John Wells (producer)

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John Wells
JohnWellsHWoFJan2012.jpg
Wells at a ceremony to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, January 2012
Born John Marcum Wells
(1956-05-28) May 28, 1956 (age 57)
Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
Occupation Director, producer, writer
Years active 1987–present

John Marcum Wells (born May 28, 1956) is an American theater, film and television producer, writer and director.

He is best known for his role as executive producer and showrunner of the television series ER, Third Watch, The West Wing, and Shameless. His company, John Wells Productions, is currently based at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California. Wells is also a labor leader, and was elected president of the Writers Guild of America, West in 2009, after serving a prior term in that office from 1999 to 2001.[1]

Early life[edit]

Wells was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the son of Marjorie Elizabeth (née Risberg) and Llewellyn Wallace Wells, Jr., an Episcopalian minister.[2][3] He has English, Irish, Scottish, Swedish, and Norwegian ancestry.[4] Wells graduated from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in 1979. A studio theatre at Carnegie Mellon University bears his name. While at CMU, he was one of the earliest actors to work at City Theatre, a prominent fixture of Pittsburgh theatre.[5]

Career[edit]

Television[edit]

Wells was a producer on the 1987 film Nice Girls Don't Explode. He began writing for television with an episode of CBS Summer Playhouse entitled "Roughhouse" in 1988.

China Beach[edit]

He was hired as a producer for the second season of ABC drama series China Beach in 1988. The show was created by John Sacret Young and William Broyles, Jr. and focused on combat medics in the Vietnam war. Wells wrote five episodes for the first season – "X-Mas Chn. Bch. VN, '67", "Tet '68", "Vets" and both parts of the two part season finale "The World".

He was promoted to supervising producer for the third season of China Beach in 1989. He wrote three further episodes for the third season – "Dear China Beach", "Magic", and "The Thanks of a Grateful Nation". He returned as a co-executive producer for the fourth and final season in 1990. He was involved in writing ten further episodes. He co-wrote the story for the season premiere with Sacret Young, Carol Flint and Lydia Woodward and wrote the teleplay himself. He worked with the same team to develop the story for the second episode "She Sells More Than Sea Shells", the third episode "You, Babe", the fourth episode "Escape", the fifth episode "Fever", the sixth episode "Juice", the seventh episode "One Giant Leap" and the eighth episode "One Small Step". He co-wrote the fourteenth episode "Rewind" with Flint. He co-wrote the teleplay and co-wrote the story for the series finale "Hello Goodbye" along with Sacret Young.

Wells wrote sixteen episodes of the series in total. He frequently worked with producer/director Mimi Leder on China Beach and she helmed six of the episodes he wrote. China Beach also marked the start of Wells working relationship with casting director John Frank Levey, editors Randy Jon Morgan and Jacque Toberen and directors Rod Holcomb and Fred Gerber.

TV movies[edit]

Wells worked on two television films in 1992 Angel Street and The Nightman. Wells co-wrote and was the co-executive producer of The Nightman. The film was directed by Charles Haid and is about a young man moving into a hotel run by a mother and daughter. Wells helped to adapt the teleplay from the radio drama by Lucille Fletcher.

Angel Street was written and executive produced by Wells. It reunited him with several China Beach crew members including director Rod Holcomb, editor Jacque Toberen, and casting director John Frank Levey. The telefilm was followed by a series on which Wells again worked as an executive producer. Wells also wrote the screenplay for Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story, the project was produced in 1996 and starred Martin Sheen and Moira Kelly.

ER[edit]

In 1994 Wells was hired as an executive producer for the pilot of NBC medical drama ER. The show was created by novelist Michael Crichton. The pilot episode was directed by frequent Wells collaborator Rod Holcomb and John Frank Levey was involved as a casting director. The pilot was edited by frequent China Beach editor Randy Jon Morgan.

Wells became the show runner and head writer for the ongoing series that followed the pilot. He was credited as an executive producer for all fifteen seasons of the series and served as the show runner for the first six seasons. He hired China Beach writer Lydia Woodward as a supervising producer and writer. China Beach director Mimi Leder also became a supervising producer and regular director. ER marked the start of Wells longstanding collaboration with producer/director Christopher Chulack and music composer Martin Davich.

Wells wrote five episodes of the first season including the second episode "Day One",[6] "Chicago Heat",[7] "Feb 5 1995",[8] "The Birthday Party",[9] and the season finale "Everything Old Is New Again".[10]

Wells and the producers were nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series at the 1995 ceremony for their work on the first season. The season was nominated for 23 Emmy Awards and won 8 in total. Wells and Michael Crichton won a Producers Guild of America Award at the 1994 ceremony. Wells and Crichton also received an honorable mention at the Wise Owl Awards in the Television and Theatrical Film Fiction category.

Wells remained show runner for the second season in 1995. He hired his China Beach colleague Carol Flint as a co-executive producer for the second season. Wells wrote four more episodes for the second season – the season premiere "Welcome Back, Carter!",[11] "Dead of Winter",[12] "The Healers",[13] and the season finale "John Carter MD".[14] Wells and the producers won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series at the 1996 ceremony for their work on the second season. Wells was also nominated for a Humanitas Prize (in the 60-minute category) and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for the episode "The Healers".

Wells remained the head writer for the third season in 1996 and wrote the season premiere "Doctor Carter, I Presume",[15] "Faith",[16] and the season finale "One More for the Road".[17] Wells and the producers were nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series at the 1997 ceremony for their work on the third season. Wells was again nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for the episode "Faith".

He continued in the same capacity for the fourth season in 1997 and wrote two further episodes "Fathers and Sons",[18] and "Carter's Choice".[19] Wells also made his television directing debut with his screenplay "Carter's Choice".[19] Wells and the producers were nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series at the 1998 ceremony for their work on the fourth season.

Wells returned as head writer for the fifth season in 1998. He wrote both parts of the two part episode "The Storm" and also directed the first part.[20][21] Wells and the producers were once again nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series at the 1999 ceremony for their work on the fifth season. Wells stood down as show runner after the fifth season but remained an executive producer and major creative force behind the series. In the 1999–2000 TV season his company Wells productions launched two new series The West Wing and Third Watch.

Woodward took over as show runner for the sixth season but Wells wrote "The Peace of Wild Things"[22] and wrote and directed "Such Sweet Sorrow".[23] Wells and the producers were once again nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series at the 2000 ceremony for their work on the sixth season but lost out to Wells' other show The West Wing. Wells was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for his work on "Such Sweet Sorrow". He was also nominated for the 2000 PGA Vision Award for his work on ER, Third Watch and The West Wing.

Wells continued to write for the seventh season and contributed two episodes "The Visit",[24] and "A Walk in the Woods".[25] Wells was nominated for a Humanitas Prize for his work on "A Walk in the Woods". Wells and the producers were once again nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series at the 2001 ceremony for their work on the seventh season and were again beaten by Wells's other series The West Wing.

For the eighth season Wells wrote the episode "Secrets and Lies"[26] and wrote the penultimate episode "On the Beach" which featured the departure of longterm cast member Anthony Edwards.[27] Wells was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for his work on "On the Beach" at the 2002 ceremony. He was also nominated for a further Humanitas Prize and a Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award at the 2003 ceremony for the episode.

For the ninth season Wells wrote the final episode "Kisangani".[28] The episode was set in Africa and followed the characters of John Carter and Luka Kovač. He returned in fall 2003 to write the tenth season premiere "Now What?"[29] and second episode "The Lost".[30] The episodes continued to deal with Carter and Kovac's travels in Africa, particularly "The Lost" which featured Carter searching for a missing Kovac in the Congo. Wells also wrote mid-season episode "Makemba" which dealt with Carter beginning a relationship with the titular character, an AIDS worker.[31] He wrote the penultimate episode "Midnight" which featured Carter's return to Chicago with a pregnant Makemba.[32] Wells was again nominated for a Humanitas Prize, this time for his work on "Makemba".

He continued to handle Carter's storylines for the eleventh season and wrote the penultimate episode "Carter est Amoureux"[33] and directed the finale "The Show Must Go On" which marked the departure of Noah Wyle (who played Carter) from the starring cast.[34] For the twelfth season Wells co-wrote the premiere episode "Canon City" with Lisa Zwerling and Joe Sachs.[35]

Wells served solely as an executive producer and director on the thirteenth and fourteenth seasons. He directed the thirteenth season episode "Jigsaw",[36] and the fourteenth episode "300 Patients".[37] He returned as a writer for the fifteenth and final season and wrote and directed the episode "Old Times" which featured the several past starring cast members including Noah Wyle, George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, and Eriq La Salle.[38] When ER ended in 2009, Wells had written 31 episodes, and directed 7.

Trinity[edit]

Wells Productions also produced Trinity, a short lived NBC family drama focusing on an Irish-American family in Hell's Kitchen. Wells served as an executive producer and writer for the series but it was cancelled after only nine episodes due to low ratings. The series won an Emmy Award for composer Martin Davich's music. Davich also worked on ER. The show starred John Spencer, Tate Donovan and Kim Raver. It also featured Third Watch actors Bobby Cannavale, Skipp Sudduth, and Molly Price.

Third Watch[edit]

Wells co-created Third Watch with ex-Chicago police officer Edward Allen Bernero. Wells worked as show runner on Third Watch for its first three seasons and served as an executive producer throughout its six season run. The series focused on emergency services workers across a single shift in New York. The first season began in 1999. Wells and Bernero co-wrote the pilot episode "Welcome to Camelot".[39]

Wells also wrote the first season episodes "Sunny, Like Sunshine",[40] "This Band of Brothers",[41] "Spring Forward, Fall Back",[42] and the first season finale "Young Men and Fire".[43]

Wells wrote four second season episodes the premiere enitled "The Lost",[30] "Faith",[16] "Requiem for a Bantamweight",[44] and the finale "...and Zeus Wept".[45] Wells directed the second season episode "True Love".[46]

Wells wrote a further four episodes for the third season in 2001 – "September Tenth",[47] "After Time",[48] "Adam 55-3",[49] and "Two Hundred and Thirty-Three Days".[50] Bernero took over as show runner after the third season and Wells remained attached as an executive producer until Third Watch ended in 2005 but did not write any more episodes.

The West Wing[edit]

Wells took over as show runner of The West Wing in 2003 for the fifth season. He ran the show for three seasons until its conclusion in 2006.

Southland[edit]

During the 2008 to 2009 television season Wells developed Southland for NBC. The series was created by Ann Biderman. It follows detectives and patrol officers in the titular area of Los Angeles. Wells returned as an executive producer for the second season in fall 2009 and co-wrote the season premiere "Phase Three" with Biderman. NBC canceled the series while the second season was in production but the episodes were picked up and aired by TNT.

TNT renewed the series for a third season and Wells remained an executive producer and writer. He again co-wrote the season premiere "Let It Snow" with Biderman. He also wrote the teleplay for the season finale "Graduation Day" from a story by his ex-assistant Heather Zuhlke.

Shameless[edit]

In 2009, Wells began work on an American adaptation of the British series Shameless.[51] Originally commissioned by HBO, the project moved to competing network Showtime,[52] where it debuted in January 2011.[53]

Starring William H. Macy as an alcoholic single father of six children, Shameless was the best performing first-year drama in Showtime's history.[54] The show's second season began airing on January 8, 2012.[55]

Film[edit]

Wells made his directorial debut with the film drama The Company Men, starring Ben Affleck. The film was scheduled for release in the fall of 2010 but premiered earlier at the Sundance film festival. After the Sundance screening, The Hollywood Reporter said, "Wells has made, for his first film, a tough movie and certainly not a commercial one. This displays the kind of guts he always brought to his television work, which one can only hope continues on in other future film projects."[56]

His second film, August: Osage County (2013), an adaptation of the Award-winning play, starring Meryl Streep among others, was nominated for two Academy Awards.

Filmography[edit]

Name TV/Film Year Position Other details
Electric Slide Film 2014 Executive producer post-production
August: Osage County Film 2013 Director
Shameless TV 2011–present Executive producer, director, writer
The Company Men Film 2010 Director
Dirty Girl Film 2010 executive producer
Motherhood Film
Southland TV 2009–2013 Executive producer Formerly known as LAPD, then Police
ER TV 1994–2009 Executive producer
Gigantic Film 2008 Executive producer
Then She Found Me Film 2007 executive producer
I'm Not There Film 2007 Executive producer
Savage Grace Film 2007
Smith TV 2006 Creator Cut after 3 of 7 episodes were aired
An American Crime Film 2007 Executive producer
Infamous Film 2006
The West Wing TV 1999–2006
The Evidence TV 2006 Producer
Prodigy/Bully
Doom Film 2005
Mrs. Harris Film 2005
The Notorious Bettie Page Film 2005
Nearing Grace Film 2005
Third Watch TV 1999–2005
Duma Film 2005
Jonny Zero 2005 Cancelled after 8 episodes
A Dirty Shame Film 2004 Executive producer
A Home at the End of the World Film 2004 Producer
Dark Shadows TV 2004 Executive producer Never aired
The Company Film 2003 Executive producer
Camp Film 2003 Executive producer
Party Monster Film 2003 Executive producer
The Big Time TV 2002 Executive producer
Presidio Med TV 2002–2003 Creator
The Good Thief Film 2002 Producer
White Oleander Film 2002 Producer
Far from Heaven Film 2002 Executive producer
The West Wing Documentary Special TV Documentary
One Hour Photo Film 2002 Executive producer
Citizen Baines TV 2001 Writer Cut after 6 of 9 episodes were aired
The Grey Zone Film 2001 Executive producer
Trinity TV 2001 Executive producer and writer
The Peacemaker Film 1997 Co-executive producer
Angel Street TV 1992 Executive producer and writer
The Nightman TV 1992 Co-executive producer and writer
CBS Summer Playhouse: Roughhouse TV 1987–1989 Writer
Nice Girls Don't Explode Film 1987

Awards/nominations[edit]

Awarded the 2005 David Suskind Achievement Award in TC from Producers Guild of America

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Company Town". The Los Angeles Times. September 18, 2009. 
  2. ^ "John Wells Biography (1956–)". Filmreference. 2010. Retrieved September 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ Horn, John (January 22, 2010). "Director John Wells questions priorities in 'Company Men'". AZ Central.com. Retrieved September 2, 2010. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Conner, Lynne (2007). Pittsburgh in Stages: Two Hundred Years of Theater. University of Pittsburgh Press. pg. 247. ISBN 978-0-8229-4330-3. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  6. ^ Mimi Leder (September 22, 1994). "Day One". ER. Season 1. Episode 2. NBC.
  7. ^ Elodie Keene (October 20, 1994). "Chicago Heat". ER. Season 1. Episode 6. NBC.
  8. ^ James Hayman (February 2, 1995). "Feb 5 1995". ER. Season 1. Episode 15. NBC.
  9. ^ Elodie Keene (February 16, 1995). "The Birthday Party". ER. Season 1. Episode 17. NBC.
  10. ^ Mimi Leder (May 18, 1995). "Everything Old Is New Again". ER. Season 1. Episode 25. NBC.
  11. ^ Mimi Leder (September 21, 1995). "Welcome Back, Carter!". ER. Season 2. Episode 1. NBC.
  12. ^ Whitney Ransick (January 4, 1996). "Dead of Winter". ER. Season 2. Episode 11. NBC.
  13. ^ Mimi Leder (February 22, 1996). "The Healers". ER. Season 2. Episode 16. NBC.
  14. ^ Christopher Chulack (May 16, 1996). "John Carter MD". ER. Season 2. Episode 22. NBC.
  15. ^ Christopher Chulack (September 26, 1996). "Doctor Carter, I Presume". ER. Season 3. Episode 1. NBC.
  16. ^ a b Jonathan Robert Kaplan (February 20, 1997). "Faith". ER. Season 3. Episode 16. NBC.
  17. ^ Christopher Chulack (May 15, 1997). "One More for the Road". ER. Season 3. Episode 22. NBC.
  18. ^ Christopher Chulack (November 13, 1997). "Fathers and Sons". ER. Season 4. Episode 7. NBC.
  19. ^ a b John Wells (January 29, 1998). "Carter's Choice". ER. Season 4. Episode 13. NBC.
  20. ^ John Wells (February 11, 1999). "The Storm: Part 1". ER. Season 5. Episode 14. NBC.
  21. ^ Christopher Chulack (February 18, 1999). "The Storm: Part 2". ER. Season 5. Episode 15. NBC.
  22. ^ Richard Thorpe (November 11, 1999). "The Peace of Wild Things". ER. Season 6. Episode 6. NBC.
  23. ^ John Wells (May 11, 2000). "Such Sweet Sorrow". ER. Season 6. Episode 21. NBC.
  24. ^ Jonathan Robert Kaplan (November 16, 2000). "The Visit". ER. Season 7. Episode 6. NBC.
  25. ^ John Wells (February 15, 2001). "A Walk in the Woods". ER. Season 7. Episode 14. NBC.
  26. ^ Richard Thorpe (March 7, 2002). "Secrets and Lies". ER. Season 8. Episode 16. NBC.
  27. ^ John Wells (May 9, 2002). "On the Beach". ER. Season 8. Episode 21. NBC.
  28. ^ Christopher Chulack (May 15, 2003). "Kisangani". ER. Season 9. Episode 22. NBC.
  29. ^ Jonathan Robert Kaplan (September 25, 2003). "Now What?". ER. Season 10. Episode 1. NBC.
  30. ^ a b Christopher Chulack (October 2, 2003). "The Lost". ER. Season 10. Episode 2. NBC.
  31. ^ Christopher Chulack (December 11, 2003). "Makemba". ER. Season 10. Episode 10. NBC.
  32. ^ Julie Hebert (May 6, 2004). "Midnight". ER. Season 10. Episode 21. NBC.
  33. ^ Christopher Chulack (May 12, 2005). "Carter est Amoureux". ER. Season 11. Episode 21. NBC.
  34. ^ David Zabel (May 19, 2005). "The Show Must Go On". ER. Season 11. Episode 22. NBC.
  35. ^ Christopher Chulack (September 22, 2005). "Canon City". ER. Season 12. Episode 1. NBC.
  36. ^ John Wells (November 9, 2006). "Jigsaw". ER. Season 13. Episode 7. NBC.
  37. ^ John Wells (December 6, 2007). "300 Patients". ER. Season 14. Episode 10. NBC.
  38. ^ John Wells (March 12, 2009). "Old Times". ER. Season 15. Episode 19. NBC.
  39. ^ Christopher Chulack (September 23, 1999). "Welcome to Camelot". Third Watch. Season 1. Episode 1. NBC.
  40. ^ R. W. Goodwin (November 7, 1999). "Sunny, Like Sunshine". Third Watch. Season 1. Episode 6. NBC.
  41. ^ Guy Norman Bee (February 7, 2000). "This Band of Brothers". Third Watch. Season 1. Episode 13. NBC.
  42. ^ Christopher Chulack (April 17, 2000). "Spring Forward, Fall Back". Third Watch. Season 1. Episode 19. NBC.
  43. ^ Christopher Chulack (May 22, 2000). "Young Men and Fire". Third Watch. Season 1. Episode 22. NBC.
  44. ^ Christopher Chulack (February 12, 2001). "Requiem for a Bantamweight". Third Watch. Season 2. Episode 15. NBC.
  45. ^ Guy Norman Bee (May 21, 2001). "…and Zeus Wept". Third Watch. Season 2. Episode 22. NBC.
  46. ^ John Wells (January 22, 2000). "True Love". Third Watch. Season 2. Episode 12. NBC.
  47. ^ Guy Norman Bee (October 22, 2001). "September Tenth". Third Watch. Season 3. Episode 2. NBC.
  48. ^ Felix Enriquez Alcala (October 29, 2001). "After Time". Third Watch. Season 3. Episode 3. NBC.
  49. ^ Jesus Salvador Trevino (November 19, 2002). "Adam 55-3". Third Watch. Season 3. Episode 5. NBC.
  50. ^ Brooke Kennedy (May 6, 2003). "Two Hundred and Thirty-Three Days". Third Watch. Season 3. Episode 21. NBC.
  51. ^ Leigh Holmwood (January 5, 2009). "HBO cues up US version of Shameless". The Guardian (London). 
  52. ^ Moody, Mike (April 8, 2010). "Showtime picks up 'Shameless' remake". Digital Spy. Retrieved December 7, 2010. 
  53. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (July 12, 2010). "January Premiere Dates For Showtime's 'Shameless', 'Episodes' & 'Californication'". Deadline Hollywood. 
  54. ^ Gorman, Bill (February 1, 2011). ""Shameless" Ratings Rise on Sunday". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 7, 2011. 
  55. ^ Porter, Rick (August 4, 2011). "'Weeds' may continue past Season 7; 'Shameless' returns in January". Zap2it. Retrieved August 5, 2011. 
  56. ^ "The Company Men – Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. October 14, 2010. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 

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