By Zach Van Norman
Jane Espenson has just arrived for our interview at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. She looks very much like a modern Cinderella, wearing a metallic blue dress that shimmers in the light as she makes her way down the stairs in the small screening room set aside for us. I hand her a bag of popcorn and compliment her on her dress. “Thank you,” she says as she prepares to sit. “It doesn’t allow for much popcorn but I’m going to eat some anyway.” It’s a humble moment from a television writer whose work is comprised of pop culture staples like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica and Torchwood.
Having cultivated such an impressive portfolio of writing credits, it’s arguable that Jane Espenson can be referred to as an icon. Her aforementioned humility continues as we begin speaking and Jane proves herself oblivious to her status. “I didn’t know I was an icon,” she replies when asked about the topic. “That’s even more disorienting. I’m not primarily a creator. I haven’t really created a lot of things. I co-created, where I co-created Husbands with Brad Bell, but mostly I have been someone who steps into a show and… I get to play in the sandbox that someone else has created, which is the thing I always wanted to do. It’s the best job in the world.”
While it’s true that she hasn’t created many of the characters she’s written for, Jane’s work has shepherded characters through many varying story arcs, filling in the outlines of their humanity with colors of her own choosing and showcasing how life isn’t always black and white. Jane’s stories are a journey to emotional truth, and they have been of such quality and such impact that she is being recognized with the Inspiration Award at Etheria Film Night 2015. Etheria Film Night is an annual event recognizing women for their contributions to the entertainment industry, and includes a showcase of genre films created by women filmmakers. Receiving the Inspiration Award is an honor that Jane describes as “thrilling, overwhelming, really nauseating, because it’s a lot of attention, you know? It feels gratifying, let’s go with that. That’s better than ‘nauseating.’”
Gratifying is the best way to describe Jane’s ascension in the world of television. She grew up in Ames, Iowa and submitted scripts for M*A*S*H* and Star Trek: The Next Generation as a teenager. She went on to join the Disney ABC Writing Program and spent a few years writing on comedy shows including Dinosaurs and Ellen; during this time her desire to write a Star Trek script was fulfilled when she penned an episode for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.