How Samantha Bee Brought Diversity to Her Writers’ Room

How Samantha Bee Brought Diversity to Her Writers’ Room

When her hit show Full Frontal premiered in February, Samantha Bee became the first woman host in the pantheon of late-night comedy, so it’s no surprise that she’s committed to breaking down barriers in her industry. Alex Morris’s recent interview with the former Daily Show star in Rolling Stone touches on the diversity of her writers’ room, which Bee achieved through a blind hiring process:

“We didn’t know what the show would look like,” says Bee, “but we knew what it would feel like. We wanted a show that was visceral, that came from a really gut place, that tapped into our fury.” That required hiring people who had fury to spare, beginning with showrunner Jo Miller, who’d worked with Bee as a writer for The Daily Show. “Jon [Stewart] loved Jo and believed in her for sure, but I don’t know how imminently anyone was ready to offer her up her own show,” Bee says. “I don’t know that any television network would say, ‘Hey, obscure woman. I’m going to pull you out of here and give you your own ship to sail.’ I don’t know what enabled me to see that, but step one was hiring Jo Miller.”

Bee took the same approach to hiring writers, creating a blind application process that didn’t favor people who’d already had success. (It spelled out, for example, how scripts should look when submitted, leveling the playing field for the uninitiated.) Lo and behold, she ended up with a writers’ room that looked kind of like America: 50 percent female; 30 percent nonwhite. One of her hires had been working at the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles. “We don’t feel like we solved the diversity problem. We didn’t fix racism, quite,” Bee jokes. “I mean, we almost did. We’ll see how things pan out. I’m feeling really good about it.” Anyway, the strategy worked. “I have literally filled my office with people who have been underestimated their entire careers. To a person, we almost all fit into that category.”

Things seem to be panning out just fine so far creatively—her writing team just picked up an Emmy nomination:

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