Ryan Murphy: The man who changed television's soul without selling his
Ryan Murphy believes that his recent FX show 'Pose' will change Hollywood but he has been shattering stereotypes of TV one shocking show at a time
The man who reigns the TV today was once a flop screenwriter whose 1999 show titled 'Popular' was voluntarily erased from his own memory and others alike. Now, nearly two decades down the line, Ryan Murphy, has created, directed and produced over 50 TV hits and have emerged to become TV's first $300 million man after sealing the deal with the streaming network, Netflix.
With the release of his recent show 'Pose' via FX, 52-year-old Murphy has pulled the strings to change the landscape of Hollywood, and many stars are of the opinion that if there is one person who can bring about the much-needed change in the industry, it is Ryan Murphy.
Murphy, a white gay boy raised in an Irish Catholic family loving TV in the 80s, made his first foray in Hollywood in the late 1990s, when Steven Spielberg purchased his script of 'Why Can't I Be Audrey Hepburn?'
Prior to that, he worked as a journalist. His first show, mentioned above was a flop, lasted only for two seasons on teen channel WB. When the Producers Guild of America honored him with its Norman Lear Achievement Award last year, this particular show was omitted on the placard that listed his productions.
But guess what? 'Popular' was very much like 'Glee,' a high-school comedy and despite the show's cancellation, it did lay the foundation for the 2009 hit. At that time, the blatant use of coarse language such as "dirty whore mouth" didn't go well with the network. In an interview, Murphy recalls being bombarded with homophobic notes where fur coats were too gay and the producers green flagged the show as long as the homosexual characters suffered. Murphy still hasn't changed because the industry could never change him.
When he debuted in the industry, his peers mentioned him to be an aloof prickly character. Those weren't necessarily his fond memories but that did build his reputation. The same man, who blames his 5'10'' stature because of chain-smoking as a rebellious teenager, has now changed the industry wearing the armor of the most powerful man in TV. Look how the tables have turned.
The only change Murphy has embraced is regarding his temperament. "When I was starting out in Hollywood, everything was such a battle," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "My impulse had always been to be a person who's uptight, who's all, 'I'll show them' and 'I got to change the world so that people like me don't go through this anymore,' and while I still feel a degree of that, it's different for me now. I feel like I grew up in such a big way in the past couple of years, in a way that I never thought I would," he adds in the same interview.
The now father of two, married to photographer David Miller, became the man who he is by abiding to his authenticity. Producing television series that were grotesque, intensely brazen, and which at that time, did not fit the prerequisite profile of modern day TV. He conjured himself to the prolific artist that he is today by not budging an inch to what the industry demanded from him.
"...but traditionally that's what happened if you wanted to create content that wasn't the straight white fucking antihero. But the culture has shifted, and there's a group of us who were indoctrinated to think we weren't worthy of being paid, and now we realize, 'Oh no, we very much are,' and there are statistics from a business perspective to back it up," he stated.
When Netflix made him the chosen on, he asked the network "Why me?" He revealed in a recent interview.
"And [Netflix’s] answer was, 'Because success is so difficult, and if you can prove that you can do it over and over, and you can create a brand, that’s what we want.'"
Murphy started making waves in the early 2000s when he mixed his imagination with his journalistic skills. He created the FX drama series 'Nip/Tuck', which earned Murphy his first Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series in 2004. The show's catch line; "Tell me what you don't like about yourself," was taken from a plastic surgeon he met when he was a journalist researching an undercover story on plastic surgery in Beverly Hills. If you have been a fan of the show then you already know the bizarre story plots that included giving Botox injections to a baby and a aiding a necrophiliac piece together his dead sister so he can have sex with the corpse.
Then from a place that dark, Murphy escalated to a bright happy musical- Glee, that earned him a wider audience. An instant smash hit of 2009, a musical and a better version of 'Popular,' which Murphy didn't give up for good. Though the series talked about serious topics such as homophobia, guns violence, and teen sex, it still touched on the subject with "glee" so there was not any shock there.
Then, a couple of years later, Murphy unleashed his dark side again with American Horror Story bringing in the aliens, Nazi scientists, an exorcism, Anne Frank and a serial killer. As if that was not too much already, he introduced 'Scream Queens' featuring Emma Roberts, which became a pop culture obsessed horror comedy with high school drama and too much gore.
The juxtaposition of his shows is a definition of who Ryan Murphy is. In an interview, he was quoted saying, "People think I'm just sort of this P.T. Barnum, razzle-dazzle guy, they think I go out of my way to be outlandish and theatrical at the expense of having emotions. They don't get that there's another side to me, and I keep trying to show that other side."
This year has been a momentous one for Murphy and people around the world and those, particularly in the industry, are witnessing the change Murphy has conjured in Tinsel Town, not just his adieu from Fox. In a recent interview with US Magazine, Murphy while talking about his latest hit series stated that 'Pose' is the "beginning of change in Hollywood" and granted that the show set in the 1980s drag ballroom culture of New York City has created history by having the largest LGBTQ+ cast till date, it is only wise to think that TV is undergoing a revolution in the hands of Murphy.
But if we know Murphy enough like Netflix does, then we know there is more coming from him. In fact, "more" is his favorite word.
"People have always made me feel like somehow being prolific is a bad thing," he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "But I don't want to apologize for it."
The only thing he does not want anymore is a pair of YSL boots. "How many more pairs of these [YSL] boots can I buy?" Hundred percent of his profits from 'Pose' is going to LGBTQ+ charities and his biggest expenditure ever made is a multimillion-dollar donation to Children's Hospital Los Angeles in honor of his son, Ford, who's now two years cancer-free.
But even though he is "The Ryan Murphy," it isn't like he's been forever successful after his successful years. Murphy made a series titled 'The New Normal,' after his marriage with Miller in 2012, which mirrored their path to start a family through surrogacy but that lasted only one season on NBC. "You've not felt the pain of rejection until a television show based on your own life is canceled," he told THR. "You're like, 'What? Am I canceled?' It was such a weird mindf— for me."