Nadria Tucker was released from her contract as producer/writer for The CW’s Superman & Lois. She sat down with The Geekiary to follow-up on the dismissal.
On Friday, November 6th, screenwriter Nadria Tucker took to Twitter to share news of her release from The CW’s latest DC offering, Superman & Lois starring Tyler Hoechlin and Bitsie Tulloch. Nadria hails from Alabama and gained experience as a writer on SyFy’s Krypton which ran for two seasons. She also contributed writing to the critically acclaimed Underground on WGN (now airing on Hulu).
In the tweet, Tucker explained that her contract would not be extended, nor would her services be needed. Additionally, her work was criticized and the show even went so far as to call the draft she submitted ‘subpar’.
This, after months of me flagging #metoo jokes [this references the #MeToo movement which aims to end sexual and gender-based harassment] in the dialogue, of me defending the Bechdel test [a test that measures the validity of female representation in media], of me FIGHTING to ensure the only Black faces on screen aren’t villains, of me pitching stories for female characters (there’s one in the title of the series!) that went ignored.
Back in September during the Superman and Lois DC Fandome panel, I tweeted something showrunner Todd Helbing mentioned.
At the time, I found the mention of Lana to be pretty innocent, but right away our Twitter followers felt there might be more nefarious intentions to bringing Lana back by specifically mentioning the dynamic of their relationship. Viewers bemoaned a possible love triangle and didn’t like the idea of pitting Lois and Lana against one another. I didn’t think much of it, but after reading Tucker’s tweets, I realized I might have cause for concern after all.
“The Amazing can only be created by facing fear, risk, and failure during the process.” -Superman
Tucker: “I follow the news and stuff has been out about [The CW] shows for years. I was aware of that and I knew going into this situation what it could be like. I hoped for the best and I also thought maybe I could help steer things in a better direction. I tried.”
Here, Tucker refers to The CW’s tenuous relationship with racial diversity. Criticisms of race casting for diversity’s sake with little regard for actual representation have plagued the network since Gossip Girl.
The new DC shows seemed to toy with progressiveness, but for every Black Lightning, or Legends of Tomorrow, there’s confusion around what to do with Jimmy Olson (played on Supergirl by Mehcad Brooks) or Iris West (portrayed by Candice Patton on The Flash) both characters who received backlash due to being played by Black actors and both who have, in my opinion, received very little support from the shows and network.
While Supergirl was at CBS, Jimmy was on track to have a relationship with Kara, but after the move to CW, the romance was scrapped making way for the much more controversial KaraMel (Kara and Mon-El) while Jimmy’s “Guardian” storyline got sidelined and underdeveloped.
Candice Patton’s journey deserves its own expose. She fought for seasons just to get her character Iris to have Candice’s natural curls. She finally won and will be allowed to wear her natural curls during season 6.
A part of me wonders if this was helped by Javicia Leslie’s Batwoman hairstyle that features a natural style hair.
On one hand, it’s wonderful that we’re seeing small examples of inclusion and representation, but it’s been 13 years since Gossip Girl, everyone should be able to clear the bar by now.
“There is a right and a wrong in the universe and that distinction is not hard to make.” -Superman
Nadria Tucker believes she was originally chosen for the Superman and Lois writing room because of her experience with Krypton.
Tucker: “I am from Alabama and I grew up reading a lot of fantasy, I wasn’t into comics, but mostly a lot of horses and magic and that kind of thing. I came on to Superman and Lois directly from Krypton, which I was on for two seasons. That was a different experience, night and day, [on Krypton] I got to produce my episode in Belfast back when travel could happen.
I came on [to Superman and Lois] as a producer and was there from the beginning of the writer’s room before COVID-19 hit and my contract was for 20 weeks. I knew that was coming up, as was everyone’s but we were almost done figuring out the season at that point. If I didn’t get extended, it is what it is, I was expecting that. We only had two more episodes to figure out and there are people there whose contract extends to the end of the show that can figure it out if the lower levels don’t get extended.”
I asked Tucker about how the titles work and she explained that there are different levels to the writing staff based on seniority and hierarchy. The first level is the staff writer and then story editor which she served as for most of Krypton. After that, it’s Executive Story Editor and then Producer which is how she was brought on to Superman and Lois.
There are about five or so more delineations before you get to the Co-Executive Producers; in this case Todd Helbing, Greg Berlanti, Sara Schechter, and Geoff Johns. Helbing tends to take the lead in most discussions regarding this show and was responsible for crafting many of the story details and outline.
These may seem like extraneous details, but it’s important to note that Tucker had achieved a level of some status. She was still learning and growing, but she was also looked as an example for others in the room.
Tucker: “I had people coming to me with problems and asking me to speak up. And I can’t ignore that, responsibly as a producer.”
The writing room itself is actually pretty diverse, Tucker told me. There are still some Black writers and women there. They’d all been pitching their hearts out the entire time to different and varying degrees of success. Tucker was a leader among them and felt the need to speak up, not just when she saw red flags, but also when she saw opportunities to better the storyline.
Tucker: “It’s interesting because at this point normally, you’d already be in production and you’d be pretty stuck because things would be shot or shooting. Because of COVID-19 we had a lot of lead time which gave us the opportunity to look at the season as a whole. We had nothing to do but think about it and we did for many, many months. We were writing individual episodes, but also going back and seeding things and tweaking things as a whole as we went.”
As the episodes came together Tucker began to realize her complaints were falling on deaf ears. There seemed to be a willful ignorance when it came to testing the production’s capacity for social change.
Tucker: “My favorite one- I wasn’t the only POC in that room and we all spent a lot of time arguing the casting. In particular, having people of color be in background roles. In addition to smaller side roles, but also literally in the background. Like, let’s have some diversity back there, make it look like the world you see. We were shooting in Vancouver and Todd said, ‘Ok, we will try it, even if it means we have to ship them in because there aren’t a lot of Black people in Canada.’”
I could only reply with, “wow.”
Tucker: “Like, first, don’t talk about “shipping” Black people anywhere! And if I ask most people to name the first famous Canadian they can think of, they’re gonna mention Drake.”
It seems like a simple statement, but the truth of the matter is Black people are everywhere. To be fair, only about 1.2% of Vancouver’s population is Black and another 1.4% is Latinx, but when accounting that Vancouver has over 2M people, that’s a pool of 50 – 60,000 potential background players to pick from those demographics alone. And given the renaissance of historic Black neighborhoods like Hogan’s Alley, the numbers will steadily grow.
I wouldn’t expect the EP to know this information off the top of his head, but the original assumption and then dismissal seems to tell a different story about how serious he was in really trying to find people.
Tucker: “If it was a joke? I don’t know. If he was serious? I don’t know. It wasn’t a joke to me.”
“I’m here to fight for truth, justice and the American way.” -Superman
I wonder about the perceived view of Superman quite a bit. Superman himself is all about tolerance and helping people live so they can enjoy their lives, but the perception of Superman is nearly conservative. I’ve seen fanboys declare how betrayed they would be if someone even suggested the image of Superman with a beard or tattoos.
“I wonder if they know Superman is vegetarian? That it’s canon that Superman is 100% vegetarian,” Tucker conjectures.
It makes me laugh but also makes me ponder the message The CW is making with the direction they’re taking with this new show.
DC has always been kind of staunch with these characters, but has allowed their CW renditions to open up a lot more and introduce diversity. When they announced Superman and Lois, everyone paused. On one hand, you had good, all American boy Tyler Hoechlin who embodies the definition of “clean cut” gladly. Then you have Bitsie Tulloch, formerly on Grimm who serves as a bit of a firebrand. A strong character who is both beautiful and outspoken. It was hard to see which way the show would go tonally. It’s the Dean Cain vs. Brandon Routh argument. Which way was The CW going to fly towards?
Tucker: “When I signed on, I thought the ship was headed in one direction and they took a turn and I got kicked off the ship. And in this case, a lot of [the pushback] came from the show level, because some of the things I said in my tweet, were things we got notes about from the outside that were just ignored. It made me wonder who has the real power? It’s a constant struggle.”
“The only way to know how strong you are is to keep testing your limits.” -Superman
The issues in Tucker’s tweet aren’t hard or so outrageous to consider. The main Black character is a villain called The Stranger and is portrayed by Wole’ Parks. It makes sense that some more Black representation is needed to make sure the character isn’t typecast. Lana’s family is a bit hard to pin down. Emmanuelle Chriqui is a Moroccan Jew, so technically of African descent, and her daughter Sarah is played by Inde Navarette who is Mexican-Australian. I don’t know yet if they’re supposed to be an ethnically ambiguous family or just a brand of “spicy White”, but it doesn’t bode well for real inclusion.
Somehow we’ve allowed a conversation to exist wherein someone blocks diversity saying that “talent can’t be sacrificed for diversity”, but a good script is one that naturally is diverse and takes the experience of it’s viewers into account. Being diverse and being good are not mutually exclusive concepts. Just like being good and being all cishet Caucasian are not interchangeable.
Ultimately, the need for inclusive diversity and representation fulfills a contract the show forgets it’s drawn up. With entertainment becoming more accessible, people are ingesting this content like never before. And with that digestion comes investment. BIPOC are funding this show, LGBTQ+ are adding to the success and reach of these shows, and if the showrunners are to benefit from that BIPOC and queer participation, then they need to consider and represent those faces on screen.
Tucker agreed and she wasn’t alone in the sentiment.
Tucker: “I heard from a writer on Black Lightning and talked to Ray Fisher who has been having issues with toxicity in WB productions. He’s the actor that plays Cyborg on Justice League and has spoken at length about the insidiousness of the racism he’s been facing. I’m glad people can feel like they can speak their truth. I just wonder what can be done about it?”
I hope some sort of movement can be mobilized and this issue not be swept under the rug. Right now, producers at Superman and Lois are thinking 3 to 4 years down the road. They have the chance now to set the tone for what kind of Superman we’re going to have.
“You’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.” -Superman
In the meantime, Tucker is looking forward to doing more development and creating her own series to pitch around.
Tucker: “I would love to get on that Blade remake. I’m available and ready!”
It may seem like a small thing, but Tucker sharing her story makes her a Superwoman in my book. Hopefully not only will more people use this as an opportunity to step forward, but maybe shows will set up their rooms in such a way where these issues become problems of the past.
Diversity is such an integral part of fandom. Lois and Clark helped bring more women into the DC family because they felt represented and seen. If The CW has the opportunity to do that for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented groups, then they should because it only builds out the fanbase and makes a fun environment for all.
Feel free to send her some love and support and cross your fingers for positive changes in Superman and Lois.
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