Walon Green

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour interview, Walon Green talks about his early years, and working for David L. Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. on documentaries. He describes directing the Time-Life Special “The Search for Vengeance” about the search for Nazi war criminals, as well as executive producing the Gene Roddenberry-inspired Strange New World. He chronicles his time working for producer David Milch as a writer for Hill Street Blues, and what he learned about writing for television during his time there. Green recounts working as a writer for producer Dick Wolf on Law & Order, and later on the spin-off Law & Order: Criminal Intent, as well as the short lived Law & Order: Trial by Jury. He discusses writing for NYPD Blue, where he worked with executive producer Steven Bochco, and helped create Jimmy Smits’ character, “Bobby Simone.” He outlines his time working for executive producer John Wells on ER, which included working on the live episode “Ambush.” He speaks of his writing process, and the importance of rewriting. Green talks about writing the feature film “The Wild Bunch,” and directing the documentary feature “The Hellstrom Chronicle.” He outlines then-more recent work, including his adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus, and episodes of The Man in the High Castle and Mercy Street. Adrienne Faillace conducted the interview in a joint venture with the Writers Guild Foundation on August 23, 2018 in Santa Ynez, CA.

"I always try to write things with some thematic value. And I think if you’re going to write something, be entertaining but try to look beyond that."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Walon Green on directing the Time-Life Specials: The March of Time episode "The Search for Vengeance" about the search for Nazi war criminals around the world
Walon Green on the legacy of Hill Street Blues and Steven Bochco
Walon Green on writing the first NYPD Blue episode with Jimmy Smits as "Bobby Simone," "Simone Says"
Walon Green on writing Jerry Orbach's final "Lennie Briscoe" appearance in the pilot for Law & Order: Trial by Jury before Orbach's death in 2004
Walon Green on the live episode of ER, "Ambush," and on George Clooney getting nervous as the airdate drew near
Walon Green on helping out with a sequence involving insects in the David L. Wolper-produced feature film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on going to work for Jack Haley, Jr. on the documentary series Hollywood and the Stars
On learning to write for documentaries, including National Geographic Specials "Reptiles and Amphibians"; on working for David L. Wolper, and on meeting Jacques and Philippe Cousteau; on shooting The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau
On working in several capacities (cinematographer, producer, director) on David L. Wolper's National Geographic Specials; on the challenge of shooting nature footage for the National Geographic Specials; on directing the Time-Life Specials: The March of Time episode "The Search for Vengeance" about the search for Nazi war criminals around the world
On the impact David L. Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. made with documentary series such as The Race for Space; on the first time he saw television, and on watching television when he was traveling internationally; on writing and executive producing the television movie Strange New World, from a concept by Gene Roddenberry
On writing the narration for the television documentary Mysteries of the Sea for William Holden; on meeting David Milch and going to write for Hill Street Blues; on learning to write for Hill Street Blues, and on Dick Wolf becoming story editor
On the process of putting together a script for Hill Street Blues along with Jeffrey Lewis and David Milch; on Steven Bochco having left Hill Street Blues and how it impacted his rapport with the cast; on contretemps with ABC Standards & Practices during his time on Hill Street Blues, and on working for MTM
On introducing the character "Lt. Norman Buntz," played by Dennis Franz, on Hill Street Blues, and on other characters; on using his background experience to write for Hill Street Blues, and on what he learned about writing for television from the show; on the legacy of Hill Street Blues and Steven Bochco

Chapter 2

On Dick Wolf hiring him to write for Law & Order; on finding story ideas for Law & Order from the headlines and from his own experiences; on Paul Sorvino leaving Law & Order, to be replaced by Jerry Orbach as "Lennie Briscoe," and on writing his first episode
On Dick Wolf casting S. Epatha Merkerson as "Anita Van Buren" on Law & Order; on the relationship between the cast of Law & Order and the writers while he was there; on the popularity of the Law & Order franchise
On going to write for NYPD Blue for Steven Bochco as David Caruso was leaving the series; on writing the first NYPD Blue episode with Jimmy Smits as "Bobby Simone," "Simone Says"; on NYPD Blue winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama in 1995, and on leaving the show after one year
On being hired by John Wells as co-executive producer on ER; on learning medical jargon for ER; on favorite episodes and storylines of ER during his stint there
On writing for the short-lived Law & Order: Trial by Jury; on paying attention to things like ratings for the shows he wrote on, and on the cancellation of Law & Order: Trial by Jury; on writing for Law & Order: Criminal Intent
On being the showrunner on the 2003 revival of Dragnet for Dick Wolf; on co-creating Conviction with Dick Wolf; on what makes a good writer

Chapter 3

On what he likes about writing; on his writing process; on never having had to deal with writers block, and on the importance of rewriting
On working on the feature "WarGames," and on writing the feature film "The Wild Bunch"; on working with "The Wild Bunch" director Sam Peckinpah; on the level of violence in his feature film "The Wild Bunch," and on where he got the story for the movie
On directing the documentary "The Hellstrom Chronicle," produced by David L. Wolper, for which Green won an Oscar; on helping out with a sequence involving insects in the David L. Wolper-produced feature film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"
On adapting "Killing Jesus," based on Bill O'Reilly's book, for a National Geographic Special; on writing an episode of The Man in the High Castle and an episode of Mercy Street, and on staying active in the industry; on William Friedkin, Tony Richardson, and Stephen Frears being mentors to him
On what it has meant to him over the years to be a member of the Writers Guild; on advice to an aspiring writer
On the value of the Television Academy Foundation interviews, and oral histories in general; on dream projects and his proudest career achievement; on how he would like to be remembered
Shows

Conviction

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Walon Green on co-creating Conviction with Dick Wolf

Dragnet (2003-04)

View Show Page
Walon Green on being the showrunner for the 2003 revival of Dragnet for Dick Wolf

ER

View Show Page
Walon Green on being hired by John Wells as co-executive producer on ER
Walon Green on learning medical jargon for ER
Walon Green on the live episode of ER, "Ambush," and on George Clooney getting nervous as the airdate drew near
Walon Green on favorite ER episodes and storylines of during his stint on the show

Hill Street Blues

View Show Page
Walon Green on meeting David Milch and going to write for Hill Street Blues
Walon Green on learning to write for Hill Street Blues, and on Dick Wolf becoming story editor
Walon Green on the process of putting together a script for Hill Street Blues along with Jeffrey Lewis and David Milch
Walon Green on Steven Bochco having left Hill Street Blues when Green joined, and how it impacted Green's rapport with the cast
Walon Green on contretemps with ABC Standards and Practices during his time on Hill Street Blues, and on working for MTM
Walon Green on introducing the character "Lt. Norman Buntz" played by Dennis Franz on Hill Street Blues
Walon Green on Bruce Weitz as "Sgt. Mick Belker" on Hill Street Blues and other characters
Walon Green on using his background experience to write for Hill Street Blues, and on what he learned about writing for television from the show
Walon Green on the legacy of Hill Street Blues and Steven Bochco

Hollywood and the Stars

View Show Page
Walon Green on going to work for Jack Haley, Jr. on the documentary series Hollywood and the Stars

Law & Order

View Show Page
Walon Green on Dick Wolf hiring him to write for Law & Order
Walon Green on finding story ideas for Law & Order from the headlines and from his own experiences
Walon Green on Paul Sorvino leaving Law & Order, to be replaced by Jerry Orbach as "Lennie Briscoe," and on writing his first episode
Walon Green on Dick Wolf casting S. Epatha Merkerson as "Anita Van Buren" on Law & Order
Walon Green on the relationship between the cast of Law & Order and the writers while he was there
Walon Green on the popularity of the Law & Order franchise

Law & Order: Criminal Intent

View Show Page
Walon Green on writing for Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which was airing on the USA cable network
Walon Green on Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe leaving Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Jeff Goldblum joining the show

Law & Order: Trial by Jury

View Show Page
Walon Green on writing Jerry Orbach's final "Lennie Briscoe" appearance in the pilot for Law & Order: Trial by Jury before Orbach's death in 2004
Walon Green on writing for the short-lived Law & Order: Trial by Jury
Walon Green on paying attention to things like ratings for the shows he wrote on, and on the cancellation of Law & Order: Trial by Jury

Man in the High Castle, The

View Show Page
Walon Green on writing an episode of The Man in the High Castle and an episode of Mercy Street, and on staying active in the industry

Mercy Street

View Show Page
Walon Green on writing an episode of The Man in the High Castle and an episode of Mercy Street, and on staying active in the industry

Mysteries of the Sea

View Show Page
Walon Green on writing the narration for the television documentary Mysteries of the Sea for William Holden

NYPD Blue

View Show Page
Walon Green on going to write for NYPD Blue for Steven Bochco and David Milch as David Caruso was leaving the series
Walon Green on writing the first NYPD Blue episode with Jimmy Smits as "Bobby Simone," "Simone Says"
Walon Green on NYPD Blue and ABC Standards & Practices
Walon Green on NYPD Blue winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama in 1995, and on leaving the show after one year

National Geographic Specials

View Show Page
Walon Green on learning to write for documentaries, including National Geographic Specials "Reptiles and Amphibians" and learning how to type
Walon Green on working in several capacities (cinematographer, producer, director) on David L. Wolper's National Geographic Specials
Walon Green on the challenge of shooting nature footage for the National Geographic Specials
Walon Green on adapting "Killing Jesus," based on Bill O'Reilly's book, for a National Geographic Special
Walon Green on collaborating with Bill O'Reilly on the National Geographic Special adaptation of his book "Killing Jesus"

Race for Space, The

View Show Page
Walon Green on the impact David L. Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. made with documentary series such as The Race for Space

Strange New World

View Show Page
Walon Green on writing and executive producing the television movie Strange New World from a concept by Gene Roddenberry

Time-Life Specials: The March of Time

View Show Page
Walon Green on directing the Time-Life Specials: The March of Time episode "The Search for Vengeance" about the search for Nazi war criminals around the world

Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, The

View Show Page
Walon Green on shooting The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau
Walon Green on his interaction with Jacques Cousteau while filming The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and on their travels
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Walon Green on advice to an aspiring writer

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
Walon Green on NYPD Blue and ABC Standards and Practices

Characters & Catchphrases

View Topic
Walon Green on introducing the character "Lt. Norman Buntz" played by Dennis Franz on Hill Street Blues
Walon Green on writing the first NYPD Blue episode with Jimmy Smits as "Bobby Simone,""Simone Says"

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Walon Green on the impact David L. Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. made with documentary series such as The Race for Space
Walon Green on William Friedkin, Tony Richardson, and Stephen Frears being mentors to him

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Walon Green on NYPD Blue winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama in 1995, and on leaving the show after one year

First Big Break

View Topic
Walon Green on meeting David Milch and going to write for Hill Street Blues

Memorable Moments on Television

View Topic
Walon Green on the live episode of ER, "Ambush," and on George Clooney getting nervous as the airdate drew near

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Walon Green on the impact David L. Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. made with documentary series such as The Race for Space
Walon Green on meeting David Milch and going to write for Hill Street Blues
Walon Green on William Friedkin, Tony Richardson, and Stephen Frears being mentors to him
Walon Green on directing the documentary "The Hellstrom Chronicle," produced by David L. Wolper, for which Green won an Oscar

Pop Culture

View Topic
Walon Green on introducing the character "Lt. Norman Buntz" played by Dennis Franz on Hill Street Blues
Walon Green on writing the first NYPD Blue episode with Jimmy Smits as "Bobby Simone,""Simone Says"

Television Industry

View Topic
Walon Green on NYPD Blue and ABC Standards and Practices
Walon Green on paying attention to things like ratings for the shows he wrote on, and on the cancellation of Law & Order: Trial by Jury
Walon Green on writing for Law & Order: Criminal Intent which was airing on the USA cable network
Walon Green on advice to an aspiring writer
Professions

Writers

View Profession
Walon Green on what makes a good writer
Walon Green on what he likes about writing
Walon Green on his writing process
Walon Green on never having had to deal with writers block, and on the importance of rewriting
Walon Green on rewriting other writers' work, and on having his own work rewritten by others
Walon Green on learning the format to write feature films
Walon Green on what it has meant to him over the years to be a member of the Writers Guild
Walon Green on advice to an aspiring writer
Genres

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
Walon Green on writing for Hill Street Blues
Walon Green on how working on police and legal shows impacted his view of law enforcement, and on working with former policeman Bill Clark on many shows
Walon Green on writing for Law & Order
Walon Green on writing for NYPD Blue
Walon Green on showrunning the 2003 revival of Dragnet for Dick Wolf
Walon Green on writing for Law & Order: Criminal Intent which was airing on the USA cable network

Drama Series

View Genre
Walon Green on writing an episode of The Man in the High Castle and an episode of Mercy Street, and on staying active in the industry

Legal Dramas

View Genre
Walon Green on writing for the short-lived Law & Order: Trial by Jury
Walon Green on writing for Law & Order: Criminal Intent which was airing on the USA cable network
Walon Green on co-creating Conviction with Dick Wolf
Walon Green on writing for Law & Order

Medical Dramas

View Genre
Walon Green on writing for ER

News and Documentary

View Genre
Walon Green on going to work for Jack Haley, Jr. on the documentary series Hollywood and the Stars
Walon Green on learning to write for documentaries, including National Geographic Specials "Reptiles and Amphibians" and learning how to type
Walon Green on shooting The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau
Walon Green on the challenge of shooting nature footage for the National Geographic Specials
Walon Green on directing the Time-Life Specials: The March of Time episode "The Search for Vengeance" about the search for Nazi war criminals around the world
Walon Green on the impact David L. Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. made with documentary series such as The Race for Space
Walon Green on writing the narration for the television documentary Mysteries of the Sea for William Holden

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
Walon Green on writing and executive producing the television movie Strange New World from a concept by Gene Roddenberry
Walon Green on adapting "Killing Jesus," based on Bill O'Reilly's book, for a National Geographic Special
People

Steven Bochco

View Interview Page
Walon Green on Steven Bochco having left Hill Street Blues when Green joined, and how it impacted Green's rapport with the cast
Walon Green on the legacy of Hill Street Blues and Steven Bochco
Walon Green on going to write for NYPD Blue for Steven Bochco as David Caruso was leaving the series

David Caruso

View Person Page
Walon Green on going to write for NYPD Blue for Steven Bochco as David Caruso was leaving the series

George Clooney

View Person Page
Walon Green on the live episode of ER, "Ambush," and on George Clooney getting nervous as the airdate drew near

Jacques Cousteau

View Person Page
Walon Green on working for David L. Wolper, and on meeting Jacques and Philippe Cousteau
Walon Green on his interaction with Jacques Cousteau while filming The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and on their travels

Vincent D'Onofrio

View Person Page
Walon Green on Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe leaving Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Jeff Goldblum joining the show

Dennis Franz

View Interview Page
Walon Green on introducing the character "Lt. Norman Buntz" played by Dennis Franz on Hill Street Blues

William Friedkin

View Person Page
Walon Green on William Friedkin, Tony Richardson, and Stephen Frears being mentors to him

Jeff Goldblum

View Person Page
Walon Green on Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe leaving Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Jeff Goldblum joining the show

Jack Haley, Jr.

View Person Page
Walon Green on going to work for Jack Haley, Jr. on the documentary series Hollywood and the Stars
Walon Green on the impact David L. Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. made with documentary series such as The Race for Space

William Holden

View Person Page
Walon Green on writing the narration for the television documentary Mysteries of the Sea for William Holden

S. Epatha Merkerson

View Interview Page
Walon Green on Dick Wolf casting S. Epatha Merkerson as "Anita Van Buren" on Law & Order

David Milch

View Interview Page
Walon Green on meeting David Milch and going to write for Hill Street Blues
Walon Green on the process of putting together a script for Hill Street Blues along with Jeffrey Lewis and David Milch

Bill O'Reilly

View Person Page
Walon Green on adapting "Killing Jesus," based on Bill O'Reilly's book, for a National Geographic Special
on collaborating with Bill O'Reilly on the National Geographic Special adaptation of his book "Killing Jesus"

Sam Peckinpah

View Person Page
Walon Green on working with "The Wild Bunch" director Sam Peckinpah

Gene Roddenberry

View Person Page
Walon Green on writing and executive producing the television movie Strange New World from a concept by Gene Roddenberry

Jimmy Smits

View Person Page
Walon Green on writing the first NYPD Blue episode with Jimmy Smits as "Bobby Simone,""Simone Says"

Bruce Weitz

View Person Page
Walon Green on Bruce Weitz as "Sgt. Mick Belker" on Hill Street Blues and other characters

John Wells

View Interview Page
Walon Green on being hired by John Wells a co-executive producer for ER

Dick Wolf

View Interview Page
Walon Green on learning to write for Hill Street Blues, and on Dick Wolf becoming story editor
Walon Green on Dick Wolf hiring him to write for Law & Order
Walon Green on showrunning the 2003 revival of Dragnet for Dick Wolf
Walon Green on co-creating Conviction with Dick Wolf

David L. Wolper

View Interview Page
Walon Green on working for David L. Wolper, and on meeting Jacques and Philippe Cousteau
Walon Green on working in several capacities (cinematographer, producer, director) on David L. Wolper's National Geographic Specials
Walon Green on the impact David L. Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. made with documentary series such as The Race for Space
Walon Green on directing the documentary "The Hellstrom Chronicle," produced by David L. Wolper, for which Green won an Oscar
Walon Green on helping out with a sequence involving insects in the David L. Wolper-produced feature film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"

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