“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” has one of the most diverse writing teams in television. And in order to achieve that, the show had to get creative during the hiring process.
“I was bound and adamant about having a diverse writers room,” “Full Frontal” showrunner Jo Miller told Business Insider. “And they’re the best writers I could ever imagine. They’re all fantastic.”
“We don’t feel like we solved the diversity problem,” Bee said in a new interview with Rolling Stone. “We didn’t fix racism, quite. I mean, we almost did. We’ll see how things pan out. I’m feeling really good about it.”
In order to achieve its 50% female and 30% nonwhite team of writers, the show used a variation of a partially blind submission process used by many TV shows.
The hiring decisions were made in stages. The first stage resulted in a call for script submissions. Miller incorporated aspects from the hiring process used by “The Daily Show” and those “generously” shared with her by “Last Week Tonight” showrunner Tim Carvell.
“[Tim Carvell] did what ‘The Daily Show’ did and took it farther,” Miller explained. “I took what he did, made it my own, and did it a little differently.”
Those first submissions would be wiped clean of all identifying information, so it wouldn’t favour those with experience. For example, it included Carvell’s directions to applicants on how to set up a TV script. Miller also did a lot of recruiting and outreach.
After those submissions were winnowed down, Miller then took a look at the applicants’ backgrounds and previous work in order to decide who would get an invitation to submit a second script. She gave extra care to invite applicants who exhibited potential and also belonged to underrepresented groups.
“I didn’t make a really small pile,” Miller pointed out. “I did an unusually large second round and I’m really glad I did. Some people who had shone the first round, stumbled in the second round. And some people who didn’t stand out as great in the first round, knocked it out of the park the second round. I wanted to give as many people as possible a chance to show me what they could do.”
After reviewing those second submissions, the show made its hires.
“I had four slots and I had more than four people who were qualified to be in the room,” Miller said. “I wanted a diverse room and that certainly played into the final decision.”
“I have literally filled my office with people who have been underestimated their entire careers,” Bee told Rolling Stone. “To a person, we almost all fit into that category. It is so joyful to collect a group of people who nobody has ever thought could grasp the reins of something and f—ing go for it.”
Aside from gender and race, the writing team has a diversity of backgrounds. For example, the team consists of “Daily Show” alums, a former writer for David Letterman, and an ex-staffer for the Maryland DMV.
The diversity of its writers is a very important part of “Full Frontal’s” “visceral” tone, which, as Rolling Stone’s writer put it, “required hiring people who had fury to spare.”
The show doesn’t stop there. It’s also developing a mentorship program meant to bring in more talent who have been underrepresented in the TV industry.
“We are going to learn a lot the first time we do it,” Bee said in a January article in New York magazine. “It may be janky, we don’t know. Or it might be amazing, and you’ll find a diamond in the rough, and then you’ll find a job for that person… and then you start actually seeing the ratios change. That’s the goal.”
This article has been updated based on information provided after the original publication.