Kyle Jarrow on Broadcast, Broadway, and Being Bicoastal (For Now)

Kyle Jarrow

Kyle Jarrow is a writer and musician who creates work for the stage, film and television. He is creator and executive producer of the upcoming TV series Valor, premiering on the CW network this fall. His digital series Lost Generation (with original music by Duncan Sheik) is now streaming on Verizon’s go90 platform.

Kyle’s plays include A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant (Obie Award), The Wildness (Lortel Award nominee), Whisper House (now playing in London), Noir, Love Kills and Hostage Song. Kyle penned the film Armless, which was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival.

In addition to his writing work, he leads the rock band Sky-Pony with his wife, Lauren Worsham. Their debut album Beautiful Monster is available from Knitting Factory Records.

I met Kyle ten years ago when producing a theater project at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn (the original Williamsburg iteration). The next year, I co-produced his original musical Love Kills for the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Over the years, I’ve become a friend and a fan, watching him evolve as a writer, musician, and performer, both solo and in collaborations with performers including Lauren Worsham and Duncan Sheik.

What’s your latest project?
I’m the creator and co-showrunner of a series called Valor, which premieres on the CW network this fall. It’s a serialized drama centering on one of the first female members of a Special Ops aviation unit. After she and her co-pilot are shot down on a covert mission in Somalia, they realize that the mission wasn’t all that it seemed, and they start digging for answers—while also working to rescue the two soldiers who got left behind.

How did you get your start as a writer? Did you formally study writing or television?
When I was a little kid, I wanted to be an actor. I did a bunch of shows at the theater in my hometown of Ithaca, NY—some student films, that kind of thing. Then my voice changed but I still looked like I was 11, so I stopped getting cast. But I’d caught the theater bug, so I started writing plays.

I kept writing plays through college—I only took one writing class, to be honest, but I’m a firm believer that doing is the best way to learn anything. Then, post-college, I started getting into writing for TV and film as well.

What inspired your move from New York to Los Angeles?
The writers room for VALOR is located in LA, so that’s the home base of the moment. But my wife (actress/singer Lauren Worsham) and I continue to split time between LA and NYC. It’s complicated, especially because we have a 14-month-old daughter; we’ll need to choose one city soon!

How is writing for television different than writing for the stage?
A lot of ways. Probably the two biggest ways are the nature of authorship and speed. In terms of authorship, the theater is a world where one writer (usually) is the sole authorial voice of a piece. In TV, there are multiple writers over the course of a season. We all craft stories together, and we edit each other’s work too. It’s a more collaborative writing form, in that sense, which I have to say I really enjoy.

In terms of speed, TV is a lot faster. We’re going to write and produce an entire season of television in around 6 months. That’s far quicker than the theater world tends to work.

What are your biggest career challenges?
At the moment, the toughest thing is balancing family and life. It’s a lot of work running a TV show, plus I’m also working on a Broadway show that’s coming to NYC this fall (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS). Between the two, my ass is getting pretty thoroughly kicked. To find time to also spend with my wife and our daughter is hard. And so important. Trying to figure that out.

What is your passion project?
My wife and I have a rock band together, Sky-Pony ( I love the music we make and I love the people in the band. Performing with them is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. Sky-Pony is definitely my passion project of the moment.

Who has been a mentor to you in your career?
I’ve been lucky to have a lot of wonderful mentors! One person who helped me immensely—he introduced the world of TV writing to me in the first place—is Stephen Tolkin. He’s a phenomenal writer and director as well as a generous, wonderful guy. I’m privileged to have him in my life.

Who’s your dream collaborator?
I’d say the novelist Haruki Murakami. I’m a massive fan. It would be an honor to adapt one of his novels for the screen.

Like a lot of writers, I have a drawer (well, a virtual drawer) full of ideas and scripts that have never come to fruition. There are a lot of dream projects I’d do if I had unlimited money.

What impact do you hope your work has on its audience?
When I’m making work, I have two goals: first, to let the viewer feel what another person, in a very different situation, might feel. Second, to let the viewer reflect on their own life as a result of that feeling.

At a moment in history where folks are so divided, this seems like a very important goal. I hope my work actually achieves it now and then.

You’re outspoken about your politics on social media. What effect do you hope that has?
I haven’t always been so public about my personal beliefs and politics. But this election has really changed things for me—as I know it has for a lot of people. I believe that we have an unethical and frankly dangerous administration in the White House. (One of the many unethical things our current POTUS has done is speak with great disrespect about our men and women in uniform.) I believe that the more people who can speak up about that, and make it clear that this administration does not represent the majority of Americans, the better.

How do you personally live these values in your community?
I try to give back as much as I can. Some causes and groups that matter a lot to me are reproductive rights (Planned Parenthood), immigrant rights (ATLAS DIY), trans rights (National Center for Transgender Equality) and education equality (Prep for Prep). I’m also a member of the NYCLU Associate Board; I’ve done a bunch of volunteering for them as well. I’ve also become increasingly interested in veterans’ causes since working on VALOR.

How do you define success?
Success, for me, is feeling like I am touching people in a positive way and having a positive impact on the world. If I had to make a formula, it would be:

(# of people touched) X (amount of positive impact) = (degree of success)

The nice thing about working in TV is that it ups the first part of that equation. TV tends to reach more people than most theater does. So now my job is getting the second part of the equation up to. Working on it!

Watch Valor Mondays at 9pm on the CW.

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