Updated: Jan 20, 2020
Rich Johnston at bleedingcool had the opportunity to interview The Nevers staff writer Laurie Penny (who, I believe, is going to become a favourite amongst fans) about her continuing evolution as a writer in and out of Hollywood. During her interview, Penny briefly touched on her history with The Nevers and you can read that below. If you're interested in reading the full interview (and you totally should!), then head over to bleedingcool.com.
Well, Laurie also has a bit of a geek history. I first met her in the pub with Kieron Gillen, after he created a character in Iron Man based on her. Warren Ellis wrote the foreword to one of her books. She contributed to the 24 Panels comics anthology commemorating the Grenfell tragedy as well as the Occupy Comics volume.
And she was also brought to the attention of Joss Whedon, who became a fan of her work and invited her to pitch for the writing room on his new HBO TV series The Nevers. She got the gig, which seemed to go so well, she is now writing the second season of Netflix show, The Haunting.
I got the chance, ahead of San Diego Comic-Con, to ask Laurie a few questions.
Rich Johnston: I had mention of him earlier… what was Neil Gaiman’s role in this journey?
Laurie Penny: Neil Gaiman is just… this guy, you know. Actually, when I was offered the job on The Nevers, it was Neil who told me to be brave and get out there and work very, very hard. That’s one of the many things that’s great about Neil – he’s 100% whimsy but zero bullshit. Neil is a very good person to know, but he’s also a very good person in general. I hope one day to be able to be even half as generous and patient with younger intense weirdoes trying to do a very odd combination of jobs. I was also lucky enough to get to work with the great Jane Espenson on The Nevers, and she had a lot of wonderful advice. You can never repay these things, only pass them on if you’re lucky enough to get that far – and to anyone else in that situation, that’s what I’d say. When the time comes, be ready to pass it on.
Rich Johnston: How has the process, the experience, the demands changed between The Nevers and The Haunting of Bly Manor for you? You told me The Haunting was going to be so epic and I had no idea… can you give me some idea?
Laurie Penny: I’m not allowed. I wish I was allowed. The strangest thing about TV writing is that it’s all so cloak and dagger. We had a security talk in the first week, and it was all the same stuff I learned how to do interviewing activists and anarchists. Now I’m on my second show, I’m far less rabbit-in-the-headlights. One thing I wish more people understood is that when you have a writing team working on a giant show, yes, people go off and write their individual episodes – but everyone gets to contribute to everything. And that’s amazing! By our powers combined! I want to be one of the MVPs on any writing team. When I was invited to try out for The Nevers, Joss and the team took a huge gamble on me – I was untested and I banged out my sample on a phone while I was on a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean reporting on a cryptocurrency cruise. I hadn't seriously considered working in TV writing before, and I had no clue what it involved. When that room wrapped, I realized – hang on, that was great, I want to go again. So I hustled hard to get on Haunting, and it has been epic and gee golly you’re just going to love it. It’s properly literary and exciting. We have some brilliant twisted geniuses working in this room.