1. What's it like being an openly gay man within a predominantly masculine career field?
1) To be honest, it didn't really affect me too much. All of the wrestlers treated me perfectly. I do think they were a little nervous about me beforehand, having heard that I was gay. And I think for the first year, they were a little mistrusting of me. Mostly because it IS a locker room atmosphere (which I assumed before I started working there), and there's a lot of towel-snapping, and words like "gay" and "fag" and "cocksucker" thrown around in good jest. But never in the derogatory angry way. More in the "goofing off with your friends behind closed doors" way. And when you're on the road, five days a week, it eventually becomes a like a giant episode of South Park. Everybody is fair game, and you rag on each other for whatever. Eventually, it would get to the point where a wrestler would say things like "I don't want to say this line, it's fuckin' gay!" and then they'd stop, look at me, lower their head all sheepishly and say "Sorry, Tom". LOL! But I got engaged and married during my time there, and the wrestlers couldn't have been nicer. A few were even at my wedding, and had a blast. And eventually, I grew comfortable ragging on them for being manwhores, recovering drug addicts, spoiled brats, whiny children, etc. LOL! So it was a two-way street. Which makes it sound terrible, but it was actually a lot of fun. You eat, sleep and breathe with these people 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. It really becomes like a big dysfunctional family.
2. What's it like transitioning from a soap opera writer to a writer in professional wrestling?
2) In terms of the actual layout every week, it wasn't much of a transition at all. In soaps, you sit in the writers' room for two days as a team, figure out a week's worth of episodes, then everyone goes home for five days and writes their episodes. Wrestling, which is also 52 weeks a year of original programming, like soaps, is similar. Except you're in the office for two days with everyone, and then you go out on the road, writing/producing/directing all the shows. So that was the part that was the big transition for me. I had never directed or produced before. So learning how to do that for three years was really awesome. It did take me about a year to feel comfortable though. But that was one of the reasons I took the WWE job. To try something new and get out of my comfort zone.
3. How did you get into writing for soap operas?
3) I always wanted to write soaps. It seemed the most stable job in television writing, where you could have a weekly schedule and get a weekly paycheck, and work all year. I got an internship at Another World in college in NYC, which then turned into a Production Coordinator job, which then turned into a Writer's ASsistant Job, which then turned into a writing gig. Took about three years to climb up that ladder.
4. How did you get into writing for pro wrestling?
4) WWE found me through a headhunter. They were looking for soap writers, who understood how to write FAST and on a grind of a schedule, like they were on. I was looking for a change, as soaps were going off the air right and left, and I had been doing it for fourteen years. I really wanted to experience something new, and get my hands dirty again. I was tired of working from home, and this seemed like a new challenge and a new world to conquer. So I dove in.
5. What did you enjoy about writing for pro wrestling?
5) I really loved writing for a live audience. You get IMMEDIATE fan response to every line of dialogue you write. You know when something works instantly, and when something bombs. So it's a constant learning experience. In soaps, you're writing three months ahead. So if something doesn't work on-screen when it airs, and fans don't like it... oh well, there are 60 more episodes of it already in the can. But in wrestling, if something isn't working, you can change it IMMEDIATELY. That's pretty amazing. Also, I loved traveling, and getting to work with talent, and experiencing "road life". I also really loved getting to direct and produce for the first time. Especially for live television. And when something goes haywire, learning to adapt QUICKLY and not fall apart. I learned how to handle stressful situations in ways I never did at soaps.
6. How many people usually worked with you while writing a story line?
6) There are about 15 of us in total on the writing team. A head writer, 4 lead writers (Raw has a Home Team Lead Writer and a Road Team lead Writer, and SmackDown has a Home Team Lead Writer and a Road Team Lead Writer). And then about ten of us who work with different storylines. All the writers contribute to all the storylines, but they tended to assign us based on our strengths. I usually got the relationship storylines since I came from soaps. The stand-up comics in the room got the funny stuff. The hardcore wrestling fan writers would get the storylines that were all about the Titles, etc. But we were all involved with all the stories in one way or another.