Putting People First
A focus on the showrunner keeps this producer among the busiest in the business.
"I love television," Jessica Rhoades says. "I love how many people are part of the process. I love getting to make it!"
In the past two years alone, she's executive-produced HBO's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects, as well as Mike Daniels's The Village for NBC and Showtime's The Affair.
She's also an executive producer on Amazon Prime's upcoming Utopia and season two of USA Network's true-crime anthology Dirty John. Under the banner of her Pacesetter Productions, Rhoades thrives on partnering with creatives and helping bring their visions to life.
"It all starts with loving a writer's voice," she says, explaining what lures her to a project. Her team will only jump in when a script leaves them thinking, "We can't not do this!"
After that, she says, "The job is, how do we keep the voice of this project exactly what the writer-creator wants it to be, while also making it something that the network, studio and other people invested are thrilled about launching into the world?"
Her main goal as a producer, she says, is to honor the style of the showrunner. "We wake up in the morning and say, 'What does Gillian Flynn need today? What does Mike Daniels need today?' Not 'What does Sharp Objects or The Village need?'" she explains, noting that focusing on the people is what differentiates her approach.
As a fan of showrunner Alex Cunningham, Rhoades was happy to join Dirty John in its sophomore season (for which it moved from Bravo to USA). She liked the idea of delving into new tales of love gone wrong, starting with The Betty Broderick Story, with Amanda Peet in the title role.
"The story had been told in the '80s and early '90s," Rhoades says, "and to have the opportunity to tell it through a more contemporary lens made me really excited."
Working on Sharp Objects with creator Marti Noxon, a professional role model, was another career highlight. "Seeing Marti as an EP on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — when I was deciding whether I could be a woman in television — was inspiring," Rhoades recalls.
Now her credits surely inspire others. After graduating with a master's from UCLA's producers program, Rhoades spent 15 years working for Bravo, E!, Nickelodeon and TLC, partnering for a time with Ashley Tisdale in Blondie Girl Productions. She left Blumhouse Television in 2018 to form her production company.
Having come up when fewer women were calling the shots, Rhoades is honored to be a part of changing the narrative. "I'm incredibly proud when people watch the shows that I work on. You see a lot of women's names."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2020
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