The Writers' Room

7 Questions with “The Writers’ Room” host Jim Rash

Jim Rash, host of THE WRITERS’ ROOM, talks about his how he prepares for an episode, the most surprising moments on the show and what it means to be an Oscar-winning writer.

Q: What’s the most shocking story you’ve heard on THE WRITERS’ ROOM so far?

A: One that stuck out and was surprising was the guys that adapted Smallville talking about the origin of kryptonite, and that it was actually [introduced] during the radio play [of Superman]… I would never, ever have known that information if we hadn’t spoken about it that day on the show.

Q: As the host , you have to be very well-versed with each series. How do you prepare? Do you binge?

A: Yeah, I binge as much as I can. Luckily, some of these shows, I was already watching and some have way too many episodes, like Pretty Little Liars has 100. There was no way I was going to make it, so it’s about watching key moments from these seasons… For me, it’s about being educated and understanding the show and being able to speak intelligently about it but still keep it conversational.

Q: What’s the trick to getting the writers to reveal such interesting stories?

A: People love to talk about what they do. Ask anyone about what they do and they’ll just tell you… Here, on THE WRITERS’ ROOM, we’re celebrating what they do and are taking a genuine interest in what they do. If anything, it’s about making it comfortable for them… and understanding that mistakes are made, and people love to talk about those mistakes because that’s the dramatic moment. We love to talk about the dramatic moments in our lives.

Q: They say comedy is serious business. Have you found comedy writers to be more serious than the writers for dramas?

A: In a comedy, in the writers’ room, more often than not, a lot of them are bringing personal stories to the table… Like Everybody Loves Raymond is about everyone bringing marital stories to the table. I don’t know if that’s something that people are as likely to do say on Scandal, bring a personal story to the table… But even sitting with Scandal, which is dealing with both light and dark moments, that was a really charismatic and fun group of people who seem to have a really great time together.

Q: Which show had the funniest perspective?

A: All of them. Even when I was talking to Game of Thrones last year. I was just speaking to David [Benioff] and D.B. [Weiss]. It was just them. They don’t really have a staff per say… I was intimidated and wondering how you get a conversation going. You know, Game of Thrones is such a complex and dense source material, but they had the light and brevity to look at it and go, Look, when we tackled this thing, we didn’t know how we were going to do certain things. We were as confused as you know a reader might be. It was nice to see the humanity in all of them.

Q: THE WRITERS’ ROOM features stars as well as writers. Have any actors surprised you because they’re so different than what you imagined?

A: From this year, I figured Kerry [Washington from Scandal] was going to be a very fun and charismatic, and she absolutely was. Julianna Margulies [The Good Wife] was highly intelligent and interesting to listen to and clearly takes the role and the show in a very good, serious way… Bryan Cranston was hilarious and fun… Michael C. Hall is interesting and reserved and made sense as Dexter, but at the same time he had this dry wit. So you just never know. They are all over the place.

Q: What do you remember most about the Oscar night you won for Best Adapted Screenplay (The Descendants)?

A: The thing you remember most is that you don’t remember anything. You blank out and are hovering over yourself watching this moment. I do remember waiting in line in the back room, waiting to take a picture, or go into the press room, and we were just behind Meryl Streep. And I’m watching Meryl Streep take her picture before it was my turn to take my picture. That was pretty crazy.