Hernán Barangan Selected for 2022-23 Class of the NBC TV Writers Program

Hernán Barangan has the write stuff…

The half-Salvadoran American writer, filmmaker and leukemia has been selected for the 2022-23 class of the NBC TV Writers Program.

Hernán Barangan The program, formerly known as Writers on the Verge, was created in 2005 to prepare diverse, emerging writers for careers in television, The program is hosted by NBCU Launch, the umbrella brand that houses the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across NBCU’s television portfolio.

Barangan was diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager and while undergoing radiation therapy, fell in love with movies as a way to escape. He graduated from high school and cancer the same year and in the following decade would discover that storytelling is about facing your fears. Since then, Barangan, who is of Salvadoran and Filipino descent, has built a career that spans screenwriting, VR and documentaries. He directed and starred in Cancer Rebellion, a documentary executive produced by Roger Daltry of the Who, and interviews 100 young adult cancer patients across the United States.

The 2022-23 class of eight was chosen out of 2,100 applicants.

Over the next eight months, the new class will develop an original pilot under the guidance of NBCUniversal programming executives. They will also participate in weekly workshops that will include writing intensives, mock showrunner meetings and personal branding sessions. At the conclusion of the program, they’ll be considered for available writing assignments on shows airing on NBCU Television and Streaming networks and streaming platforms as well as USG-produced series.

While the primary objective of the program is to prepare writers to be staffed on a scripted series, the ultimate goal is to develop the next generation of showrunners and content creators, according to NBCU Launch. Recent success stories include alumni Debby Wolfe, showrunner and co-creator of NBC’s upcoming comedy Lopez vs. Lopez for Universal TelevisionClaudia Forestieri, creator and executive producer of HBO Max’s Gordita Chronicles; and Justin Hillian, showrunner and executive producer of Showtime’s The Chi.

All of the writers from the most recent 2020-21 class have been staffed on series following the completion of the program with several on NBC or Universal Studio Group-produced shows: Cristina Boada on NBC’s The Endgame and now The Blacklist, Hakim Hill on upcoming Peacock and USG’s Hysteria!, Eric Glover on The CW’s Tom SwiftSujana Gowni on Netflix’s The Henna Artist and now Apple TV+ and USG’s The White Darkness, Julian Johnson on Netflix’s The Beast in Me and now on Peacock and USG’s Bel-Air, Shawn Parikh on NBC’s Night CourtHussain Pirani on CBS and USG’s FBI: International and Kim Tran on Netflix’s Space Force.

Here are the bios of the 2022-23 NBC TV Writers Program class:

EMMAN SADORRA
Emman Sadorra is a second-generation Filipino-American queer writer drawn to telling stories about the complexities of identity and finding humor in unexpected places. Sadorra has worked in TV development and been a showrunner’s assistant, working on NBC comedies “I Feel Bad” and “Kenan” as well as ABC’s “Black-ish.” More recently, Sadorra has written for the revival of Nickelodeon’s iconic show “Blue’s Clues & You.” He is currently seeking representation.

IDA YAZDI
Ida Yazdi is an Iranian-American writer raised between Isfahan, Iran and Birmingham, Ala. Her work often explores themes of cultural identity, alienation and otherness. She builds narratives that examine both the humor and pain that comes with starting over in life, specifically through the lens of Muslim and Middle Eastern women. Her pilot, “Andi, Today,” was also featured on the 2021-22 Muslim List, created in partnership with the Black List, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and Pillars Fund to highlight the best unproduced scripts from Muslim writers. Yazdi was accepted into the Writers Guild Foundation’s Writers’ Access Training Program, Women in Film Writers Mentorship Program, and the STARZ #TakeTheLead Writers’ Intensive. The Columbia graduate previously worked as a script coordinator for several shows, including Apple TV+’s “City on Fire” and HBOMax’s “The Girls on the Bus.” She is currently seeking representation.

HERNÁN BARANGAN
Hernán Barangan was diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager and while undergoing radiation therapy, fell in love with movies as a way to escape. He graduated from high school and cancer the same year and in the following decade would discover that storytelling is about facing your fears. Since then, Barangan, who is of Salvadoran and Filipino descent, has built a career that spans screenwriting, VR and documentaries. He directed and starred in “Cancer Rebellion,” a documentary executive produced by Roger Daltry of the Who, and interviews 100 young adult cancer patients across the United States. He is repped by Echo Lake Entertainment.

AURORA FERLIN
Aurora Ferlin is a writer of Belgian and Rwandan descent who grew up on the outskirts of Brussels. With a background in journalism, she’s passionate about putting a spotlight on marginalized voices. Her work often explores themes of social justice, involving issues of race, crime, class and their intersections. Her feature screenplay, “Vilomah,” was a quarterfinalist in 2020 for the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship, an international screenwriting competition created by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Most recently, she wrote the Lifetime movie “She Went Missing,” which premiered in April 2022, and pilot episodes of “Mahogany Sunset” and “A New Day,” the first scripted podcasts under Hallmark’s Mahogany banner. Her other work includes feature documentary “Jim Brown’s Amer-I-Can Dream,” about NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown and his work with at-risk youth that earned a Best Documentary nominee at the American Black Film Festival. Outside of writing, Ferlin has worked closely with community activists and at-risk youth in Los Angeles to end the cycle of gun violence and youth incarceration. She is currently seeking representation.

AMELIA SWEDEEN
Amelia Swedeen was born and raised in Madison, Wisc., where she was known as her high school’s resident documentarian and disability advocate. Swedeen studied Film Production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, but TV writing quickly became her favorite medium for telling stories that elevate disabled, neurodivergent and queer identities. Swedeen considers herself to be a TV fan just as much as she is a writer, and she once made a live appearance in cosplay on “Talking Dead” (her first and last time in front of the camera). Swedeen has been on the support staff of six shows, most recently the second season of “Power Book IV: Force,” for which she is co-writing the finale. She is repped by Writ Large.

VARTA TOROSSIAN
Varta Torossian is a multicultural writer-director with roots in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. She traveled the world with a dance company until landing in New York. Torossian decided to pursue a career in screenwriting despite barely speaking English. In just a few years, she was able to earn two master’s degrees in directing and screenwriting. The AFI graduate went on to write and direct several award-winning short films while her feature scripts have been finalists at Final Draft’s Big Break, ScreenCraft and Cinequest. Torossian has worked across many genres on TV shows, feature films, documentaries and unscripted programming. Her stories always feature misfits, outsiders and renegades who, just like her, straddle many identities. Torossian is currently seeking representation.

TOMMAR WILSON
Tommar Wilson is a Kansas-born military brat who spent 20 years as an actor in multiple Broadway productions, including “Hamilton,” “Hair” and the vampire musical “Lestat.” He has also appeared on-screen in “Boardwalk Empire,” “Instinct” And “The Good Fight,” among others. As a writer, Wilson creates family drama featuring grounded characters navigating life through heightened, and sometimes fantastical, realities. He is particularly focused on telling stories that center gay Black protagonists, and exploring important issues such as mental health, addiction and the elusive human connection, while leaving plenty of room for joy and humor. He earned a quarterfinalist honor in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ prestigious Nicholl Fellowship for his original feature screenplay, “Up, Up, and Away!,” and has been honored by other fellowships and contests for his pilots “Romance Is Dead,” “Chorus Boy” and other original works. Wilson is a graduate of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, and the UCLA Professional Program in TV Drama Writing. He is currently seeking representation.

WILLIAM YU
William Yu is a Korean-American screenwriter based in Los Angeles via Philadelphia, Hong Kong, Boston and New York. After creating #StarringJohnCho, the viral phenomenon that sparked a global conversation about Asian-American representation, he left his advertising career behind to write subversive stories that wink at you with a hopeful smile. His feature romantic comedy, “It Was You,” was selected to the annual Black List and is currently in development with “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu attached as an executive producer. Yu’s dramedy pilot, “Good Boy,” was selected for the 2020 Sundance Episodic Makers Lab and named to the 2020 CAPE List as a top screenplay by an AAPI writer. He is repped by Bellevue and APA.

Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz Extends Overall Deal with Sony Pictures Television

Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz is staying with Sony…

The half-Colombian American television producer, director and writer has extended her overall deal with Sony Pictures Television.

Brigitte Muñoz-LiebowitzMuñoz-Liebowitz is the executive producer and showrunner of Gordita Chronicles, the coming-of-age HBO Max comedy series, which premiered this past week.

Under the new multi-year pact, Muñoz-Liebowitz will continue to develop scripted comedy series across cable and streaming, as well as run Gordita Chronicles if the series, which is drawing solid early reviews, is renewed for a second season.

Muñoz-Liebowitz already has a number of projects in the works, including Birthright, which she is co-writing with Lindsay Golder.

Created by Claudia Forestieri, Gordita Chronicles is set in 1980s Miami and tells the story of the Castellis who move from the Dominican Republic in pursuit of the American dream.

In shepherding Gordita Chronicles, which Muñoz-Liebowitz executive produces alongside Forestieri as well as Josh Berman, Jennifer Robinson and Chris King of SPT-based Osprey Productions, Eva Longoria, who directed the pilot, and Zoe Saldana, Mariel Saldana and Cisely Saldana for Cinestar Pictures, she draws on her personal experience.

Muñoz-Liebowitz, who grew up in Santa Clarita, CA, is the daughter of a Colombian immigrant mother who came to the US when she was 12, and a New York Jew father. Raised by her mom, dad and her Colombian grandmother, who only spoke Spanish, in a predominantly white neighborhood, “I was one of the brownest people in my class and the only person with two Zs and a tilde in their name, and I had very much a feeling of being the weirdo outsider,” Muñoz-Liebowitz said. “A lot of the things I really connected to when I read the original script were those feelings, and I also really saw my own family in the story of the Castellis and Gordita Chronicles, so many of the stories my mom had told me about when she came to the United States were some of the same exact stories in the show.”

With a Florida immigrant family pursuing the American dream at the center and a story told through the eyes of a school-age child, Gordita Chronicles draws parallels to ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat. Besides the Castellis coming straight from their country of origin vs. Washington DC where the Huangs moved from with their U.S.-born children, “our tone is slightly different,” Muñoz-Liebowitz said. “We tried to, not speaking about content necessarily, but we really tried to go for a different sort of comedy style, which is a bit more cinematic, referencing a lot of the movies that we grew up watching in the 80s that we looked at and were aspiring to when we thought of the American dream, the John Hughes movies and Chris Columbus films.”

Those include 16 Candles, Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as well as Home Alone, which came out a few years later.

“The pacing also is quite a bit slower,” Muñoz-Liebowitz said, adding that Season 1 chronicles the family’s first few months in the new country.

Muñoz-Liebowitz says she’s always wanted to be a TV writer ever since she was a child. With an educator mother and a small business owner father, she didn’t have any connections in the business, so “I had to figure it all out for myself,” she sad.

She finished USC with a degree in screenwriting but then switched gears by going to graduate school at Columbia University for producing.

“I discovered after going to USC that at that time, the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell were not attractive to studios because they were stories about people of color, that my that kind of humor wasn’t really à la mode.”

She worked briefly as a line producer and a production manager in New York in indie film and commercials while taking comedy classes. Her first television job was as a script coordinator under Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman on the pilot for Person Of Interest and then she became a writers assistant on the series, moving to Los Angeles.

“So I actually learned about TV writing from drama writers on a sci-fi procedural,” Muñoz-Liebowitz said.

During her time on the series, Muñoz-Liebowitz kept applying to the NBC Writers On the Verge program while taking classes at the Groundlings and Improv Olympic West. She got into the NBC program on her third try. Her first job out of that was on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which led to a string of writing gigs on TBS’ People of Earth, NBC’s Abby’s, Disney+’s Diary of a Future President, HBO Max’s Love Life, and the Sony TV-produced One Day At a Time, on which she served as a Co-Executive Producer.

One Day At a Time was a wonderful experience because it was, I think, the first really safe space to be able to be myself entirely as a woman Latinx comedy writer, and watching [co-creator/EP] Gloria Calderón Kellett just be herself and push for the show and the content that she wanted was really inspiring.”

Muñoz-Liebowitz’s work on One Day at a TIme also got the attention of Sony TV brass who signed her to her first overall deal in 2020.

“Brigitte was a superstar for us on One Day At A Time and we quickly made a development deal with her to solidify our relationship,” said Glenn Adilman, EVP Comedy Development, Sony Pictures Television. “She did an incredible job running the amazing first season of Gordita Chronicles for HBO Max, where she helped build a very strong room of diverse writers and supported creator Claudia Forestieri’s great vision. We are beyond excited to have Brigitte tell her stories and continue our wonderful relationship together.”

Those stories include Birthright, about a Latinx woman who converts to Judaism for her fiance, then gets dumped at the altar and has to decide, am I still Jewish?

“It’s a comedy about identity and the different spaces we can we can fit into in our lives,” said Muñoz-Liebowitz who produces the project with her co-writer Golder as well as Israeli company MA Productions.

While all of her existing projects in development are comedy, Muñoz-Liebowitz said that she loves watching dramas and is open to revisiting her TV beginnings by tackling a drama under her new deal with Sony TV.

“Sony has been so incredibly supportive of all the projects that I brought to them,” she said. “They’ve been such wonderful creative partners, I’ve just felt like they’ve had my back and supported my vision.”

HBO Max Orders Family Comedy Pilot “Gordita Chronicles,” Starring Olivia Goncalves, to Series

Olivia Goncalves is preparing to Chronicle(s) her latest endeavor…

HBO Max has picked up to series the family comedy pilot Gordita Chronicles, starring the Latina actress and Hollywood newcomer.

Olivia Goncalves

The project hails from Claudia ForestieriJosh Berman’s Osprey ProductionsZoe Saldana’s Cinestar Pictures and Sony Pictures Television

Goncalves leads the comedy, written and executive produced by Forestieri and directed by Eva Longoria. Diana Maria Riva and Juan Javier Cardenas also star.

Gordita Chronicles, inspired by Forestieri’s life, centers on Carlota “Cucu” Castelli (Goncalves), a willful 12-year-old Dominican immigrant with a heart of gold. Cucu leaves her home and her parochial school in Santo Domingo to live in Miami and pursue the American Dream during the hedonistic 1980s after her father, a marketing executive with a large airline, gets transferred there. Cucu meets head-on the challenges of being an immigrant in a strange new world with humor, bravado and some really bad choices.

“We are thrilled to partner with Zoe, Eva, Josh and Sony Pictures Television to bring to life this beautiful coming-of-age story inspired by Claudia’s personal journey,” said Jennifer O’Connell, Executive Vice President, Non-Fiction and Live-Action Family Programming, HBO Max.

“HBO Max is proud to work with the powerhouse Latinx talent in front of and behind the camera for this series, which we believe will resonate with all families,” added Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max.

Cast also includes Savannah Nicole Ruiz, Noah Rico and Cosette Hauer.

“From the minute we heard Claudia’s childhood story, we knew it was not only incredibly funny, but emotionally poignant and an important story to tell,” said Jason Clodfelter, Co-President, Sony Pictures Television Studios. “Cucu and the Castellis remind us of the iconic sitcom families we grew up watching, but none of those ever captured a Dominican family’s experience of coming to America. This show changes all of that, and we are thrilled and grateful to dive back in and make a wonderful series for our friends at HBO Max.”

Brigitte Munoz Liebowitz serves as executive producer and showrunner. Berman, Chris King and Jennifer Robinson executive produce for Osprey Productions. Longoria executive produces via her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment. Saldana, Mariel Saldana and Cisely Saldana executive produce for Cinestar Pictures. Sony Pictures TV is the studio.

Diana Maria Riva to Star in HBO Max’s Family Comedy Pilot “The Gordita Chronicles”

Diana Maria Riva is beginning to chronicle

The 51-year-old Dominican American actress has joined the cast of HBO Max’s upcoming family comedy pilot The Gordita Chronicles, from Josh Berman’s Osprey Productions, Zoe Saldana’s Cinestar Pictures and Sony Pictures Television.

Diana Maria Riva

Riva, who recently started in NBC’s short-lived comedy Sunnyside, joins a roster of new cast additions that includes Juan Javier Cardenas, Savannah Nicole Ruiz, Noah Rico and Cosette Hauer.

They join newcomer Olivia Goncalveswho will lead the comedy written by Claudia Forestieri and directed by Eva Longoria.

The Gordita Chronicles centers on Carlota “Cucu” Castelli (Goncalves), a willful 12-year-old Dominican immigrant with a heart of gold. Cucu leaves her home and her parochial school in Santo Domingo to live in Miami and pursue the American Dream during the hedonistic 1980s after her father, a marketing executive with a large airline, gets transferred there. Cucu meets head-on the challenges of being an immigrant in a strange new world with humor, bravado and some really bad choices.

Riva will appear as Adela, Cucu’s mom. The actress appeared as Detective Ana Perez in Netflix’Dead to Me. Her additional roles include Man with a PlanKajillionaire, and McFarland, USA.

Cardenas takes on Victor Castelli, Cucu’s dad. He played Dante in The Walking Dead and Ben in S.W.A.T. His credits also include Snowfall, Damnation, Scandal and Lusa.

Ruiz will appear as Emilia, Cucu’s older sister. High School Musical: The Musical actor Noah Rico joins the cast as Yosmel “Yoshy” Hernandez, a Cuban refugee and Cucu’s first friend in Miami.

Lastly, Hauer joins as Ashley, a needy go-getter desperate to fit in, but nevertheless always sticks out.

Brigitte Munoz Liebowitz serves as executive producer and showrunner. Berman, Chris King and Jennifer Robinson executive produce for Osprey Productions. Longoria executive produces via her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment. Saldana, Mariel Saldana and Cisely Saldana executive produce for Cinestar Pictures. Forestieri is co-executive producer. Sony Pictures Television is the studio.

HBO Max Developing Claudia Forestieri’s “The Gordita Chronicles”

Claudia Forestieri is getting personal on her next project…

HBO Max has put in development The Gordita Chroniclesa coming-of-age kids and family comedy from the half-Dominican writer, Josh Berman’s Osprey ProductionsZoe Saldana’s Cinestar Pictures and Sony Pictures Television, where Osprey is under a deal.

Claudia Forestieri

Written by Forestieri, The Gordita Chronicles, loosely inspired by Forestieri’s life, centers around a Latina reporter looking back on her childhood as a chubby, willful and reluctant Dominican immigrant growing up with her eccentric family in 1980s Miami.

Berman and Chris Kingexecutive produce for Osprey Productions. Zoe Saldana, Mariel Saldanaand Cisely Saldanaexecutive produce for Cinestar Pictures. Forestieri is co-executive producer. Sony Pictures Television is the studio.

Forestieri was a producer for Telemundo’s L.A. affiliate where she earned five local Emmys and a GLAAD Media award for her work covering the Latino community. She is an alumnus of HBO’s Access Writing FellowshipNALIP’s Latino Writers Lab and NBC’s Writers on the Vergeprogram. Forestieri is a writer on the upcoming Selena: The Seriesfor Netflix and previously wrote on Freeform’s Good Trouble.

Saldana is next set to star and executive produce From Scratch, a limited series from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshinefor Netflix.