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February 21, 2018

The Way Home

New voices find a warm welcome at Starz.

Curt Wagner
  • Vida’s Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada

    Starz
  • Sweetbitter’s Ella Purnell

    Starz

Author Stephanie Danler and playwright Tanya Saracho took different paths to television, but this year both women will share their visions — Danler as a first-time TV writer-producer and Saracho as a first-time showrunner.

Their six-episode series will debut May 6.

These firsts aren't surprising, considering where they're working. After all, the last time Starz left an untested creator, showrunner and producer to her own devices, Courtney Kemp turned Power into the network's number-one series.

"I was so surprised that at every turn I felt supported, especially because [Starz] took a chance on me — someone who has never done it before," Saracho says. "Usually you have to have a reputation and a name — and I had neither of those.

Three years after coming to Hollywood from Chicago to write for such shows as Lifetime's Devious Maids, HBO's Looking and ABC's How to Get Away with Murder, she was approached by Starz to create a show that would appeal to Latino viewers.

Inspired by a newspaper article about the gentrification of Latino neighborhoods in east Los Angeles, Vida tells the story of estranged Mexican-American sisters (Mishel Prada as Emma and Melissa Barrera as Lyn) who reunite after inheriting a building when their mother dies. The series explores Latino, millennial and LGBTQ themes, three lanes of programming Starz execs Chris Albrecht and Carmi Zlotnik are targeting in their efforts to reach underserved audiences.

Danler's series, Sweetbitter, also aims to attract underserved viewers with the story of Tess (Ella Purnell), a millennial who comes of age in New York's high-end restaurant scene. Danler based the pilot script on her 2016 novel of the same name.

Her fellow exec producers include showrunner Stu Zicherman; the production partner is Plan B Entertainment. Several networks competed for Sweetbitter, and Danler applauds the outcome. "I felt it immediately in the room with Starz," she says. "I felt that we were in the right home, that it would be great for their network and great for me — and the project."

Like Saracho and Kemp, Danler says Starz has never doubted her vision for the series. "The level of trust that Plan B, Stu and Starz have given me is the greatest gift, because I felt very empowered. It means that they respect my vision of what the show should be, and what the book was."


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 1, 2018

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