I don't crouch down on the ground to interview just anyone. But when Diane Ruggiero, the executive producer of the upcoming CBS series The Ex List, asked a group of reporters if it would be all right if she sat down while we talked to her, we all sat too — even though it meant getting cozy with the cold cement floor of a Hollywood night club.
That's how much we wanted to talk to Ruggiero, who earlier in the day had completely won over the room at the TCA press tour with her rambling stories and witty retorts. The former Veronica Mars writer immediately proved her coolness by having a friend take a picture of the half-dozen of us huddled — literally — at her feet. She seemed shocked that she could attract such a crowd, but she shouldn't be; talking with her was one of the highlights of this year's TCA. She filled us in on some details of her show, which stars Elizabeth Reaser of Grey's Anatomy as a woman told by a psychic that she's supposed to marry one of her ex-boyfriends, plus talked about writing kick-ass women characters and working with Mars boss Rob Thomas. Here are some highlights:
This is not a typical CBS show. It's a very women-centric show. Why CBS? And does that worry you?
No. It's so funny, because I get [the concern]. But I know Nina [Tassler, the CBS entertainment president]. . . . If I met her outside CBS, and you said, "Would Nina like the show?" I would say, "Of course she would, it's totally her thing!" And I'm excited that they're giving it a try.
What about the viewers, though? How do you get them to tune in?
I have to go door to door and pretty much be like, "You know that show Numb3rs? Well, if you tune in a little earlier . . . " I don't know how that's going to work. I did a show, same time period, several years ago, and no one was [watching] — it was like, my mom, and a couple aunts . . . but it's a different world now, with TiVo, and I'm hoping that it will get a nice buzz, and then they'll TiVo it and that will kind of help it. I personally am home on Fridays at nine, so it's not a big deal for me. My shows that are on, if I don't get a chance to watch them [live] I still watch them — that's why God invented TiVo.
More from Ruggiero, including her superhero pilot and working on Mars, so read more.
What did you think when you first saw the Israeli original?
My pilot that I had got force majeured during the strike. And it was a superhero kind of deal, right? And so they call me and they're like, there's this show, Mythological X [the show's original title], and I'm like, "Right on, it's a superhero show!" And then they tell me what it was about, and I couldn't think of what to expect. It's awesome. It's like 11 little independent movies. They're shot really raw, and it's cool. It's shocking that that's on Israeil television. That woman has sex with, like, everybody!
How did you find Elizabeth Reaser for the lead?
Apparently, when you do these things, there's a very short list. And they give you some names where you're like, "If this person says my words, I will hang myself." And then they give you some other names, and you're like, "Really, are you serious, can that happen?" And you find out really quickly that it's just, they're dangling a carrot. But then there's this short list, this very intense short powerful list of the chosen "about-to-pop-ers," and there's like two people. And it was like Elizabeth and — it's out of my head, but she's about to pop. My little wheelhouse is so small that I was just like, can we get the chick from Battlestar?
What was the show you were working on before the strike?
It didn't have a title yet, but — I'm gonna do it still. I think I might do it as a movie. It was two neighborhood girls from Jersey who were kind of down and out, and they went to a female-empowerment seminar, like a Marianne Williamson "unleash the power of the goddess" thing, and there's an accident and they do. So like, by day, they're kind of just ambling about trying to make it happen, and by night they're superheroes. . . I had the idea because I was leaving Veronica Mars one day, and there was this guy who kicked his dog, and I started yelling at him, and all of a sudden, I see he's walking out to my car and he had a brick in his hand. I had this brief fantasy — and I had a soundtrack and everything — of me just stopping and getting out and like shutting the door and busting some move on him and kicking his ass and taking the dog. That was my big fantasy, and that's how I had this idea — wanting to see me at the moment where I'm like, "'I'm taking the dog."
Did you put any of those superhero qualities in Bella for The Ex List?
I did want her to be a girl that can hang out with guys, the whole surfing aspect of it — I wanted her to be cool and strong and tough, but I didn't put any of that [superhero stuff]. The show doesn't necessarily call for it yet. She doesn't necessarily need it now, but when she does, I'm not a shrinking violet kind of person.
You've had your own shows, and you've also worked for other people on their shows. What did you learn from that experience?
Working for Rob [Thomas, on Veronica Mars] was amazing. You serve one master — all I had to do was make Rob laugh, all I had to do was make Rob happy. Rob loved me — the second we started working together, he was like, "You're mine." He would joke, "If you listen to Veronica, who does she sound like?" Rob is so genius and smart and so great at story. That's what I aspire to. I'm still like the "I can write now, it's raining!" girl.