01 Mar 2015
In My Humble Opinion: Leonard Dick (MBA 1990)
A TV veteran tells allby Julia HannaTopics:
Dick in the Good Wife writers’ room. (Photo by Christina Gandolfo)
An Emmy Award–winning television writer, Leonard Dick (MBA 1990) started out by taking a sitcom writing class at the UCLA Extension School while working as a senior business planner at Walt Disney Studios. Now an executive producer for The Good Wife, he has also written for MADtv, House, and Lost. “I’m a social animal, and I love working on a team—being a television writer is the perfect confluence of creativity and collaboration,” says the Toronto native. Currently “up to my neck busy,” Dick, the father of three teenage daughters, is continuing to write for The Good Wife while scripting an original pilot for CBS (“a comedic drama about a woman who is a lawyer and a doctor and manages to practice both”) and completing a rewrite of a pilot for Bravo set in the diamond trade.
Best fuel for a marathon writing session: “The guillotine of the deadline. There is one taboo in television—and it’s not drug problems or throwing a stapler at the assistant. It’s missing a delivery date. A veteran I worked with told me, ‘Your job isn’t to make it great; your job is to get it in by Tuesday.’ ”
Dick’s prime-time résumé includes The Good Wife. (Courtesy CBS Broadcasting Inc.)
Titles, from the bottom up: Staff writer, story editor, coproducer, producer, supervising producer, co-executive producer, executive producer, show runner. “Titles in Hollywood mean everything and nothing. Executive producer sounds very important, but there are seven or eight of us on The Good Wife. The joke is, if you stick around long enough, you’ll get that title. Robert and Michelle King are the show runners. They’re the CEO and chief creative officer because they created the show and everything—story ideas, casting, final pass on a script, killing a major character—goes through them.”
Favorite episode he penned: “The episode of House where Dr. Kutner, played by Kal Penn, is killed. Kal was leaving the show, and we needed a creative way to get rid of him. I pitched that he kills himself, and it’s the one mystery that House can never figure out. That’s what we did.
“It also contained an unconventional medical love story about a man who is dying. His wife gets sick at his deathbed. As she gets worse, he begins to improve. And then the only way he can live is if she donates her heart to him; and she can only live if he donates his liver to her. But neither is necessary because House figures it all out. The irony is that the husband ends up living and she ends up dying.”
Routine: Wake at 5:30 a.m., go for a run, bike ride, or work out. One iced nonfat latte a day, occasionally an extra one in the afternoon. A lunch that generally includes the word “kale.” “I’m the healthiest eater on the staff. They poke fun at me.”
Best show never made: “American Royals, a family historical drama that asks what if George Washington had said yes when he was offered the crown? What if the United States had become a monarchy? Coincidentally, that was a pilot written by Leonard Dick last year for NBC. But another network has expressed interest.”
TV limits at home? No firm hours. “My kids work so bloody hard in school that we’re pretty good about letting them decompress the way they need to—what bothers me more is that they watch reality show drivel like Dance Moms. I was undermined when I discovered my father watches it, too.”
On his DVR: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Modern Family, and all four Stanley Cup–winning games by the Los Angeles Kings that his daughters won’t delete (the result of Dick’s brainwashing them into being hockey fans).
Favorite character to write for on The Good Wife: The title character, Alicia. “Because Julianna Margulies could read the back of a cereal box and make it compelling. The beauty of it is that you tend to write less dialogue instead of more, because Julianna sells it in her expressions and her actions.”
Advice for new TV writers: “Be nice. Don’t yell at the production assistant when your latte isn’t foamy enough, because five years from now she’ll be VP at Fox, and you’re going to be pitching a show idea to her. It’s also basic human decency.”
Favorite line that didn’t make the final cut (from The Good Wife): “Will and Alicia figure out that Frank Michael Thomas is forming a class action suit with some hockey players. When they ask about it, he answers, ‘Yep, seven players, eight if I can find Flin Flon, Manitoba, on a map.’ Coming from an actor like Fred Thompson, it’s hilarious.”
Favorite line that did: An episode of House where House diagnoses a young, macho firefighter suffering from male menopause: “Just like female menopause, but without the mah-jongg tiles.”
What inspires him: The emotional hook. “I have to latch onto the ‘real’ of an idea, something that I can relate to and is human. Once I find that, I can run with it.”
Least favorite thing about his job: “How little control I have. You can pour your heart into a show and be a good corporate citizen. And if not enough people watch, the network will cancel you.”
On rejection: “My mother, the sage, passed away two years ago, but I will always remember something she said that betrays our Canadian roots: ‘If you shoot enough pucks at the net, one of them will go in.’ ”
Class of MBA 1990, Section A