Creating Worlds, Opening Doors: An Interview with Heather Taylor

Or, how to enjoy the best Godfather noodles.

My interview with Heather Taylor felt like a chat with an old friend. Heather’s generosity, openness, and story sensibilities had me thinking one thing: if Hollywood’s lucky, this is a future showrunner.

Heather has written the feature films Lethal Love (2021) and The Last Thakur (2008), two episodes of The Hardy Boys, including one that was nominated for a Writer’s Guild of Canada award, not to mention numerous shorts, poetry, and podcasts.

The Braaains podcast, which Heather co-hosts with her sister Sarah Taylor, brings on various guests to talk about mental health, disability, and how Hollywood can do a better job representing these experiences. 

Heather has also written and directed an episode of the anthology podcast You Feeling This, which premieres at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

In our interview, we talked about the difficulties of not living in L.A. full time, living and working with ADHD, how we can better portray mental health on screen, and our favorite cinematic noodles.

Please enjoy my interview with Heather Taylor.

The following interview has been edited for clarity.

Heather Taylor: I’m staying with my cousin. I’m allergic to cats, and I made the mistake of letting the cat get on my lap. “Okay, I’ll let you sit there for a second.” And now he’s relentless. He is sitting outside the door right now and he’s following me around the house.

Noah Lloyd: They just have to learn that you’re a pushover—I’m always the pushover. If a dog sees me, it knows. Then it’s all over.

Let’s start with the basics: how did you start writing?

HT: I’ve always written, since I was little. My first play was when I was in grade six. I did “Goldilocks and the Two Bears.” They were divorced, and it’s really me telling my life story already from the age of eleven.

NL: Goldilocks and the broken home.

HT: Exactly. They had boomboxes and stuff like that. It was like, “this one’s too loud, this one’s too quiet, this one’s just really amazing.” 

Now, I always assumed that everyone was a writer. I grew up with a single mom, low-income family. We lived below the poverty line. A lot of the people in my environment—some were in education, but mostly [they were] oil workers, farmers, penitentiary guards. Those people were in my circle. I didn’t know anyone who wrote or created things.

I assumed that because I loved writing and that I wrote all the time, everyone wrote all the time. I remember having an English teacher say, “You should be a major in English” but I was in music and I was supposed to be a music teacher. Two weeks before I was supposed to go to my program to do a double major in music and education, there was a deep feeling inside me that that was the wrong choice. And at the last minute I said, “I can’t do this.” I decided to go to a local university, the University of Alberta, and I took some music lessons. I thought I could still be a musician, maybe a teacher.

And then I took some drama classes. In the drama classes, we did a lot of collective creation. And suddenly I was talking about politics and things that mattered to me and I thought, “Oh, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to be an actor, because actors get to tell stories.” So I went into drama. 

I ended up going to Mount Royal, and then I got into a conservatory program out in Vancouver called Studio 58, and I was an actor. I started getting exposure to writing plays at a higher level, and I was like, “Oh, actually this is it, it’s the writing part. That’s how I get to tell stories.” 

We did a collective creation project, and I got to tell a story of when I was a kid. I had a family member restrict food for me because I was a chubby kid, so I got less food and my sister would get more. And I just remember how upset I was about that, and how that really knocked me for… my self-esteem was so low. I just wasn’t myself. I felt like I can’t be myself if I am in this body, I have to be different. And this idea eroded who I was. 

And then I was speaking to one of the other women in the group, who was in the tech team, and she said that when she was young, she would get her feelings out through self-harm.

So we combined the two stories, about me and food and eating, and that emptiness, with the emptiness she felt. I told that story every night, and I would have women come up to me and say, “No one’s ever told my story before. I’ve never heard this. I always felt alone.” So I cried—I cry whenever I think about it—and I remember going, “This is why I do this.” I didn’t have to be the mouthpiece for my story to tell my story. I could create worlds, I could create these bigger environments to allow lots of people to tell these stories.

I didn’t have to be the mouthpiece for my story to tell my story…

…the more I can tell my story, the more people will feel less alone.

I needed to write about the things that I knew. What growing up in poverty was like, what being in the working class is like, what dealing with family members with mental illness is like, and how mental health is important to talk about, and how disability is important to talk about.

I started to realize that the more I can tell my story, the more people will feel less alone. That’s what got me into writing. 

Then when I was in acting school and wearing my pajamas—that’s what I felt like, I was in pajamas and bare feet for all of acting school—I was lying on the floor doing warm ups. I was like, “What am I doing here? I’m not in an environment that’s making me creative. I feel like they want me to be someone I’m not.” They were in that mindset of, “If you’re a woman, you have to be—” pardon my language “—a bitch to survive. You have to be this person.”

I remember my last ever class was doing mime with a mask of an old man reading a newspaper. And then I finished, took my notes, said thank you, and went upstairs to the artistic director and said, “This is my last day at the program. I’m leaving.” And I left, and it was the best choice I made.

I had to take three classes to finish getting my piece of paper. I took poetry, I took screenwriting, and I took Excel.

NL: Hey, you need something marketable!

HT: Excel spreadsheets. 

I think that screenwriting class was the first time I wrote a screenplay and understood what a screenplay would be like. That screenplay opened the doors for me for other work that started my path down the career of writing.

NL: Can you remember what that first screenplay was about?

HT: At the time I was working at a call center for a bank. I was in collections: “Zero to forty-nine days overdue for student loans.” So horrible. 

I walked into the office and it was like walking into the Matrix. I’d never experienced any type of corporate environment before, and not at that level. Just rows and rows and rows of people on headsets. I was completely blown away. But at the same time I was writing the screenplay, and sometimes writing the screenplay at work between calls.

NL: I identify with that.

HT: I remember calling Saskatchewan, which is where I grew up [during] elementary school, in a small town called Prince Albert, 20,000 people. It’s a very small community, about 40% are indigenous people, and there’s a lot of stigma for anyone who is either indigenous or poor. 

We were middle class, and then my parents got divorced, and then we went lived below the poverty line. Our life changed from being welcomed to feeling very ostracized in the community. 

We didn’t get many opportunities. That really informs my work and feelings. I wanted to write about, “What if I got stuck there? What if my mom didn’t move us back to Edmonton, which is a bigger city, a million people? What happened if I stayed there?”

I really wanted to capture that feeling. When you’re in a space where it feels hard to get out of, how do you find your own way?

I’ve taken that idea and have been trying for my whole career to figure out how to tell that story. Now I’m really telling the story that I wanted to tell, about a family who’s dealing with mental health, a mental health crisis, living in poverty and trying to figure out, “How do we move forward together, but also live our own lives?” But done through the guise of a supernatural horror.

To me, creating space between trauma and what you see on film is important. If I just told the story as I originally wrote it in the first screenplay, I think it would be traumatizing for some people to re-experience being in those spaces, [or which] they could currently be in.

I know I’ve watched films that do that, and it hurts to watch. And I question who the film is for. So I want to be able to do something that people can see reflections of their own life without it being in that environment.

When you’re in a space where it feels hard to get out of, how do you find your own way?

NL: You said that you’re now telling that story the way you want to: is this a spec script that you’re working on, is it creeping into all the work you’re doing?

HT: A little bit of both. I think this specific, really personal story [is] about people who feel like they are unable to ask for help. That’s really at the core of it. A lot of times when you’re in these situations, it feels impossible to tell anyone about it, because it can change everything, and not in a good way.

So it’s a spec script that’s currently called From Out of the Dark and I’m going to direct it. I feel like it’s so much of my story and so personal that I need to tell it, not just through writing, but also through how it is represented on screen. It’s something that I’m going to start taking out later this year, because I really feel like it’s an important story for me and I think it can be really impactful.

NL: You mentioned using genre as a way to tell stories at one remove from reality. Has genre always been something you were attracted to, or have you learned its value along the way?

HT: I’ve always loved genre. I was always putting magic into worlds. I had a couple of short stories published when I was in grade four, one was like “The Wizard Who Stole the Pizza.” I really wrote about food a lot. Coming from a place of food insecurity growing up, it’s very reflective in the work that I do. [Laughter.] I was always interested in magic and portals, and this idea of responsibility, even at a very young age. 

My mom would go to sleep and I’d sneak out of bed, and I would watch what was on TV. We never had cable or anything like that, [but] there’d be late night horror films and late night supernatural stuff. I love Twilight Zone and I love things that showed the world in a different way. It just really opened my imagination. I watched things I probably should never have watched as an eight year old.

I think for me that really informed this fascination with how we can tell these really… I guess political stories. Stories about things that we deeply care about in ways that are more palatable to an audience. I could see that even at a young age.

And sometimes, I don’t know, sometimes a creepy crawly is really fun! Sometimes I just like what’s scary, you know? I remember being terrified by something I saw on television, and it was only recently, like in the last five years, that I [realized] it was David Cronenberg’s Shivers, which should never be watched by a young child.

After I watched it I was terrified of things coming out of the sink. Same thing with IT.

NL: Yeah, the shower scene.

HT: Yes.

When my husband I first started dating, he lived in Astoria, Queens, and they forgot to put the trap back into the shower. I went to shower, and a giant cockroach crawled out. And I was like, “Done, no more showers here. This is exactly my childhood nightmare coming to life. I’m out.”

NL: Are there other movies from that period you can cite as touchstones for you now?

HT: Yeah, Creepshow I think it was, yes. I remember seeing late night stuff. They were playing like, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I remember Night of the Living Dead. I thought it was so hilarious, they had the zombies yelling, “Telegram!” I didn’t know what it was, [but] I think it’s a weird juxtaposition of things, seeing all these weird worlds mashed together. I didn’t really understand what they were. 

We weren’t allowed to watch scary things growing up, but we watched a lot of things like Star Trek. I don’t write space things even though I love space, but I write near-fi, so more like Twilight Zone. We watched old Twilight Zone episodes growing up, and then we’d watch anything with ghosts in it. My mom liked paranormal stuff, so we would watch that kind of thing with her.

But, because my sister would get really terrified of anything scary, we wouldn’t watch things with fire or tornadoes, no horror. So for me, those little glimpses of the unexplainable—these aren’t exact things, but these kinds of shows shaped the way that I looked at stories, and what I loved.

And I was also just a voracious reader. I read anything I could get my hands on that was fantastical. The Shannara series is one of my favorites. And Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Asimov, and all of those types of books. I think a lot of that influenced the way I thought about worldbuilding and storytelling. All I would do is read. I would read at the dinner table. I just constantly consumed content. And then I also read, way too early, a lot of Harlequin romances.

So when we studied Pride and Prejudice in high school, I knew about all those customs. [Classmates might] think, you know, I did some research. No, I read really trashy Regency books when I was 13, so I knew everything about that time period, though those books really skewed my view of what love is, which took a while to unpack.

NL: So you go from writing a screenplay in between calls at a call center to having a movie on Netflix—how does that come about?

HT: Well, there’s lots of steps in between.

I had an opportunity to move to England. It was very random—I won a contest online. I ended up getting a work visa, and I immigrated to England. I meant to be there for a year and then I ended up living there until I became a citizen.

I was doing theater, and I was still writing screenplays behind the scenes. I ended up being asked to write my first feature, [which] was called The Last Thakur, which is the first ever Bengali Western. I worked with a director from Bangladesh [Sadik Ahmed], and we got a grant from the National Film and Television School and [were] supported also by Channel Four in England. That was my first feature that was ever made. 

And I thought features were fast, because it was a really fast process. I was like, “This is great!” And then I proceeded to write features for other people that never got made.

It was a rude awakening. I just kept working with producers, working with directors, telling other people’s stories. And then I made my own web series, and my own short film, and I was trying to find ways to tell my own stories. And then I had the opportunity to immigrate to America.

I thought it’d be fast to get a green card. It is not. No matter how much you try to convince people, it takes a long time. When I finally got my green card, I had applied for a program at the Canadian Film Center. I left my job and went to the Canadian Film Center to the Prime Time TV program. That gave me the checkmark and the confidence to say, “I can do this job.” It also reintroduced me to the Canadian market. 

Finishing that program, I got into another program called The Corus Writer’s Apprentice Program (that doesn’t exist [now] in the way it did before). Corus is one of the networks in Canada. They sent me to Banff World Media Festival, where I had the opportunity to have meetings. They have a directory, and you can email anyone in the directory. So I emailed everyone in the directory that I thought was relevant, including Jeffrey Katzenberg.

NL: What you gotta do!

HT: He did not reply to my email, but that’s okay, I didn’t expect that to happen. I was like, “Let’s just shoot my shot.” But I did meet with an executive from a company called Neshama, that’s in Canada. They are a sister company to MarVista, they create a lot of television, but they also do a lot of movie-of-the-weeks, that type of writer-for-hire film.

So I met the executive, Marly [Reed], and then, I’d say four months later, there was a call for writers who wrote in the thriller and horror space that could potentially be interested in working with them. I already knew her and had her email address. I reached out to say, “Hey, I have a horror feature that I’ve actually written with these two directors in New York. Here’s an example of how I can write something that is both thrilling and horror.” 

She read it and shared it with the team in the States. It wasn’t something that they would make, but they’re like, “Well, we’ll put you on the list for the next thing.” And the next thing came in February of 2020, which was Lethal Love.


They sent me a two pager and said, “Could you write this?” It was about a mother-daughter relationship that’s kind of fraught, which is the perfect storm for me. I love writing about complicated families. It’s in all of my work. It was about a drifter musician, and I was a musician. So that checks another box, and it was set in a bakery. I’m like, “How many baked goods can I have in a movie?”

So they hired me to do it. I really understood it to be a Lifetime-esque thriller. At the time, I didn’t know where they were going to sell it. Their model was they would make it, and then they try to sell it to, first, Netflix, and then to Lifetime or other distributors. 

So I got asked to write it in February 2020—obviously, pandemic began, and I had to make changes to be reflective of, “How do you create a safe set?” I turned things from, like, middle of a busy cafe to when it’s closed, limited people in rooms, even limited contact between characters. They filmed it in October of 2020 in Canada.

I really leaned into the fun of a Lifetime-esque thriller, which was a fun romp. 

Throughout, it’s about gaslighting, what gaslighting can do to you, and how that can change your relationships. It was a hard balance, because the fear of mine was always that [the viewer is] going to think that the women characters are being dumb, because we get the perspective of the con artist at the center of it. You already knew he was bad, so you had to lean in to the fact that he’s bad. I looked at films like Pacific Heights with Michael Keaton, or Hand that Rocks the Cradle, to look at, how do we still have the perspective of the bad guy [around] the other people who are being swindled?

It’s always a toss up. I don’t know if we achieve the balance exactly, but the attempt was there, and I think, to me, it’s the project that I’ve had the most people in my life see, and write to me about. “Oh I saw this!” My husband’s whole family were at a beachhouse and they all watched it together, and they’re like, “It was so good!”

I realized that, making accessible content on a distribution channel a lot of people see, underneath it has [to talk] about something real, and hopefully some people can recognize, “It’s for me.” The more accessible content can be, the more impact it can have.

NL: Tell us about the Braaains podcast and why “the brain” is important to you.

HT: My sister is a television and film editor in Canada. She most recently edited a docuseries called Push [about a group of] people called the Wheelie Peeps. They’re wheelchair users in Edmonton, I love it. 

But before that, my sister and I had always talked about, “How can we do a podcast, or talk about something?” I said, “I don’t want to do something that feels navel-gazey. I want it to be really important to us both and be something that is relevant to the work that we do.”

And then one day, as I leaned more into that fact that I have ADHD—like, I have a neurodevelopmental disorder, I have a disability, and it’s good to be an advocate and to talk about it, because the more that we talk about it, the more we destigmatize it.

That’s where the idea for Braaains came about. My sister has generalized anxiety disorder. We come from a family with a parent with agoraphobia and panic disorder, and we see a lot of misrepresentation on television of mental illness. It’s often used as, “We want to have a bad guy, let’s just give them a mental illness.” Especially horror films. 

[Note: I also talked about mental health and horror tropes in an interview with Sarah Doombringer on my old horror RPG blog, Reckoning of the Dead. ]

HT: And I find that it’s kind of devastating. So we decided that we would create a podcast to talk with people with lived experiences, and talk to experts, and have these conversations about the reality of [our subject], and what representation we want to see.

It’s not about tearing down shows that may have quote-unquote “bad” representation, because there’s always some nuances in that, but more about, how do we want to see us progress? It’s like we’re an entry point for all of these different areas.

So in one hour you can’t talk about all the facets of, let’s say, ADHD, but you can allow people to start to think about it differently, and to look at it in a more nuanced light, and to understand that when you meet one person with “X,” you’ve met one person with “X.” Everyone’s different, and there’s intersectionality at play.

…when you meet one person with “X,” you’ve met one person with “X.”

But at least we can talk about how we’d like things to change. For instance, things like disability representation in films. Last episode we had Michelle [Asgarali]. She talked about how there are three tropes that are usually surrounding people with disabilities. It’s either fix, institutionalize, or death, right? And if you start to think about films where you see representations of disability, yeah, that’s what you’re going to see.

Or you’re going to see someone used as a way for you to make yourself feel better, “look at what they achieved.” Instead of being like, “We’re all people.” We have other conversations with people like actress Diana Elizabeth Jordan coming up where she said, “I just want to see myself as a fun aunt, because that’s what I am. I just want to see myself going through grief when my friend died.” 

That’s the story I want to see. You know, there’s a wonderful guy that I follow now on Twitter who is a disabled pornstar. He’s like, “We have sex, and we’re sexy, and let’s show this, it’s okay.”

I think that is—not the end goal, but the end game. So that’s why we started Braaains, and it’s been great. We’ve had really great people come to us and say, “I’ve listened to this for projects that I’m working on.” “I’ve listened to think about something differently.” “It made me feel like I could go talk to someone about how I was feeling, and talk to a therapist, and go get further help.”

Just by having open conversations, people feel less alone, feel seen, and get to, in some ways, approach their own lives in a different way, which is exactly what I want to do with my film and television work as well. So I feel like this podcast is an extension of how I feel about the work that I’m doing as a writer and creator.

How do we continue to have more nuanced representation, but also create more inclusion, accessible and inclusive spaces? When one in four Americans have disabilities, and one in five Canadians have disabilities, but you only see—let’s say in Canada, they just did a report: 1.7% of writers in writer’s room had disabilities. 

Well, then we’re not being included. Our stories aren’t being included. We’re not having characters where storylines don’t have to be around disabilities, they just exist. Because guess what? We’re all here, and we exist, it’s just that sometimes you don’t realize that we have a disability because we may not feel safe disclosing to you, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t exist.

NL: What have been a couple of your favorite things that you’ve learned from Braaains?

HT: Dopamine impacts a lot of disorders. With ADHD, I don’t have enough dopamine. The brain takes it away too quickly—it’s too quick and then I don’t produce enough. So that impacts my executive function. It also affects people who are stuttering, it affects people with Tourette Syndrome. Dopamine: you are so problematic. 

Every time I hear a story [on Braaains], it feels like I’m hearing parts of my own story, or parts of the way that I feel. There’s such a synergy between so many people, regardless of our lens on the world. When you [enter discussion] through a lens around mental health and disability, there are a lot more similarities than you realize. 

Every time I hear a story, I feel like, “Oh yeah, I really feel that way too.” That sounds a little intangible, but I think it’s just that when you’re in spaces where you feel like you can come as you are, when you’ve been trying to hide yourself for so long, you start to realize the power of people [who can] understand you automatically.

We have an episode coming up on Tuesday with someone with dissociative identity disorder. When I was little, I’d read books about what was then called multiple personality disorder. I was just fascinated by this idea of having different facets of yourself, and what that meant. But to talk with Jenna—she said something like 1.5% of the population has D.I.D., which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s the same percentage of natural redheads. 

NL: Wow. 

HT: So if you’ve ever met a natural redhead, you’ve probably met someone with D.I.D.

NL: That really puts it in perspective. 1.5% of 7 billion is a lot of people. [It is, in fact, 105 million.]

HT: I’m always like, “How do I bring the idea of science and history into work?” Because it repeats itself. It’s ever present. I love research and I love going down those deep rabbit holes, because it all interrelates.

Part of me was like, “Maybe I should have done a podcast where I could interview showrunners, and then they get to know me.” But I’ve done some showrunner interviews and I realize they don’t remember you [except as] a journalist. 

But no, I’m more interested in talking to people about their brains. That’s much more interesting for me. Maybe I can make some changes.

NL: Make some changes to what?

HT: To television. The film industry. And represent any kind of marginalized community, really.

NL: There are as many as there are people, right? If you’ve met one person with a disability, you’ve met one person with a disability.

HT: Yep. Exactly. It’s my favorite saying because it’s very true. And I think because there’s so little disability representation, you start to feel the pressure. I have a show with a character with ADHD, and [film and TV doesn’t] have a lot of representation [of ADHD characters]. I had someone read it, “Oh, but I don’t think they would do this.”

But that’s my experience, right? And I got really mad. My therapist is like, “It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to listen to that person.” Everyone’s experiences are individual, and just do your experience. You can’t capture everyone’s lived experience. It’s not possible.

NL: It’s a lot to ask of yourself.

HT: Because what shows do we see with good representation? I would argue that Everything Everywhere All At Once is about someone with undiagnosed ADHD. But it’s never called by name. There’s a line, “I came to you because you’re the worst version of yourself.”

And that is exactly how I feel. And how I have felt a lot of my life. So to hear that being reflected, that’s being put on a character who has what looks like what I have. It’s really hard sometimes. 

But also I just really want to see characters that are learning how to create the right environments for themselves and aren’t struggling so much.

NL: You’re very open about living with ADHD, even in this conversation. How do you think it affects your work, and are there things you wish other people knew about it?

HT: It does affect my work quite a bit, because my brain perceives information in a different way. In terms of the creative process, one of the things is pattern recognition. I can really quickly see that if you make this change, all of these things will have to change because of it.

Sometimes it’s been difficult telling someone like, “I can make that change, but this is what else is going to change.” And then, you know, working with some people who say, “Oh, well you just don’t want to do the work.” I’m happy to do the work. I just want to let you know, these other things will change. I’m not saying that other people can’t do that either—it’s just something that I see automatically. It’s how I think about ideas. My brain just jumps from thing to thing to thing in a lateral fashion, and we’ll get to an answer. And then sometimes it’s hard to quantify where that [solution] came from. 

“You have to show your work.” 

“But why? I can just see it.”

I had as a child to be told, “You have to show your work.” 

“But why? I can just see it.” 

I realize, being in a writer’s room, that sometimes my brain will jump over there, but the room isn’t there yet. 

I had to work in corporate America, and I thought that as soon as I was in a writer’s room everyone would think like me, and I’d be able to move in that really jumpy fashion, and that they would see every effect on every character at the same time. And it’s going to be so joyous to not have to show my work anymore and not have to drip feed information, because I could just see everything.

And then I realized that it was because of my ADHD, and not because I was creative. 

So that was hard to realize in a way. This is just something that I have to always contend with, and it’s not a bad thing, it’s just about being in an environment where you can feel as comfortable as possible, saying, “This is just how my brain works.”

Also figuring out how to communicate with other people to help them understand what I can see. It’s going to be ever present. 

I thought that as soon as I was in a writer’s room everyone would think like me…

I feel like what people don’t know is just the amount of energy it takes. Because, even medicated, it doesn’t mean that your brain changes. It just helps you focus more. 

But it’s very tiring, because you’re competing with a lot of your brain wanting to do a million other things and to be as occupied as possible. So my brain will hear something and immediately start thinking about other things. Not deliberately, it will just start to follow the patterns and go somewhere.

And then you’re like, “No, no, go back. You’ve missed something.” Later on, in a room or something, it’s like, “Oh, they made a little switch I hadn’t realized.” Because I can keep everything in my head, I missed that one word, that one thing, because my brain went somewhere else.

Especially as a day goes on, I’m more tired. Executive function is affected by, you know, regular eating, regular breaks, sleep. It’d be helpful for me to have more downtime, so I’m not doing a two-and-a-half-hour stint of talking and listening. Mostly listening.

It’s difficult. And it’s not impossible, it just means that I have to put things in place to help me. When I’ve been in physical rooms, I would take bathroom breaks—and it was brain breaks, but I didn’t know how to ask for that. I still feel unsure of how to ask for that, because you don’t want to seem like a bother, but it’s just how I optimally work.

Often what ended up [happening is] “I’ll research that thing for you right now.” Because then my brain gets so excited, and I became the de facto, “Well Heather, can you figure out how this would work scientifically, and just give me a line?” It allows my brain to have a little break and think about something else.

There’s a misunderstanding of hyper fixation or hyperfocus. I could go sit in a cafe, and if I get into it, I will work through an outline, I will get a version of an outline done in a day. And it’s really intense—it may be a 12-, 14-hour writing thing, but there’s a penalty to my mind and to my body when I do that. 

It’s hard not to do, because it’s interesting and I’m excited and I love the work, and there is this need to complete something. I had a therapist working through, like, “Can we create smaller goals so you don’t feel that you have to do that much work, or to feel an element of success?” Because it’s relief that it’s done, even though I love doing it.

As my brain works quickly, I sometimes switch words on the page, or I’ll miss words—it’s just something that does happen a lot. I find it really frustrating. If I make a mistake and I find it later, in a room or whatever, I feel mortified and shame-filled, because I’m trying to beat my brain. But it doesn’t work. I have to give myself more forgiveness. 

I have to allow myself [extra time] in order not to make those mistakes. I try to do it for outlines, I do it for treatments—when I’m rash and I don’t do those things, that’s when mistakes happen.

And then I feel like I’ve failed. And it’s not a huge failure. There’s just so many more layers of work that I have to put in time for. Everything is figuring out how many things in a day is too many, how much work is enough work, or not enough work.

It’s been a struggle to find balance, especially when all my brain wants to do is be in the middle of that script. So even when I put it down, my husband is like, “You’re thinking about your script right now.” I’m like, “Yup, yes, I am.” 

Because it doesn’t stop. It’s latching onto something, it’s fixating on it. I will think about it all the time that I’m working on it, no matter where I’m at. I’ll be sitting and listening to people and thinking about things and it’s like sparks hit my brain. I’m like, “Oh, that’s how I’m going to fix it.” 

They’re like, “We were talking about something else.” 

“Oh, sorry. Yes, I know we are. Yes, I was totally paying attention, but my brain is doing something else.” So how do I help myself be more present, in those moments with my people that I love and care for, when all my brain wants to do is be in these [other] places. It specifically have a hard time with rest, because of my hyperactivity.

…it’s relief that it’s done, even though I love doing it.

NL: How did your research skills play into your work on The Hardy Boys, which takes place in an alternative 80s?

HT: In episode two, we have WrestleFest, right? I found an obscure tape of the 1986 WrestleMania 2. I wrote the second half of the script and I tried to mirror things that were happening in [the fictional WrestleFest] with WrestleMania. It was our own wrestling world because our Hardy Boys lives in a world that’s not our world. It’s to the side of our world. I tried to emulate the type of wrestling that would have been seen at that time. It was really fun to go back and watch wrestling from that time.

NL: The “Indiana Jones of research.”

HT: Yes! I had a showrunner call me that. That’s how I find the most truth in this, to make it feel as authentic as possible. That’s always what I’m striving for in my work. Even the—especially the Hardy Boys. We have a lot of science in that show.

NL: How do you juggle splitting time between Toronto and L.A.? I currently live in Boston, so I’m also trying to figure that whole thing out.

HT: I’ll make it even more complicated and say I that I split my time between Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles. So I make it even more complicated for myself. I don’t spend as much time in L.A. as I want to, it’s challenging. 

I’m a resident of Canada, so I stay in Toronto a minimum of six months and one day [per year] to maintain my residency. It allows me to write in Canadian rooms and work on Canadian projects as a resident for tax purposes. I don’t want to put another barrier for producers who want to work with me, [so I had] no choice but to reestablish my residency in Canada after I came up for the CFC Prime Time Program. It’s an additional financial cost to do this, which isn’t helpful when you’re a freelancer in this kind of industry. 

Also, people don’t know when you’re somewhere.  The fear I have is that they won’t consider me, because they don’t think I’m around, when I could be there. So I’m always trying to make sure that I have regular contact people to say that I’m there, I could be wherever.

It becomes difficult because you kind of feel like you’re a little island floating around and you’re not really part of any community, while you’re also a part of many communities. You will miss things and you won’t be part of things, no matter how hard you try. You’re not going to be completely within that community, because you’re not always there. That’s a big challenge for me, trying to show that I’m available and I’m around, and make sure I show up for the big events.

It’s not glamorous living. I’m currently visiting my family and it’s like, “Oh, I’m just going to work and sleep in a room.” I’m never settled anywhere, even when I get home.

NL: Itinerant and peripatetic a little bit.

HT: I think it’s just being available. TV writing rooms are becoming more flexible. Some continue to be on Zoom. I don’t really care where people are. I just think the more time I can spend in L.A., the more I can make strong connections.

I know a lot of people who will go for bigger chunks of time, and eventually they don’t have to as much because they have the contacts. There is a balance that can be be had. 

That thing I was saying about people never know you’re somewhere, then that makes them feel like you’re not available. That’s the bigger problem. The tricky bit. Part of me is like, writers, we help each other, and I feel like if you’re not around and people don’t get to know you, well…

My manager was like, “You’re always spending time with writers.”

I was like, yeah, because I like them and also I’ll work with them one day and I want to know who I want to work with, and vice versa. Then if they know me, they may be like, “Oh sure, Heather, I’d love to work with you on something,” or “Hey, I’m going to recommend you for something.” And I would do the same.

Yesterday I had a call with someone who’s sending out a feature. [I asked,] “Who’s on the list?” She named a couple of places, and I have contacts there. “Why don’t I reach out and see if they’re interested in me introducing you?” And they were.

NL: That’s great.

HT: And I’m not friends with people who are writers because I’m trying to use them for stuff. I actually just want to have friends with people in this business, and we can talk about things that we love.

NL: Shall we do the lightning round wrap up?

Favorite cocktail, mocktail, or other beverage? [Why the hell don’t I just ask “favorite drink?”]

HT: So I don’t drink alcohol, but for nonalcoholic beers, they have a lot of good ones out now. I really like Partake, it’s a Canadian company. They’re like craft beers. I really like craft beers, so I try to try all the craft beers in the nonalcoholic space, which has really grown. 

And then I just really love coffee. It’s a stimulant, which is useful some days. But I lived in London for so long [where] we’d always drink hot tea, it’s so comforting.

But I like coffee more.

NL: Alien or Aliens?

HT: I mean, I go original. I go Alien.

NL: It’s the right choice.

HT: How could you not? It’s a perfect horror movie.

NL: Care to elaborate? Why is it a perfect horror movie?

HT: I always liked the definition that came from Save the Cat. I did a course with Blake Snyder, who was a wonderful human. Really sad when he passed. Just that idea of the monster in the house. A monster, a house, and a sin. The sin of greed? 

What a perfect film that shows that the greed of the corporation that makes [the crew] go, and the monster – the Alien  – that was in that house—which is a spaceship. And I think that was brilliant casting, casting Sigourney Weaver in a role that they originally were going to cast as a man.

I remember watching Event Horizon. “It’s the devil!” I just—at that point I’m not scared anymore. Whereas [Alien felt] so real. That’s the thing that I love, that element to it that’s very real. That could be something that happens. 

NL: If someone told you that you had to memorize an entire novel word for word, what book would you pick?

HT: This is a really hard one. The first thing I thought was—I don’t know why—Sleepless Joe, the book by W. P. Kinsella [on which Field of Dreams is based]. But of the books that I loved as a kid, well, my favorite book series would have been Anne of Green Gables.

Yeah, I’ll go for Anne of Green Gables. Old school. 

NL: Most underrated or sadly forgotten TV show.

HT: I love sports movies and shows, and Pitch is one that I really wish they could have had a second season of.

If you don’t know, Pitch is—it’s fictionalized—but it’s the first woman in professional baseball, a pitcher, and what does that mean? I like the idea of breaking barriers and, you know, seeing this kind of world that shouldn’t be fictional but is, and I just really wanted to see what happens next.

NL: And lastly, tell us about one thing we haven’t talked about yet today that lives rent-free in your brain.

HT: Maybe… how much I love noodles. I really love noodles.

I love in equal measure both Italy and Japan for noodle making.

I did a half marathon on the Great Wall of China, raising money for cancer research, which was just incredible. Not really an easy thing to run on, but at that point, you’re not running. You’re just like, in awe. 

But I was essentially having Chinese food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was with all these Brits who were like, “Oh, I can’t wait to go home.”

And I was like, “I could live here forever. This is the best food.” 

I mean, so many cultures have noodles, but ramen is a food I have on regular rotation. And then I’ve been able to be in Italy a number of times and, oof, such good food.

NL: Do you have a favorite cinematic representation of noodles?

HT: Whoa.

NL: I feel like noodles get a lot of airtime.

HT: They do. Oh my goodness. I can’t even think of something that would be the best, there’s just noodles everywhere…

I’m going to do some research immediately. You know this.

When I was doing my masters I had never watched The Godfather. My friends and I decided that we would have the biggest pasta feast while we watched all of The Godfather. We ate multiple courses of pasta, because it was a very long day, but we did it.

I think that’s my favorite memory of watching a film while eating, well, eating noodles.

NL: That’s a good compromise to the “cinematic noodles” question.

I feel like I’ve kept you long enough, thank you.

HT: Perfect. I’m going to go and have lunch now.

NL: Oh, good. I hope you have some noodles.

HT: I actually am!

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