Lisa Joy created the HBO hit Westworld, an entrancing series that has inspired a thousand Jezebel inquiries into how close we are to real-life robot sex. In a recent roundtable interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Joy expounded on the importance of creating opportunities for people with out a safety net.
When Joy was starting out at her first job, she said, another writer spoke to her about how she had been weighing in during meetings, saying, “You’re a diversity hire so I don’t think people really need to hear from you.” When asked by the moderator how she felt about that, Joy gave a long, thoughtful response about diversity in general, and the work she’s pushed herself to do since getting her foot in the door.
“I honestly think in some ways she was trying to be helpful,” said Joy. “It was, ‘Don’t feel any pressure, no one expects anything from you.’ It was my first job, I came from a completely different industry. I think it was meant as a pep talk.” She went on:
It was one of those unnerving things where, you know, I consciously chose to talk about being a diversity hire for the first job, because people tend to discount [it]. ‘Oh that means, you were chosen to fill some quota.’ And it’s just not the case, minorities are underrepresented. People from—not even racially or in terms of gender—it’s really hard to get a job as a writer, and especially hard if you don’t have a kind of socioeconomic safety net to become a writer’s assistant and work for six years in the hope you can get that one script, you know. So programs like that really help bring new voices to the table, not just people of color, not just women, but also people of different backgrounds. And I think that’s really important.
So when she told me that, I was of course, horrified that I was talking too much. But I have this opportunity and I kind of need to blast the doors off of it or it’s gonna slam right back on me.”
After her first job, Joy went on to work for Burn Notice, which the moderator described as a a show with a “male voice.” Joy said it was a challenge she enjoyed, much like Westworld.
“Nobody ever has a problem if a man writes a woman,” she explained. “I wanted to be able to say, ‘Well, I can write your men and your action, too. You don’t just have to give me the love scenes, which I don’t even think are my strong suit.’ It was about trying to take as many topics and saying they’re not off-limits for me or people like me.”