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March 12, 2013

MC@Work: Confessions of a Hit Woman

dana walden

Photo Credit: Christopher Sturman

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You share the title of chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Television with Gary Newman. What's that relationship like?
Gary and I are very different deal makers: I typically respond from my gut; he responds from a more analytical point of view. Our bosses felt our skill sets were very complementary, so they gave us oversight of the studio, which turned into an enormously successful partnership. After 14 years, it's seamless. We've been together longer than many couples!

What have you learned from calling the shots?
You have to make a lot of decisions. Not all of them are going to be perfect. What differentiates leaders is the ability to recover following a mistake. I make mistakes all the time, but I cop to them, apologize, and move on. Contrition is powerful.

Any big regrets?
Letting director David Nutter [The Sopranos, Entourage, Game of Thrones] leave this studio. Warner Brothers made a huge deal with him, and he's been there ever since. I was too bogged down in the particulars of his deal and didn't trust my gut. It taught me a great lesson: When you feel strongly about someone creatively, you have to just go for it.

You're married to former Arista Records executive Matt Walden and have two daughters. How do you negotiate such a demanding career with your personal life?
It is the most stressful part of my life. My husband definitely gets the short end of the stick, because [when I come home] it's hard to switch off energy that is stereotypically male and aggressive. I have to remind myself that my husband proposed to a person who was in a very different position than the one I am in now. At a certain point, he deserves a wife — and not the chairman of a studio.

Television is said to be where the creative action in Hollywood is today. Why is that?
Television is a writer's medium. No one is taking your project away to be rewritten by five other people; it's all about the vision of the creator. And the shows are timeless — they're going to be around for a very long time. Future generations will be watching The X-Files, M.A.S.H., and The Simpsons. For filmmakers, crafting characters who have such an incredible relationship with the audience has really made television an appealing place to be.

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