Carlton Cuse Talks About Being a Showrunner

“Carlton Cuse Talks About Being a Showrunner”
Interview by Michael Aaron Gallagher of StayFamous.Net

Carlton Cese FX The Strain Showrunner

Carlton Cuse (Executive Producer/Writer). Photo by Frank Micelotta FX/PictureGroup

There are some moments in television history that are unforgettable. Whether it was Don Johnson kissing a chimpanzee on Nash Bridges or the philosophical ending of the series Lost, what separates good television from great television is its ability to be compelling – to make you watch, and keep watching, because you can’t turn your eyes away. But what both of those moments have in common with so many others is that they were made possible because of the extraordinary work of one of the greatest writer-producers in Hollywood today – Carlton Cuse.

Named to Time’s list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World,” Cuse has achieved worldwide acclaim for his ability to coordinate successful productions and facilitate the success of his fellow writers. A graduate of Harvard University, Cuse has been nominated for 10 Emmy Awards, receiving the Emmy for Outstanding Drama series as well as the Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Media. With experience working on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Lethal Weapon franchise, and writing the screenplay for the blockbuster San Andreas, he continues to spearhead some of the most compelling shows on TV, including The Strain (FX), The Returned (A&E), Bates Motel (A&E) and Colony (USA).

In a recent interview about FX’s The Strain (the vampire fantasy series about the spread of an epidemic), I asked Carlton about his work as a showrunner and what occupies most of his time.

“I liken showrunning to being a decathlete,” Carlton said. “You know, you don’t have be the very best at any one thing but you have to be really really good at ten things. I think the challenge for any successful showrunner is to be able to do a lot of things well.”

Showrunner/EP Carlton Cuse participates in "The Strain" portion of the FX 2014 Summer TCA Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 21, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Underwood/PictureGroup)

Showrunner/EP Carlton Cuse participates in “The Strain” portion of the FX 2014 Summer TCA Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 21, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.
(Photo by Michael Underwood/PictureGroup)

“My day divides up into very different things,” Carlton said. “I would say for me, just because it’s my own particular focus and interest, I spend most of my time on stories and scripts and the storytelling aspect. I spend a lot of time on editing and casting.”

As an executive producer of four TV shows, the average day for Cuse is anything but average. One of his most unique projects is The Strain, which recently concluded its second season on FX.

“In the case of The Strain, we have well over 300 people who work on the show and there’s a lot of management aspects to that. There’s obviously the budget aspects of that, we get involved in everything from marketing, promotion, ancillary content… There’s always a fresh challenge.”

Based on the vampire trilogy by writers Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro, The Strain has a team of writers, who also receive input from Cuse. Many of the writers who have worked under Cuse’s direction in the past, have gone on to have successful careers in television, including Shawn Ryan (creator of The Shield), Glen Mazzara (writer and showrunner on The Walking Dead), Damon Lindelof (co-creator of Lost), and Pam Veasey (showrunner of CSI: NY and CSI: Cyber).

“On the storytelling part, you’re always inventing stories, operating with fellow writers, sitting around talking about ideas, bringing them to life,” Carlton said. “Seeing those scenes be brought to life by our wonderful crew and our amazing cast and seeing that thing that was just in the imagination of the writers a few days ago – suddenly, you can see it actually realized on screen. I mean, that’s a great feeling. And that’s the thing that gets me up every day.”

Entertainment, at its best, is an extension of who you are. As one of Hollywood’s greatest producers, Carlton Cuse continues to shape and reshape what we watch and how we watch it. And one thing is certain – the story is far from over.

“Carlton Cuse Talks About Being a Showrunner”
Copyright 2015 by Michael Aaron Gallagher
Photography courtesy of FX

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