Badass Women of TNT: Janine Sherman Barrois

This series is all about badass women – women who have broken barriers, done things on their terms and changed the game. Janine Sherman Barrois has had a hand in some amazingly successful shows, from “ER” to “Criminal Minds” to “The Jamie Foxx Show.” And now she is showrunner of clearly the badass-est show of the bunch, “Claws.” That alone makes her the perfect subject for this interview.

But she didn’t stop there. She can now add director to her repertoire with her newest project, “French Fries,” a short film she wrote and directed as part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox, an award-winning short-film series dedicated to spotlighting the voices of female filmmakers. The second season of Shatterbox debuts in 2018 in partnership with TNT, with films broadcasting on both linear TV and digitally later in the year.

 

Janine’s “French Fries” airs Sunday, June 17, at 11 p.m. ET/CT on TNT following “Claws.” We spoke with Janine about “French Fries,” “Claws” and why projects like Shatterbox are so important.

TURNER (T): Let’s touch on “Claws” for just a minute, since season 2 just started. You’ve been an integral part of so many successful shows. What makes “Claws” special and unique?
JANINE BARROIS (JB): I think it's because it's a hybrid, an amazing drama with a comedy bent. It has that Florida noir feeling and vibe to it. Most of the time when you're dealing with criminality, you deal with things happening at night, but a lot of our show takes place during the day. Crazy, weird, absurd things happen under the Florida sun. So, I think the combo of the “dramedy” hybrid and the idea that it's bold, it's fresh, and the characters are just so well-defined is what's kind of made it pop the zeitgeist.

T: At its heart, “Claws” is a show that’s all about female empowerment and sisterhood. What’s it like to be an integral part of creating this world with such strong female voices?
JB: Eliot Laurence, who created the show, wrote an amazing script, and the pilot was so well defined as far as the women characters. He clearly has strong relationships with women, and a strong relationship with his mom. He made a point to write this fierce group of females driving the show; so when I was brought in to be the showrunner, it felt so refreshing to see that on the page.

It’s great to be able to help generate more stories over the last two years that continue to make women unapologetic in their pursuit of power, money, sex or just a better piece of the American dream.

“I think it’s going to take programs like Shatterbox to continuously remind people that we’re here, that we have ideas, and that we just need to be given a shot...”

T: Let’s talk “French Fries,” your short film for Refinery29’s female-focused Shatterbox Anthology. Tell us how you first got involved with the project.
JB: I was talking to Sarah Aubrey (EVP - Original Programming, TNT) and she was very interested in me participating. I came up with some ideas and eventually got in with an idea that was about marriage. I love writing about marriage and relationships, and I decided to write a complicated dramedy about it.

Initially, I pitched a bunch of ideas that were more on hot button issues in our culture, like police brutality or race. In the end, I just wanted to do something that was naturalistic to a couple.

 

T: How important do you feel it is to have showcases such as the Shatterbox Anthology to highlight content created by and starring women?
JB: I think it's really important because there's not enough women out there that are given the opportunity to create and direct shows. I've been in the business for years, trying to get my own show on the air, and it's been a journey. I think it's going to take programs like Shatterbox to continuously remind people that we're here, that we have ideas, and that we just need to be given a shot to be able to get them, whether it's on TV or the big screen.

T: Now this year, Shatterbox is partnering with TNT, so your film, as well as the other seven offerings, will be shown across all TNT channels – social, digital and television. How do you feel about that partnership with TNT?
JB: First, my relationship with TNT has been amazing. I think they have kind of rebranded themselves as being bold and fresh, and a place innovators and creators want to come to tell stories. I'm not surprised that they would align with Refinery 29, which is on the pulse and the zeitgeist of female points of view and female storytelling. So, I think it's a great collaboration because I think that's when you get fresh ideas.

When you have collaborators come together that you might not expect, when they shake it up, it really brings something that people will talk about. I think that's what happening on the network now. I think TNT has these shows that everybody's talking about. I mean, “Claws” is water cooler. And I think when you take a show like that and you put a short by myself or one of the other filmmakers on right after it or before it, it just helps give us a higher profile and a bigger voice in a culture that is dying to hear our voice. I think it's a perfect, perfect fit, it couldn't come at a better time.

“There are not enough female directors or female screenwriters. We're out here trying to get our voices heard and have our true artistic expression shown.”

T: So, what’s next for you? Anything big in the works?
JB: I've got something I'm working on with TNT that hasn't been announced yet, but it’s a fantastic project. In the meantime, directing has been such a phenomenal experience for me. I'd love to direct a small movie, like a “Moonlight” or a “Ladybird.” Something where I can tell a concise story that has a huge social impact. I think the Shatterbox series gave me the push I needed to say, "Forget it. I'm just going to go do it. I'm going to do it, and I'm going to tell my agents I'm doing it.” I'm excited about the future.

Learn more about “French Fries” here, and don’t forget to watch season two of “Claws,” airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/CT on TNT.