Sonya Winton & Jonathan Kidd

Hit U.S. television program, NCIS: New Orleans is among the nominees for the 27th Annual GLAAD Media Awards for a single episode. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Saturday 2nd April.

By recognising and honouring media for accurate and inclusive representations of the LGBT community the Awards serve as a benchmark for the media industry and complement GLAAD’s advocacy work.

With all the discussion about racial and gender diversity in Hollywood, OutNews Global has an exclusive interview with  a very diverse writing team who are nominated for their first ever GLAAD Media Award. Their episode of NCIS: New Orleans “Rock-a-Bye-Baby” dealt with a same-sex military couple.

Sonya Winton and Jonathan Kidd met while at Yale University. They formed a creative partnership and deep lasting friendship. Both offer unique perspectives on diversity in the entertainment industry.

What drew you to documentary making and scriptwriting?

Sonya: In retrospect, when I look at our earlier work as documentarians, I don’t think there is much of a difference between what we were doing then and what we are doing now as television producers, which is shedding light on real human experiences…

Jonathan: Agreed, we are attracted to the human experiment or if you have a really exciting life the human adventure because everyone has a story to tell and it’s in those stories that we find inspiration, motivation…

Sonya: Excitement and joy…

Tell us the story of how Adam, Eve, & Steve Productions (AES) came to fruition.

Sonya: In the spring of 2001, J and I were backpacking through Italy while we were in graduate school at Yale University when we discovered our mutual love of theatre. As a young girl I saw the impact that the creative arts can have on an economically underdeveloped community when my mother started a community theatre in South Central Los Angeles at 82nd and Vermont, called Crossroads Theatre. This theatre is what launched the play and eventual 80s television hit, 227; with that in mind, I suggested to J that he and I found our own community theatre in New Haven… and proceeded to call him every day for the next six months…

Jonathan: Because I was avoiding her. Lol. I had been burned by several fellow graduate students who claimed that they wanted to help start poetry groups and art collectives when all they really wanted to do was drink Scotch, read books, and be cynical critics – not that there is anything wrong with that. So Sonya did call me. She hailed me down on campus and I’d cross the street. It was an entire thing. Then 9/11 happened and it felt like the world was turned upside down and I called her and said, life is too short, let’s do it. Two days later we were driving supplies to relief workers in NYC while discussing a political firestorm in New Haven – African American and Puerto Rican ministers mobilizing to have an ordinance passed against same sex marriage. There was a pregnant pause in the conversation and Sonya said, I have the name for our theatre…

Sonya: Adam, Eve, & Steve Productions. It was a play on the entire “God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” pulpit pun…

Jonathan: And an obvious conversation starter…

From The 4th Reich to Rodeo Drive, as a writing team you have an affinity toward compelling, twisted, and provocative characters. What draws you to telling their stories?

Sonya: Whether you are looking at a Neo-Nazi struggling to save his son, a bisexual fashion designer chasing his dream, a US Marine dealing with combat induced PTSD, or a young girl trying to escape the netherworld of sex trafficking, it’s all based on real people…

Jonathan: Right. So the characters in our minds while compelling aren’t super twisted or provocative because in doing research for our pilots we’ve met these people. And it’s an amalgamation of their stories that we are choosing to share, another part of life…

Sonya: Just step outside your door and you’ll find them. Not sure if that should scare people, because it’s the rich world that we live in…

As scriptwriters, how do you define your target audience?

Sonya: I don’t think we have a target audience. We just want to make good TV…

Jonathan: That’s all…

You have been nominated for a GLAAD Media Award (Outstanding Individual Episode – in a series without a regular LGBT character. Rock-a-Bye-Baby NCIS New Orleans). Do you think it is important to drive LGBT acceptance forward in the media?

Sonya: Absolutely. One hundred percent. We’re talking about a platform that reaches millions of people. That one episode was seen by 16 million live viewers, not to mention DVR, online, et cetera…

Jonathan: Visibility can lead to empathy which is how the world becomes a more accepting place…

How would you describe your working relationship?

Sonya: We’re like siblings. We love a lot…

Jonathan: Lol. Fight a lot…

Sonya: Lol. Get on each other’s nerves…

Jonathan: But get the work done. There’s squabbles over character and plot, but we both want the same thing…

Sonya: Which is to tell a relatable story in an unexpected and gut wrenching way…

What are the biggest barriers facing people in the entertainment industry today?

Sonya: Actually, we think it’s a great time to be working in the entertainment industry because the possibilities are endless…

Jonathan: Exactly. There are numerous new outlets popping up like Amazon, Netflix, as well as YouTube and even apps like Periscope. It’s not like the old days where they was just ABC, CBS, and NBC and access was limited…

Sonya: And everyone has video cameras on their cell phones and editing capabilities on their laptops now, so it’s definitely a new day for creative artists to let their voices be heard around the world. You can create content and reach someone in the bush in Ghana or the Favelas in Brazil…

Do you feel the weight of expectation on each new project?

Sonya: For me, you want to write something that will impact someone’s life while viewing it…

Jonathan: So the only weight we feel is doing justice to the characters we’ve created and the worlds we’re exploring. Authenticity doesn’t speak for everyone, but everyone can relate…

Sonya: To an authentically crafted character…

Jonathan: Yes.

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

Sonya: Our biggest accomplishment to date has been learning to bet on ourselves. We had many people telling us not to write The 4TH REICH, which is about a contemporary group of Neo-Nazis living in Boston. These naysayers said the subject matter would ruin our careers because we are African American. But we went with our gut and trusted that our voice would lead us to where we needed to be. The result has been three sold pilots with more on the way…

Jonathan: Can’t say it any better than that…

Sonya: Lol…

Who inspires you professionally?

Sonya: There are quite a few on that list, based upon people we’ve worked with. Right J?

Jonathan: Yeah. In our quest to become show runners we make it a point to learn from those we’ve had the opportunity to be in the trenches with. Top of the list would be Ed Zuckerman, his leadership and grace as a showrunner who rewarded hard work and was about work and not drama.

Sonya: Thereafter, I’d count the loyalty of Hannah Shakespeare, the kindness of Melinda Hsu-Taylor, the fortitude of Liz Garcia…

Jonathan: The honesty of Ian Biederman…

Sonya: And the elegance and clear direction of Amy B. Harris, our most recent showrunner on ABC’s recently cancelled WICKED CITY…

What have you learned about the power of scriptwriters or storytellers to take on powerful subject matters?

Sonya: The main lesson we’ve learned is that the response isn’t always going to be positive…

Jonathan: Exactly. Our GLAAD nominated episode received quite the backlash in comment sections across the Internet…

Sonya: But we didn’t dwell on the negative, because we know that we have more stories to tell. And that’s not going to stop us…

And finally, what is next for Sonya Winton and Jonathan Kidd?

Sonya: As I eluded to earlier, we’ve just finished work on our latest pilot which is in the world of sex trafficking and we are super excited to take it out…

Jonathan: Additionally, we are producers on the second season of AMERICAN CRIME STORY which after taking on the O.J. Simpson case, is tackling Hurricane Katrina…

Follow @outnewsglobal for live tweet results from the event at the Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles.

GLAAD Media Awards

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