Black Twitter's Rise to Power in Hollywood

June 18, 2018

By Max Godnick

TV writers are used to responding to notes from network executives. Now, they're catering to fans on Twitter, too.

Karin Gist, showrunner of Fox's "Star", and Kriss Turner Towner, executive producer of the OWN Network's "Greenleaf", are responsible for steering the creative direction of their respective shows. They said that viewers' reactions on social media helps determine some of the choices they make in their writers' rooms.

"Black Twitter has a lot of power in Hollywood," said Gist in an interview with Cheddar's Brad Smith at the American Black Film Festival in Miami.

The term "Black Twitter" is frequently used to refer to the network of users who collectively weigh in on matters of cultural, political, and societal importance. The notion has already helped bring memes, hashtags, and movements like Black Lives Matter to prominence. Gist and Turner Towner said they make content decisions with the abstract group in mind.

"We care about our audience and what does Black Twitter say, so we have a responsibility to our viewers," said Turner Towner, adding, "Because of social media, we take that into account more."

Gist and Turner Towner are two of just a few African-American women at the helm of major television shows. While their two current projects center on stories about underrepresented communities, they said they don't feel as though they're being limited in the types of stories they tell on screen.

"I no longer think of it as a box, I think of it as an opportunity and a privilege," said Gist.

Both women encouraged writers of colors to tell stories that are true to themselves, emphasizing their potential as a mechanism for progress in Hollywood's road to better diversity and inclusion.

"I think it's really important to kind of tell your story, be honest about it, and be unapologetic about it," said Gist.

"The box is freakin' fantastic," she said.

For the full interview, click here.