Carmen Pilar Golden, Judith McCreary, and Jemiscoe Chambers-Black
Jemiscoe and Pilar
Jemiscoe (left) at a conference
Pilar on the set
Pilar, Judith, and Jemiscoe
Judith McCreary and her two daughters, Carmen Pilar Golden and Jemiscoe Chambers-Black, are telling stories that need to be told and hoping to change the landscape while they do it.
A family of women with a bevy of experience in the television industry, theirs is a new dynasty in the making—though it was not exactly what McCreary wanted.
"I told my kids, 'Don't follow me in this business!'" McCreary explained over a video conference, digitally alongside her daughters, one late February morning. "Then one lied to me about her degree. And the other one basically said, 'Okay, mom,' but then did everything she could to be in this business."
"We got to be honest though, because she literally did the same thing to her mother," Chambers-Black shot back, all three laughing. They are clearly incredibly close.
Though one of three storytellers in her family now, McCreary described herself as the black sheep during her days before having kids. "I was the only one who did this. My family is full of doctors, nurses, American Red Cross workers, teachers."
But her creativity and unbridled drive brought her to the Dick Wolf universe, where she worked for 15 years, 12 of which were spent on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. "I used to call him, Mr. Man," she explained. "He actually gave me a compliment, and I took it as one, when he said, 'You write like a man.' And I said, 'I feel like Dorothy Parker.'"
That spirit was passed down to her daughters, both of whom have experience in film and television—Golden is currently a writer/producer on the reboot of Gossip Girl and Chambers-Black is a children's literary agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, though she previously worked as an assistant director. All three women are equally electrified by telling stories, but have completely different ways of tackling the work of telling stories.
"My superpower is making people comfortable," explains Golden.The level of vulnerability and trust needed in a writer's room is something she doesn't take lightly, as she explains that she actively works to cultivate that sense of security and familial camaraderie amongst her coworkers and collaborators. "I found that people respond to that."
"Oh my gosh, sister and I are complete opposites," Chambers-Black laughingly remarks. "She makes people comfortable. I make them uncomfortable. Just because, at least on the business side of things, the numbers—whether we're talking about publishing, or we're talking about film and television, they're still the same.
"At least in publishing, only 17% [of stories] center on people of color or someone from a marginalized group, and only 11% of those are actually written by the marginalized author. So for me, you have to ask question: 'What are you doing to change it?'"
It's a question all three find to be a motivating force in their careers.
For McCreary, upending people's perceptions and expectations is a major throughline, and has been a part of her story from the jump.
"When I first got in the business, I wrote an action feature spec," she explained. "I used my initials, because women back then—this was the early '90s—were supposed to write romcoms, not action pieces. So when the script went out, they assumed I was a man. I actually told my agent, 'Don't tell them I'm a woman until I show up.'"
The discrimination she faced as a woman was "compounded by the fact that [the script] was about drug mules. So they naturally assumed that was my life. There was an underlying sort of racist, contemptuous diminishing attitude to it—you can't use your imagination, it must be true. And it was like, 'my dad's a surgeon, my mom's a teacher, get out my face.'"
Pushing back on people's assumptions and where they come from is a vital part of telling good stories, and a major part of why the three want to tell stories for a living.
"You have to start those conversations," says Chambers-Black. "Otherwise, it's going to be 30 years from now, and we'll still be having the same conversation."
No doubt McCreary, Golden, and Chambers-Black will be at the center of pushing those conversations forward and upending expectations for years to come, no matter their area of the industry. "I would love to be the next Greg Berlanti," says Golden. But her mother's love of action films has definitely left its mark. "It is a dream of mine to write like, Mission Impossible action movies, too. Give me the chance!"
All three women have dreams for themselves that, given their track records already, will undoubtedly be achieved. But as the tenderness of their exchanges showed throughout the interview, it always comes back to family for each of them. "I know that my love for the writer starts at home, starts with the two women that I love the most," Chambers-Black said.
The women hint at a book that Chambers-Black is working on, with the sort of TV/film adaptation potential all three are excited about. These three love to work. "I hope you sell that book to me," McCreary quips. "Or me!" Golden quickly adds. Could a collaboration be in their future? Whatever the case, it will always be a family affair.