Badass Women of TNT: ‘The Alienist’ EP Rosalie Swedlin

All good things must come to an end, and with that we welcome you to our final installment of the “Badass Women of TNT” series on TurnerNow. We are truly going out with a bang, as we sit down to talk with a true giant in the industry, Executive Producer Rosalie Swedlin.

Rosalie has had a long and distinguished career in both movies and television, and is one of the folks responsible for the amazing success of TNT’s “The Alienist.” We spoke with Rosalie about her path to success, her Emmy hopes for the series, and we even learned a little Yiddish along the way! Enjoy.

TURNER(T): Hi Rosalie, thanks for talking with us. So, for those who don’t know, tell us about what you do, and what your specific role is with regards to “The Alienist.”
ROSALIE SWEDLIN (RS): I was one of the executive producers on “The Alienist,” one of the non-writing producers. The book had been acquired by Paramount originally for a feature film in the mid 90's, but the studio was never able to get a script that they loved. I remembered the book; so when Anonymous Content (who Rosalie was working with) began negotiating for a first-look deal with Paramount Studio, my question to Paramount was, “If “The Alienist” hasn't been claimed, could Anonymous Content produce it?” That's how we got involved with “The Alienist.”

T: The Emmys are coming. You excited?
RS: Well, I'm anxious rather than excited. I'm really hoping that the show is recognized. We have the most amazingly talented group – creators, production design, costume design, props, cinematography, directors, writers and, of course, our great cast. My fingers are crossed that their terrific work will be recognized.

“I don’t like to get in the business of predicting, because there’s a Yiddish word, I don’t want to “kinehora” our chances.”

T: There was a recent Hollywood website poll where 53% of readers believed “The Alienist” deserves to win Emmys across the board, and another 33% believed the show should at least be nominated for major Emmys. Now I’m no math major, but that’s a solid 86%. What are your thoughts on Emmy hopes for the show?
RS: I don't like to get in the business of predicting. There's a Yiddish word –  I don't want to “kinehora” our chances. You talk too much about it, you hope too much. Sometimes you can jinx it. I do love that poll, that 86% believe that we should be recognized. I hope it’s right!

 (Editor’s note: Need a refresher on the Emmy process? We got you covered with this quick read)

T: This interview is part of a series called “Badass Women of TNT,” and you certainly fit that category. How does it feel to know that other women could be inspired by what you’ve accomplished?
RS: I'm flattered and honored that I'm seen as an inspiration for a younger generation of women. I think if I have any legacy, the thing I'm most proud of is the number of assistants I have worked with, men and women, who have gone on to significant roles across the film and television entertainment spectrum. If they've been able to do that as a result of working with me, and seeing how I handle my business, I think that's great. I'm glad I'm a badass woman of TNT and an inspiration to others.

T: What advice would you give to other women who are entering the world of television?
RS: I think it largely depends on what they aspire to do, because there are obviously so many jobs and so many careers that one could pursue. For one thing, networking is so important. One of the great advantages of jobs at agencies and management companies is that you work with people who are constantly talking to the executives, the producers, the talent, and can give you an entrée. There are all kinds of groups of young executives who share their favorite scripts.

“Dakota Fanning’s character was established right away as a groundbreaking female presence. But we wanted to be certain that we didn’t superimpose too much about modern feminism onto her as she is very much a woman in her time.”

T: Dakota Fanning’s character, Sara Howard, is very strong and really stands up for herself. Tell us about what it means to you and others on the show to have such a strong female presence.
RS: Well firstly, we have this wonderful novel, and Sara Howard is a significant character, and one of the principle characters on the investigative team that Laszlo Kreizler puts together. She's established right away as a groundbreaking female presence. But we wanted to be certain that we didn't superimpose too much about modern feminism onto her as she is very much a woman in her time. There is one episode where she attends a Vassar class reunion, and it's apparent that almost all her other classmates are already married with children, and she may be the only one pursuing a career.

And of course, Sara Howard's character was brought to life by the extraordinary Dakota Fanning. We are so lucky that she chose to make her television debut in our series. The cast adored her, and I can't say enough wonderful things about her as a human being and an actress.

T: Were there any unique challenges you faced in your journey to becoming a female EP?
RS: I've been very lucky in my career. I haven't encountered many situations where I felt discriminated against as a woman. I've been supported by the men I've worked with and for. And I think it's partly because I take the work very seriously. If I'm calling myself an executive producer on a television series, I want to do everything that's expected of me.

T: We know the show “The Alienist” wasn’t conceived specifically for a second book, but is there a chance you’ll go on to delve into that book as well?
RS: Well, you'll have to ask TNT. I certainly hope that we get that opportunity. It was conceived as a finite series with a finite ending, which followed “The Alienist” novel. What would be particularly exciting to me, if we do wind up getting a chance to do a second book, is that Sara Howard has set up her own detective agency. The perpetrator who we will be following is also a woman, and it delves into issues of what's expected of women in society and what happens when they feel they can't live up to those expectations. It's very timely even though it's 1897. I think if we do get to do it, I couldn't be more excited about the possibility.

Learn more about “The Alienist” here, and don’t forget to root for the show getting an Emmy nod when the nominations come out on July 12.