme that goes through all the shows that Berlanti has worked on from Dawson’s Creek to the current You on Lifetime and Netflix, it’s “compassion” per Korman. But asking Berlanti about his secret sauce, the TV series creator and EP expounded, “I grew up realizing that I was different from the majority of the people around me” as “a gay man”.

“I always sort of felt part of the environment I was a part of, but there was sort of part of me that was outside, observing that. I don’t know if that was because of my sexuality necessarily, or was because of my desire to be a storyteller or a writer. I think a lot of writers regardless of their sexuality feel that way. I think a lot of people who feel ‘other’, feel that way, and it just so happened that storytelling, and being a part of storytelling was a way to make sense of that.”

Berlanti’s sensibility has culminated in creating several milestones for the representation LGBTQ community on TV: the first televised gay kiss, the first televised gay marriage, the first gay superhero, the first black superhero, the first gay black superhero and the first lesbian lead (Ruby Rose in the upcoming CW Batwoman).

Berlanti spoke about how he wanted to be Jim Henson when he was younger growing up in the 1980s, calling his mother his “first WME agent” as she negotiated his pay; Berlanti would get asked as young as the age of 12 to perform puppetry at younger kids’ birthday parties. “She didn’t care that it didn’t make me more popular or that kids made fun of me, she saw my future well before I did, and was very encouraging to the things I did and the things that inspired me,” said Berlanti…

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