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by Lily Karlin
Television has never been an amazing source of three-dimensional female characters. For decades, the medium has relied on one-note stereotypes: the good girl, the temptress, the rebel, the know-it-all. But in the past few years, a new crop of shows — “The Good Wife,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Transparent” — has emerged, showing that realistic women actually blur these lines.
And now there may be one more to add to the mix, in light of the recent announcement that acclaimed “Bachelorette” writer-director Leslye Headland (who cites those aforementioned series as inspiration) has a script commitment from NBC. She will collaborate with Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles on a single-camera comedy about a failed political blogger who reboots her life as a sex editor at a women’s magazine. After the news broke, Huffpost Entertainment spoke with Headland — who, regardless of this particular project’s future, will likely continue to be a big voice in television, film and theater — about the origins of the pilot, complicated female characters and life’s transitional moments.
Tell us a little about the genesis of the Cosmopolitan project.
It really came out a meeting of the minds of Joanna [Coles] and I. Dave Bernad [“Enlightened”], who’s a producer I’ve always wanted to work with, was quietly developing a show and they were looking for a writer. And he said, “You know, I just think you and Joanna would really hit it off. I think you guys should get together and chat.” I went in to meet her and instantly fell in love. I knew who she was, and I knew Cosmo very well because I grew up reading it; Helen Gurley Brown is a personal hero of mine. I think her brand of feminism is exactly my brand of feminism. And I feel like Joanna, in and of herself, all the stuff she does but even just the way she talks, a lot of her pull quotes and stuff like that, it’s the way I talk. Except that I’m, you know, a chain-smoking writer, and she’s, like, a charismatic elegant woman.
We just starting talking a mile a minute and it went on for like two and a half hours. Then I embedded there. I sat in on a bunch of creative meetings, and went to a couple fashion week things and really got to start to see the world. So, it became, what kind of story do we want to tell and what kind of show do we feel like will represent the modern woman? The way the employees talk about the readers at Cosmo is so beautiful. It’s the way I talk about my audience, specifically my female audience. I’m always thinking, it’s not just about, “How do I get this thing?” It’s like, “What do I want to say to her?”