Bonnie Hunt

Bonnie Hunt

Eric Charbonneau
Bonnie Hunt

Carsyn Rose as Amber Brown

Courtesy of Apple TV+
Fill 1
Fill 1
August 22, 2022
In The Mix

Bonnie Hunt Branches Out

Adapting Amber Brown for the tween audience was a colorful journey for a multi-hyphenate who's a writer at heart.

Bonnie Hunt enjoys hearing from people who relate to her work, be it her acting, writing or directing. Often, they mention Return to Me, the MGM film starring Minnie Driver and David Duchovny, which she directed and cowrote. Sometimes they quote her iconic improvised line — "We're walking, we're walking" — from the movie Dave, in which she played a White House tour guide.

Hunt's prolific television work includes producing and hosting her own talk show as well as creating, writing and headlining three sitcoms — ABC's Life with Bonnie (2002–04), CBS's Bonnie (1995– 96) and CBS's The Building (1993). She's starred in movies as varied as Jerry Maguire, The Green Mile and Cheaper by the Dozen. "I've been so fortunate," says the Chicago native.

Now Hunt is the writer, director and showrunner of Amber Brown, streaming on Apple TV+. Based on a series of novels of the same name by the late Paula Danziger, the show follows the twelve-year-old title character (played by Carsyn Rose) as she navigates her parents' divorce and all sorts of adolescent angst with honesty and humor.

Amber Brown marks the first time Hunt has written directly for the tween audience, and she did so at the encouragement of her mother. "Mom thought it would be a good connection for me because I have so many nieces and nephews," Hunt says. "I cherish being the aunt that they can come to at times and confide in. I revel in everything they do."

Hunt was, in fact, writing a show about an eccentric aunt when she met an executive from Boat Rocker Media, which had bought the rights to Amber Brown. "We decided to bring the two worlds together," explains Hunt, who spoke recently with emmy's Amy Amatangelo. Following is an excerpt of their chat.

You've done so much writing. Was it different writing for a protagonist who is twelve?
I went to my young self — how I felt at that time and what I worried about. Some of the stories are drawn from my childhood, like Amber volunteering at a nursing home.

I'm just trying to put some kindness out there. Over the years, I always talked to my mom about being a storyteller, and she said, "Be mindful of the energy you're putting into the world — it has a ripple effect." I want this to be smart, touching and of course, funny. Nothing is funnier than the truth. Even when it's painful, we can find some levity in it.

What did you bring to the series that isn't in the books?
I write Amber as an artist, a bit of a loner, escaping through her art. Her sketches come to life, animated in her imagination.

What's it like working with Carsyn and the other kids on the show?
They're all wonderful. From the start, Carsyn talked to me about how the script made her feel. She is a natural — that authenticity, she has it and she is a star. The kids are so honest; they're teaching me all the time. As I finish the scripts, I ask them, "How do the story and the dialogue feel?" They tell me how they connect to it, so there's a real collaboration there.

You're known primarily as an actress. What do you love about writing?
I love the challenge of putting storytelling on the page. Can I make it smart, charming, funny and loving? If I can do all that — and everyone can watch it together — ahh, that's the best.

While I was writing these episodes, I was smiling, laughing and at times choked up and emotional. It's always personal, and it's therapeutic. Writing is my therapy.

How did you approach the series, knowing that all ten episodes would drop at once?
I approached it the only way I know how. Of course, I have a story in mind, but I generally start with dialogue through character. Once the characters start talking, they take me on a journey and the story unfolds.

Having all the episodes released at once, the viewer can immediately decide: "Am I invested in these characters? Do I want to keep watching?" Hopefully they'll come along for the ride. This is my first time writing for streaming television, so I'm excited. It's a wonderful opportunity, and I'm grateful for it.

It's been a while since we've seen you in front of the camera.
You're right, I haven't acted for a while now. I miss it. I'm looking forward to getting that next opportunity to act. Maybe something wonderful will come my way.

What do you hope audiences take away from Amber Brown?
I remember as a child, when we watched TV as a family — The Andy Griffith Show or The Mary Tyler Moore Show or a classic Preston Sturges film — seeing my parents temporarily free from the pressures of everyday life, raising seven kids. It seemed as if every stress was put on hold in those moments. I hope I might give that to families, too."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #8, 2022, under the title, "True Colors." 

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