TV Star and UK Series Creator Feeling Guilty About Her Success

Reading this article, all we could think of was a certain common phrase uttered way too often by our father as we were growing up: “Stop whining! I don’t care how bad feel now – cuz  it’s nothing compared to how you’re gonna feel after I’m through with you–!”

Good times. Oh, erm, anyway:

 Emily Mortimer

THE NEWSROOM’s Emily Mortimer: Why I still feel shame about going to work
by Emily Mortimer

I don’t think I’d have been able to write a TV series on my own. I wouldn’t have had the nerve. If I’ve learned anything from making Doll & Em, the show my best friend Dolly Wells and I created, it’s that you get confidence from collaborating with people you love and admire.

It took us 10 years to finally get something on to the screen. Dolly I have known each other since we were four and been incredibly close since our 20s. When I moved to America to live with my husband we really missed each other and used writing as an excuse to run up big phone bills and buy flights to see each other. We started adapting a short story about a disastrous skiing trip and spent hundreds of hours gossiping in coffee shops. The script got longer and more convoluted and scary until it looked like the one Jack Nicholson is writing in The Shining. Dolly and I had four children between us in the time it took to get something we’d written produced. But those 10 years served us well. By the time we ditched the skiing script and finally came up with a good idea, we found we’d somehow learnt how to write together.

It seems ridiculous now, but at first we were determined not to write something for ourselves to be in – we didn’t want to come over as too self-involved, I guess. As time went by we started to realise that it’s hard enough to get work as an actor, and that if you’re going to put all that effort into writing something you might as well write yourself a good part. We also realised that there are a lot of people doing things, not necessarily because they’re better at them but because they’ve got the guts.

Once we decided we were going to write for each other, we soon came up with the idea of following two childhood best friends as one employs the other to be her personal assistant. People liked the sound of it from the start, and within a year we’d shot six episodes and sold it to Sky Living in the UK and HBO in America.

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2 thoughts on “TV Star and UK Series Creator Feeling Guilty About Her Success”

  1. Hmmm… I don’t think she feels guilty about her success, full stop. I think what she’s expressing is guilt specifically over leaving her kids to do her job (a “fun” and creative job – making the guilt all the more keen); a feeling I identify with hugely.

    It’s very common for working mothers to feel this way. Even stay-at-home mothers often feel guilty (that they’re not using their hard-earned degrees, or are they setting the wrong example for their daughters by staying home, etc etc, etc). It’s just part of the gig; when they hand you that baby, they also hand you a side of guilt.

    I’m just glad Ms. Mortimer is DOING IT. Guilt, or no guilt. She’s written a really entertaining show, was ballsy enough to cast herself in the lead, she gets to work with her best friend, *and* gets to work on NEWSROOM for yet another season… AND gets to admit publicly that she has mixed feelings about it all, which is honest, real, and human of her?! I find it quite inspiring, truth be told.

    We should have such “problems”, I know, I know. But I also think it’s clear from her piece that she realizes how lucky she is. She isn’t saying she’s unhappy; she isn’t saying she wants to quit, and stay at home. She’s just saying that there are trade-offs when you are a working mother, and you often do feel guilt. But that ultimately… that’s OK.

    1. Uh-oh, reading your terrific (seriously) comment has made ME feel guilty. Not sure what for but suspect it’s about not having discovered you and gotten you to write a real article for TVWriter™ in the past. Holler if you’re interested!


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