Kellie Griffin not only left a comfortable corporate career in our nation’s capital, she moved to LA and worked her way up from the very bottom of Hollywood. Her talent and infectious personality have played a major role in her success as a writer and executive producer.
I Am Entertainment Magazine was able to speak with Kellie about creating the new BET hit series, REED BETWEEN THE LINES, and get the scoop on how she became a top Hollywood writer.
Please tell us where you’re from and what influenced you to pursue a career in Film & TV?
I was born and raised in Philly, and unlike most people in this business, I didn’t grow up looking to do this. Instead, I received my Bachelors (degree) in Psychology and a Masters in Social Work – both from Howard University. I lived in Washington D.C. for about 15 years and always loved film and television. I could watch a movie and tell you everything that was wrong with it; if a prop got moved or there were continuity issues, I was on it. [laughs] My friends would tease me about getting into film and television, but the real journey started when my old roommate found an ad for this 8 week workshop taking place at the New York Film Academy (NYFA). She encouraged me to take the class, meanwhile someone else I knew was moving to LA to pursue a career in acting and producing stage plays and she asked me to come with her. I had no desire to move, but NYFA had a location at Universal Studios in LA. At the time, I was working a government job in D.C. doing social work and was a member of the D.C. Credit Union. So I said, “I’m going to apply for a loan and if I don’t get the loan I’m not going to LA, but if I get it I’ll go.” Well, I got the loan and moved to Los Angeles.
So when you got to LA and took that class, what was your next goal?
I moved here (LA) in March of 2000 and after my NYFA course ended, I was about to get another job in social work but I didn’t want to do that because I came to LA to do something different. My sister Carmen came to visit me that August and we went to a taping of the show, THE PARKERS. While we were there I asked an usher if they were hiring and they told me “no,” but to send in my resume. Then there was a lady there who worked on THE PARKERS named Rocky Staten and she came up from the stage and sat in the audience. So I tapped her and asked if she worked on the show and if they were hiring.
She also told me to submit my resume and I did, that same night – to both Rocky and the usher company. I didn’t hear anything, but in November I got a call from the usher company and they said that it pays $8/hr and I was like, “Oh, hell no! I am not taking a job for $8/hr.” [laughs] But my friends convinced me to take the job because at least I’d be working in the studio. So I gave it a shot.
Since I was the “rookie” I had to get the other ushers’ dinner from catering. While I was doing that, I ran into Rocky again and said to her, “Hey, I sent you my resume about 2 months ago.” She told me to send it again and I did. Well, the next day the receptionist quit and I got a call saying, “We know you have a degree in social work and we don’t know if you want to be a receptionist, but if you want to you can come in and interview.” I ended up starting that job just two days after I started the usher job. [laughs]
So how did you start writing?
I started working in the middle of their second season but during the show’s hiatus I took a set PA job on the show, EVE, sharpening pencils and getting coffee for people. So when THE PARKERS got picked back up I went back, but this time a writers assistant didn’t return and they asked me if I would be interested in that job. I got some quick hands on training, and next thing you know I’m in the writers room typing every day, absorbing everything.
So when they got word that the show was going to be cancelled the Executive Producer, Sara Finney-Johnson, graciously allowed me to write one of the final episodes. That put me into the Writer’s Guild and changed my life.