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Elizabeth Meriwether

Elizabeth Meriwether

Born in Miami and raised in Ann Arbor, MI, Meriwether was reared in a family that was drawn to artistic endeavors. Her father, Heath, was the publisher of the local newspaper, the Detroit Free Press, while her mother taught prison inmates how to paint. A gifted student, Meriwether was bright enough to enter Yale University after high school. It was during college that she became interested in acting, often finding herself milling around the drama department in between classes. A shy person by nature, she finally worked up the courage to audition for a few roles, and before long was appearing in the several of the school's productions. Although acting was her first love, throughout college Meriwether was moonlighting as a playwright. One of her first produced plays - "The Touch, the Feel" - came during her sophomore year, and featured a then-unknown actress named Zoe Kazan talking to a giant ball of cotton. Meriwether continued both writing and acting throughout college. She graduated from Yale in 2004 and immediately packed her bags for New York City. It was in the creative melting pot of Manhattan that Meriwether envisioned herself becoming the great stage actress she always dreamed of. But as is so often the case in life, things didn't exactly turned out as planned. The switch to writing came shortly after she settled in New York. Meriwether had just landed a plum role in a stage version of Chekov's timeless family drama, "Three Sisters." After failing to cry on cue during rehearsal, the director told Meriwether she wasn't committed enough to the craft. But rather than nod her head and agree with him, Meriwether firmly walked off the stage, never to return. She was 23 and still had a long career ahead. Acting, as it turns out, just wasn't in the plan. With a clear head and renewed focus, Meriwether turned all of her attention into writing. She wrote several Off-Broadway plays over the next two years, most notably "Heddatron" and "The Mistakes Madeline Made," which earned her the attention of studio executives at Fox. Although Meriwether had never written a TV pilot before, she was encouraged by the studio to put her writing chops to the test. What she came up with was 2006's "Sluts," a precursor to Lena Dunham's "Girls" (HBO, 2011- ) which gave a raw, unfiltered account of the dating lives of several urban-dwelling single women. Fox executives responded overwhelmingly to Meriwether's writing, but ultimately passed on it, deeming the pilot "unproduceable." But as luck would have it, "Sluts" found its way into the hands of Ivan Reitman, best known for directing the comedy classics "Stripes" (1981) and "Ghostbusters" (1984), among several others. He encouraged Meriwether to write a sexed-up version of a classic romantic comedy. The script she ultimately handed in, 2008's "F***buddies," was widely-regarded as one of Hollywood's best unproduced screenplays of that year, even landing a prime spot on the industry's much sought after Blacklist. It would take another three years before the film came to theaters with the new title "No Strings Attached," and in that time, Meriwether jet-setted back and forth between New York and Los Angeles, eventually seeing her 2010 play, "Oliver Parker!," performed Off-Broadway with John Larroquette in the starring role. Although a commercial success, earning nearly $150 million at the worldwide box office, "No Strings Attached" received mixed reviews when it was released in January of 2011. Feeling exhausted and a bit perturbed by the endless rewrites during production, Meriwether was relieved to be given far more control over the final product when her new TV pilot, "New Girl," was greenlit in the summer of 2011. The show, which starred Zooey Deschanel as an "adorkable" teacher who shares a loft with three single men, was an instant hit, and was largely based off Meriwether's experiences bouncing around from one Craigslist sublet to the next during her early days in Los Angeles. In addition to receiving several Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, "New Girl" was also one of the highest-rated shows on Fox, averaging well over 5 million viewers an episode, in addition to becoming the most watched program for young women. Untainted by the massive success of the show, Meriwether continued her day-to-day duties as showrunner when the third season of "New Girl" premiered in September of 2013.
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