Tonight’s episode of “Westworld,” the edgy HBO sci-fi series, was written by a Winston-Salem native and alumna of the UNC School of the Arts.
Karrie Crouse was born in Winston-Salem and moved to the Durham area when she was in elementary school. She developed a fascination with movies and TV early on.
“If I loved a movie or television show growing up, I’d watch it over and over and over,” she said, “committing dialogue, images, music to memory. But the idea that a person could make a living as a filmmaker seemed pretty alien to me. It still does!”
Her family was supportive, and, as she puts it, “tolerated my obsessive viewing habits.”
Her interest was solidified when she attended a filmmaking summer session at UNCSA when she was 16. “From the moment I made my first film, I knew that’s all I wanted to do.”
Two teachers in particular — Darrell Thompson at the Durham School of the Arts, and Joseph Mills at UNCSA — “went above and beyond to encourage me as a photographer and writer,” she said. “I think my interest in those two disciplines ended up pointing me towards filmmaking.”
After graduating from the School of Filmmaking in 2004, she went into the world of independent filmmaking. She also attended the Sundance Writers Lab, where she and her directing partner (and husband) Will Joines, a fellow UNCSA alum, developed a feature screenplay they plan to direct this year.
She had a show in development at HBO that led to her meeting Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, the creative team behind “Westworld,” an acclaimed series now in its third season that uses science fiction to examine the human condition: An amusement park several decades in the future uses realistic androids called “hosts” to entertain rich guests.
As the series has progressed, the hosts have evolved consciousness and learned to question their existence. In the current season, Crouse said, “the creators have sprung the hosts out of Westworld and sent them careening into our world. One exciting result is that through the hosts’ outsiders’ gaze, we’re able to explore humanity in a completely unique world.”
The experience has been a good one for Crouse
“As brilliantly talented as Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are, they could get away with being total nightmares,” Crouse said. “But here’s the thing ... they’re delightful. I found them to be the warmest, most inclusive mentors that I could possibly hope for on my first television writing staff.”
Though she can’t reveal too many details about tonight’s episode, the story revolves around Dolores, one of the main characters, a host played by Evan Rachel Wood, who is also from N.C., and Caleb, a war veteran played by Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” fame.
“In this episode, we’re going to explore further similarities between Dolores’ past in Westworld and Caleb’s present predicament involving algorithmic determinism,” Crouse said. “And did I mention there’s a stunning car chase through the futuristic streets of Los Angeles?”
Her favorite part of her training at UNCSA, she said, has been the community. “My best friends and most frequent collaborators are all UNCSA alum.”
She lives on the West Coast now, but says “most of the Crouse clan are still in N.C. My mom and dad, lots of cousins, aunts and uncles, and my 99-year-old Mamaw Crouse.”
Jerrod Carmichael, a Winston-Salem native, will be one of the executive producers behind “I Can’t Date Jesus,” a series being developed by 20th Century Fox TV for the cable/streaming service market.
The series will be based on a popular memoir by Michael Arceneaux, titled “I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyonce.” The book focused on his life as a young gay black man in a religious Southern household. Arceneaux was born in Houston and attended Howard University. His second book, “I Don’t Want to Die Poor,” was just released.
Carmichael is also an executive producer on the Hulu series “Ramy,” the second season of which will be released on May 29. The series, starring Golden Globe winner Ramy Youssef, follows a young Egyptian-American who lives in a politically divided New Jersey neighborhood. All 10 episodes of the second season will be released at once.
Earlier this year, ABC passed on a comedy pilot Carmichael produced starring comedian Nate Bargatze.
Carmichael, who previously starred in his own sitcom “The Carmichael Show” and produced the one-season Fox sitcom “Rel,” has shifted largely to producing television. He has an overall deal with 20th TV, which is part of Disney Television Studios, according to a report at entertainment industry news site Deadline.
For Easter Sunday, NBC is bringing back one of its most acclaimed live musical productions, and showcasing the work of UNCSA alumnus Paul Tazewell in the process. The show will air at 7 p.m. today on WXII.
Tazewell was nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy for outstanding costumes for the 2018 production “Jesus Christ Superstar Live,” which featured John Legend, Sara Bareilles and Alice Cooper. Tazewell previously won an Emmy for the TV production of “The Wiz Live” and a Tony for “Hamilton,” as well as being nominated for many other Tony awards.
The first season of “The Righteous Gemstones” is coming to DVD Tuesday. The bawdy HBO comedy was created by UNCSA alumnus Danny McBride, who also stars as one of the members of a dysfunctional televangelist family. The series is a collaboration among McBride and fellow UNCSA alums Jody Hill (who has a supporting role) and David Gordon Green (who directed some episodes). The cast also includes John Goodman, Adam DeVine and Edi Patterson. The DVD includes a bonus behind-the-scenes short.