Part 3: Brain Trust (2011)
This cadre of behind-the-scenes talent crafts the stories, calls the shots, creates the looks, and scores the action on the shows we love
Showtime Networks Inc.
Gale Anne Hurd
The Walking Dead
As producer and co-writer of The Terminator, Hurd played a major role in the Comic-Con-ification of mainstream entertainment. ''I was a geek long before it was considered cool!'' says the 57-year-old. In producing more than 20 films, including Aliens and Armageddon, she's also paved the way for other female producers.
Her big break ''Without a doubt, being recruited to work for Roger Corman,'' says Hurd, who joined the movie king's company in 1978. It was a place, she says, where women worked in every position, from marketing to production. ''The shock to my system,'' says Hurd, ''was moving to the world of big studios, where women were essentially precluded from all of those jobs.''
Film vs. television Hurd says her experience producing one season of the 2002 series Adventure Inc. ''whet my appetite'' for making more TV, due to its emphasis on character-driven storytelling. ''I also learned it was a medium where producers were in charge,'' says Hurd. ''Which is fantastic!''
What's next In addition to finishing up season 3 of The Walking Dead, her company Valhalla Entertainment is casting an alien-invasion pilot for USA Network called Horizon, and has other TV projects in development, including an adaptation of Annie Jacobsen's book about Area 51 for AMC. Jeff Jensen
MTV is known for its reality, but the realest kid on the network comes courtesy of Awkward creator Lauren Iungerich, 38. Her take on an everyday teen navigating the sharky waters of high school tackles the perils of adolescence in a relatable but ridiculously funny way.
Her big break Iungerich had finished a gig writing for ABC Family's 10 Things I Hate About You when she got the call that MTV had picked up Awkward. Not everyone was thrilled. ''My agents at the time said, 'Oh, this is s---ty money,''' she recalls. ''They're no longer my agents.''
Work style ''I am in my writers' room every day,'' the self-admitted micromanager says. ''I answer every email. I work with every department, from marketing to promos to social integration. I direct my show. I'm on the set every day. It's an all-encompassing job.''
What's next Iungerich, who's currently in production on a supersize third season of Awkward, is waiting to hear whether MTV will pick up her pilot Hot Mess. ''If Awkward is my Sixteen Candles,'' she says, ''Hot Mess is my Bridget Jones.'' Tanner Stransky
Mara Brock Akill
From single ladies to football wives, Mara Brock Akil brought a new perspective to the writers' table when she created Girlfriends and its spin-off, The Game all before turning 40. After The CW canceled The Game, BET picked the show up, and its return in 2011 scored a stunning 7.7 million viewers.
Spousal Support Mixing the personal and the professional has paid off for Mara, whose producing partnership with husband Salim is thriving. ''We respect each other as artists and we're champions for each other,'' she explains. ''Certainly there are those moments where we rub. Each show, we determine who's the showrunner because somebody has to break the tie at some point.''
What's nextThe Game returns this year, and BET signed the Akils to a multiyear production deal, which includes creating Being Mary Jane, with Gabrielle Union. ''The deal we made at BET was huge,'' says Mara, 42. ''Now we're in a position to help other people realize their dream.''Tim Stack