William Blinn

Writer / Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, William Blinn (1937-2020) talks about some of his first writing for television in a variety of dramatic genres for such series as Bonanza, Here Comes the Bride s and The Interns. He speaks thoroughly about writing the teleplay for the landmark television movie Brian's Song, for which he won an Emmy and a Peabody Award. For Brian's Song, he talks about the casting of the telefilm, researching the real-life people on which it was based, and the audience reaction to the movie. He details his work on the popular 1970s series The Rookies and Starsky and Hutch. For Starsky, Blinn describes his creation of the series and talks about the 2004 feature film adaptation. Blinn speaks in great detail about his work as the head writer of the landmark television miniseries Roots.  He talks about working with Roots author Alex Haley on the miniseries outline, talks about cast members, discusses many of the miniseries' dramatic moments, and offers his opinion of its legacy. He also talks about producing the popular series Eight Is Enough and Fame, describing the ups and downs of working on both of these shows. Additionally, he speaks about his teleplay for the movie A Question of Love, one of the first television dramas involving a lesbian theme. Gary Rutkowski conducted the interview on October 7, 2005 in Encino, CA.

"It's not enough just to tell the truth.  Then you're doing the History Channel. There's something to be said for that, but it may not always be compelling. And it's not enough just to be interesting, because then you're doing Paris Hilton and her elephant. You know it'll be interesting, but it's cotton candy. If you can tell the truth in an interesting way, then you accomplished something."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
William Blinn on being hire to be on the writing staff of Bonanza and on learning from the older writers there
William Blinn on writing for Here Come the Brides starring Bobby Sherman and David Soul
William Blinn on the main themes of Roots
William Blinn on the legacy of Roots
William Blinn on the death of Diana Hyland, who played the original wife on Eight is Enough
William Blinn on what makes a great television episode or pilot
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on studying acting, and on deciding to become a stage manager instead; on his earliest impressions of television
On seeing the original live Studio One broadcast of "Twelve Angry Men", and on a Studio One anecdote involving Worthington Miner; on his earliest television writing jobs for the westerns Maverick, Laramie, Rawhide, and others; on being hire to be on the writing staff of Bonanza and on learning from the older writers there

Chapter 2

On storylines he wrote for Bonanza and the origin of those ideas; on the atmosphere on the set of Bonanza; on the elements and formula of Westerns on television, the "horse-operas" and on the quality of Gunsmoke
On writing for The Invaders; on writing for Here Come the Brides starring Bobby Sherman and David Soul
On writing for The Interns starring Mike Farrell; on how he came to adapt Brian's Song for television

Chapter 3

On the title Brian's Song, and on adapting the story; on James Caan as "Brian Piccolo" in Brian's Song; on talking to the real-life people who inspired Brian's Song and on dealing with the racial aspect of the story
On expanding on the short article from which Brian's Song was adapted; on winning an Emmy Award for Brian's Song; on the legacy of Brian's Song
On writing for and producing Aaron Spelling's series The Rookies; on creating Starsky and Hutch

Chapter 4

On the pilot of Starsky and Hutch and the relationship between the lead characters; on his input casting the lead roles on Starsky and Hutch; on "Huggy Bear" on Starsky and Hutch and on the success of the show
On the chemistry between Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul on Starsky and Hutch and the actors fighting for better scripts; on having little control over the scripts on Starsky and Hutch; on the 2004 feature film version of Starsky and Hutch
On the genesis of Roots and on working with Alex Haley; on witnessing Alex Haley tell the story of his family to audiences, and on the challenges of writing the screenplay for Roots and on Alex Haley's input; on being on the set of Roots while it filmed

Chapter 5

On working with Alex Haley on Roots on on the research that went into the show; on the "Captain Davies" character in Roots, played by Edward Asner, and on the "Anne Reynolds" character played by Sandy Duncan; on the main themes of Roots
On Roots producers David Wolper and Stan Margulies and his making suggests for directors and cast; on some of his decisions in adapting Roots, and on the other writers on the show including Ernest Kinoy; on the then-new miniseries format that Roots was presented in, and the "My name is Toby" scene

Chapter 6

On dramatic license taken in Roots; on Roots and network censorship; on specific scenes in Roots and on casting the show
On his criticisms of the finished Roots, and on the success of the show; on public reaction to Roots and the legacy of the show; on Roots: The Next Generations
On adapting Eight is Enough for television

Chapter 7

On the concept of Eight is Enough; on the death of Diana Hyland, who played the original wife on Eight is Enough; on Mark Hamill leaving Eight is Enough after the pilot episode and on Betty Buckley joining the cast
On forming a production company with Jerry Thorpe; on the made-for-television movie A Question of Love
On adapting Fame for television; on a typical workweek on Fame

Chapter 8

On working with Debbie Allen on Fame, and on the process of making an episode; on the budget of Fame, and on Gene Anthony Ray as "LeRoy"
On Fame being cancelled by NBC and going into first-run syndication; on the influence of Fame, and on dealing with cast changes on the show; on Debbie Allen as "Lydia Grant" on Fame and on his leaving the show
On working on Magical World of Disney; on career achievements; on advice to aspiring writers
On what makes a great television episode or pilot; on how he'd like to be remembered
Shows

Bonanza

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William Blinn on being hire to be on the writing staff of Bonanza and on learning from the older writers there
William Blinn on storylines he wrote for Bonanza and the origin of those ideas
William Blinn on the atmosphere on the set of Bonanza

Brian's Song

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William Blinn on how he came to adapt Brian's Song for television
William Blinn on the title Brian's Song, and on adapting the story
William Blinn on James Caan as "Brian Piccolo" in Brian's Song
William Blinn on talking to the real-life people who inspired Brian's Song
William Blinn on the reaction to Brian's Song, and on dealing with the racial aspect of the story
William Blinn on expanding on the short article from which Brian's Song was adapted
William Blinn on winning an Emmy Award for Brian's Song
William Blinn on the legacy of Brian's Song

Eight Is Enough

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William Blinn on adapting Eight is Enough for television, and on casting the show
William Blinn on the concept and stories of Eight is Enough
William Blinn on the death of Diana Hyland, who played the original wife on Eight is Enough
William Blinn on Mark Hamill leaving Eight is Enough after the pilot episode and on Betty Buckley joining the cast
William Blinn on the end of Eight is Enough

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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William Blinn on winning an Emmy Award for Brian's Song

Fame (1982-87)

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William Blinn on adapting Fame for television
William Blinn on a typical workweek on Fame
William Blinn on working with Debbie Allen on Fame, and on the process of making an episode
William Blinn on the budget of Fame, and on Gene Anthony Ray as "LeRoy"
William Blinn on Fame being cancelled by NBC and going into first-run syndication
William Blinn on the influence of Fame, and on dealing with cast changes on the show
William Blinn on Debbie Allen as "Lydia Grant" on Fame and on his leaving the show

Here Come the Brides

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William Blinn on writing for Here Come the Brides starring Bobby Sherman and David Soul

Interns, The

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William Blinn on writing for The Interns starring Mike Farrell

Invaders, The

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William Blinn on writing for The Invaders

Laramie

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William Blinn on his earliest television writing jobs for the westerns Maverick, Laramie, Rawhide, and others

Magical World of Disney

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William Blinn on working on Magical World of Disney

Maverick

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William Blinn on his earliest television writing jobs for the westerns Maverick, Laramie, Rawhide, and others

Rawhide

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William Blinn on his earliest television writing jobs for the westerns Maverick, Laramie, Rawhide, and others

Rookies, The

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William Blinn on writing for and producing Aaron Spelling's series The Rookies

Roots

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William Blinn on the genesis of Roots and on working with Alex Haley
William Blinn on witnessing Alex Haley tell the story of his family to audiences, and on the challenges of writing the screenplay for Roots and on Alex Haley's input
William Blinn on being on the set of Roots while it filmed
William Blinn on working with Alex Haley on Roots on on the research that went into the show
William Blinn on the "Captain Davies" character in Roots, played by Edward Asner, and on the "Anne Reynolds" character played by Sandy Duncan
William Blinn on the main themes of Roots
William Blinn on Richard Roundtree playing a difficult scene in Roots as "Sam Bennett"
William Blinn on Roots producers David Wolper and Stan Margulies and his making suggests for directors and cast
William Blinn on some of his decisions in adapting Roots, and on the other writers on the show including Ernest Kinoy
William Blinn on the then-new miniseries format that Roots was presented in, and the "My name is Toby" scene
William Blinn on dramatic license taken in Roots
William Blinn on Roots and network censorship
William Blinn on specific scenes in Roots
William Blinn on the casting of Roots
William Blinn on LeVar Burton as younger "Kunta Kinte" on Roots
William Blinn on his criticisms of the finished Roots, and on the success of the show
William Blinn on public reaction to Roots
William Blinn on the legacy of Roots

Roots: The Next Generations

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William Blinn on Roots: The Next Generations

Starsky and Hutch

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William Blinn on creating Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on the pilot of Starsky and Hutch and the relationship between the lead characters
William Blinn on "Starsky's" car on Starsky and Hutch and casting the lead roles
William Blinn on his input casting the lead roles on Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on "Huggy Bear" on Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on Starsky and Hutch going to series and the success of the pilot episode
William Blinn on the chemistry between Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul on Starsky and Hutch and the actors fighting for better scripts
William Blinn on having little control over the scripts on Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on the 2004 feature film version of Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on Paul Michael Glaser as "Starsky" on Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on how he came to have the film rights of Starsky and Hutch

Studio One

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William Blinn on seeing the original live Studio One broadcast of "Twelve Angry Men", and on a Studio One anecdote involving Worthington Miner
Topics

Anthology Drama

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William Blinn on seeing the original live Studio One broadcast of "Twelve Angry Men", and on a Studio One anecdote involving Worthington Miner

Diversity in Television

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William Blinn on the reaction to Brian's Song, and on dealing with the racial aspect of the story
William Blinn on "Huggy Bear" on Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on writing Roots

Emmy Awards

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William Blinn on winning an Emmy Award for Brian's Song

Historic Events and Social Change

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William Blinn on the reaction to Brian's Song, and on dealing with the racial aspect of the story
William Blinn on "Huggy Bear" on Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on writing Roots

Memorable Moments on Television

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William Blinn on the then-new miniseries format that Roots was presented in, and the "My name is Toby" scene

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

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William Blinn on seeing the original live Studio One broadcast of "Twelve Angry Men", and on a Studio One anecdote involving Worthington Miner

Underrepresented Voices

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William Blinn on the reaction to Brian's Song, and on dealing with the racial aspect of the story
William Blinn on "Huggy Bear" on Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on writing Roots

We Considered

View Topic
William Blinn on the then-new miniseries format that Roots was presented in, and the "My name is Toby" scene
Professions

Writers

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William Blinn on advice he would give aspiring writers
William Blinn on advice to aspiring writers
William Blinn on what makes a great television episode or pilot
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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William Blinn on seeing the original live Studio One broadcast of "Twelve Angry Men", and on a Studio One anecdote involving Worthington Miner
William Blinn on working on Magical World of Disney

Comedy Series

View Genre
William Blinn on writing for Here Come the Brides starring Bobby Sherman and David Soul
William Blinn on writing Eight is Enough
William Blinn on writing Eight is Enough

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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William Blinn on writing for and producing Aaron Spelling's series The Rookies
William Blinn on creating Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on Starsky and Hutch

Drama Series

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William Blinn on writing for Fame

Medical Dramas

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William Blinn on writing for The Interns starring Mike Farrell

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

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William Blinn on writing for The Invaders

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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William Blinn on how he came to adapt Brian's Song for television
William Blinn on adapting Brian's Song
William Blinn on being a writer on Roots
William Blinn on writing Roots
William Blinn on writing Roots
William Blinn on the made-for-television movie A Question of Love

Western Series

View Genre
William Blinn on his earliest television writing jobs for the westerns Maverick, Laramie, Rawhide, and others
William Blinn on being hire to be on the writing staff of Bonanza and on learning from the older writers there
William Blinn on the elements and formula of Westerns on television, the "horse-operas" and on the quality of Gunsmoke
William Blinn on writing for Bonanza
People

Debbie Allen

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William Blinn on Debbie Allen as "Lydia Grant" on Fame and on his leaving the show

Edward Asner

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William Blinn on the "Captain Davies" character in Roots, played by Edward Asner, and on the "Anne Reynolds" character played by Sandy Duncan

Betty Buckley

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William Blinn on Mark Hamill leaving Eight is Enough after the pilot episode and on Betty Buckley joining the cast

LeVar Burton

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William Blinn on LeVar Burton as younger "Kunta Kinte" on Roots

James Caan

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William Blinn on James Caan as "Brian Piccolo" in Brian's Song

Sandy Duncan

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William Blinn on the "Captain Davies" character in Roots, played by Edward Asner, and on the "Anne Reynolds" character played by Sandy Duncan

Mike Farrell

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William Blinn on writing for The Interns starring Mike Farrell

Paul Michael Glaser

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William Blinn on his input casting Paul Michael Glaser roles on Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on the chemistry between Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul on Starsky and Hutch and the actors fighting for better scripts
William Blinn on Paul Michael Glaser as "Starsky" on Starsky and Hutch

Alex Haley

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William Blinn on the genesis of Roots and on working with Alex Haley
William Blinn on witnessing Alex Haley tell the story of his family to audiences, and on the challenges of writing the screenplay for Roots and on Alex Haley's input

Mark Hamill

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William Blinn on Mark Hamill leaving Eight is Enough after the pilot episode and on Betty Buckley joining the cast

Diana Hyland

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William Blinn on the death of Diana Hyland, who played the original wife on Eight is Enough

Ernest Kinoy

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William Blinn on some of his decisions in adapting Roots, and on the other writers on the show including Ernest Kinoy

Stan Margulies

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William Blinn on Roots producers David Wolper and Stan Margulies and his making suggests for directors and cast

Worthington Miner

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William Blinn on seeing the original live Studio One broadcast of "Twelve Angry Men", and on a Studio One anecdote involving Worthington Miner

Gene Anthony Ray

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William Blinn on the budget of Fame, and on Gene Anthony Ray as "LeRoy"

Richard Roundtree

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William Blinn on Richard Roundtree playing a difficult scene in Roots as "Sam Bennett"

David Soul

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William Blinn on writing for Here Come the Brides starring Bobby Sherman and David Soul
William Blinn on his input casting David Soul on Starsky and Hutch
William Blinn on the chemistry between Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul on Starsky and Hutch and the actors fighting for better scripts

Aaron Spelling

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William Blinn on writing for and producing Aaron Spelling's series The Rookies

David L. Wolper

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William Blinn on Roots producers David Wolper and Stan Margulies and his making suggests for directors and cast

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