The juggernaut series cemented Kauffman as one of Hollywood’s most powerful female producers—and finally freed the writer, who was previously making $18,000 a year writing for a game show while caring for a baby, from the fear that she wouldn’t be able to pay her rent. But it wasn’t without its challenges. “I dealt with a great deal of misogyny. We would go into meetings, and the person would only look at my male partners and not even meet my eyes sometimes,” she says.
She continues, “I was—I am—a good producer. I have strong opinions, but I am kind, careful, and collaborative. But by many people I was called a bitch. Now I think I was just a strong producer—and they would never refer to the male producers I was partnered with as dicks.”
There was one particular incident that had a profound impact on Kauffman. The last Thursday of every season, she and cocreator David Crane would go out for dinner with the writers. It was during the very last writers dinner, at the tail end of the show’s final season, when they began reflecting on their run—and each other. “Everybody talked about everybody else, and they talked about what an amazing writer David was and how when if I said something’s wrong, something’s wrong.” Looking back, Kauffman doesn’t think this comment was made with malicious intent or had any underlying misogyny. But the comparison of Crane as a prolific writer, while she’s merely the person who “knew something was wrong,” stung. It also supported her a long-held fear: that she was an impostor. “What the writer said that night was a dagger in the heart of my impostor syndrome,” she says. “When I look at mistakes, missteps, or moments I can’t believe that I let go onscreen, I completely feel like an impostor. That if I were really good at what I did, I wouldn’t miss that.”
“To a certain extent I still feel it,” she says. “But I try not to let it takeover. And the way I do that is by keeping working.”
In a lot of ways, it was this unconscious desire to show the Friends team—and herself—she was a prolific writer that led her to create Grace and Frankie. It was her first series without her writing partner of 27 years, Crane, and the experience was emotional. “I remember on the very last night of the first season, breaking down just sobbing when I realized that I was trying to prove myself to the Friends writers,” she says. “It was such an overwhelming realization. In an odd way as much as it made me very productive, I think it was very unhealthy because the person I should’ve been trying to please was myself.”
This article was syndicated from glamour.com