Winnie Holzman

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Winnie Holzman
Born 1954 (age 60–61)
New York City, New York
United States
Alma mater Princeton University
New York University
Occupation Dramatist
Television producer
Television writer
Years active 1990–present
Known for My So-Called Life
Home town Roslyn Heights, New York
Religion Jewish[1]
Spouse(s) Paul Dooley (1984–present)
Children Savannah Dooley

Winnie Holzman (born 1954; New York City) is an American dramatist, screenwriter and poet.[2] She is known for having created the ABC television series My So-Called Life, which led to a nomination for a scriptwriting Emmy Award in 1995,[3] as well as her work writing for thirtysomething and Once and Again. Holzman has garnered fame for her work on Broadway, most notably for writing the book for the smash stage musical Wicked.

Early life[edit]

Holzman was born in Manhattan but grew up in Roslyn Heights, New York on Long Island.[1]

At 13, although a shy child, Holzman would take the train into the City to study acting in Greenwich Village at the Circle in the Square Theatre School.[4] She really wanted to act and was reading plays obsessively. Holzman describes herself as being driven and single-minded.[1]

She liked the Smothers Brothers a lot as a kid. Another passion was Mike Nichols & Elaine May albums and their work. Additionally, there was a famous commercial for Skippy Dog Food, with her future husband Dooley in a dog suit, that she remembered vividly.[1]


Holzman graduated with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing at Princeton University. She won many poetry awards, including the Academy of American Poets Prize.[4]

Holzman graduated with a Masters in Musical Theatre Writing from New York University in 1984. Her teachers at NYU included Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince, Arthur Laurents, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Leonard Bernstein.[2]


Holzman had been performing in sketch comedy for years, "determined to never make a dime,"[1] but it was a process where she was writing a lot, performing everything. So her college friend, the editor Mitchel Ivers, recommended the degree, telling her about the amazing teachers (Sondheim, Prince, Bernstein) who were going to teach there, and him having the insight it would be a great fit for her. With a full scholarship, Holzman got a Master's Degree in a brand new program: Musical Theater from New York University. She said it changed her destiny, made her into a writer. Arthur Laurents really mentored her, with that kind of intensity, thinks what you're doing has some sort of worth. "He really focused me, the way you would focus a lens. I remember he said to me. He looked at me and said, 'You're a writer.'" A magical moment that she says changed her at 26 or 27, a crucial moment when she was feeling lost, losing her place.[1]

Her stage writing credits include "Serious Bizness"[4] While at NYU she wrote the musical Birds of Paradise (with composer David Evans), which was produced off-Broadway in 1987 and directed by Laurents.[5] It got scathing reviews.[1]

Holzman made her Broadway debut in 2003 when she wrote the book for the Stephen Schwartz musical Wicked, based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire. She won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.

Television writing[edit]

In 1988, Dooley got a job in Los Angeles on the TV series Coming of Age when their daughter was 2 years old. Holzman went, with her daughter in a stroller, to visit her brother, cinematographer Ernest Holzman on the set of thirtysomething. Richard Kramer, a writer on the set, talked with her (his brother produced her comedy group in New York) and suggested she should write for the show. Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, who never do this, bought a spec script from Holzman, went on to become a staff writer on thirtysomething in 1989.[1] Holzman wrote 9 episodes during the last two seasons of the show.[4]

Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz went on to executive produce My So-Called Life. Holzman went from a story editor, or executive story editor, to a creator and writer of the show. Zwick and Herskovitz suggested the show be about a teenage girl. Holzman said it would never have occurred to her to have that idea.[1]

Holzman has collaborated on various short films with her daughter, Savannah. Holzman and her daughter penned a TV pilot based on the Sasha Paley novel Huge, which ABC Family greenlit in January 2010 with a direct-to-series order.[6][7] Huge premiered in late June 2010. The show team included Holzman, Dooley, her daughter, and her brother, who was the cinematographer.[1] The series was cancelled on October 4, 2010 due to low ratings compared with the network's other summer hits.[8]

In 2014, Showtime gave a pilot order to Roadies, a behind-the-scenes comedy about people working with a touring rock band that will be created by Cameron Crowe, J.J. Abrams (executive producing), and Holzman.[9] The TV show will star Luke Wilson, Imogen Poots, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Peter Cambor, and Rafe Spall[10]—in addition to Christina Hendricks.[11]


Holzman has had a number of acting spots, primarily cameo roles on her own TV shows and a role as a therapist on Curb Your Enthusiasm. She also had a small role in the film Jerry Maguire. She wrote and performed several personal essays at the Un-Cabaret spoken word shows in Los Angeles and is featured on their CD Play the Word (Vol. 1).


Writing credits[edit]

Acting credits[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Holzman has been married to character actor Paul Dooley, who she met at an improv acting class in New York,[12] since November 18, 1984.[13] A group of actors friends in the commercial world were creating a Mary Hartman-esque soap opera for about two years. Holzman and Dooley were part of the group and met there. Holzman played columnist Bianca Littlebaum, the only Jew in a small town in Ohio. Dooley was Edgar Buchanan Wilson, the not-richest man in town, named after 1940s actor Edgar Buchanan (Uncle Joe on Petticoat Junction). They were both living with other people at the time, but got to know each other slowly and worked it out.[1]

On the 26 year age difference between her and Dooley, Holzman said it is something she doesn't talk about but it is interesting to her is how close they can be when they are so different (raised in different universes, generations, religion). "It's a big part of our lives but in a way it's meaningless."[1]

They have a daughter named Savannah Dooley.[14][1] They live in Toluca Lake in Los Angeles, California.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Pollak, Kevin (17 January 2011). "Episode 96 – Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman!". Kevin Pollak's Chat Show. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b de Giere, Carol. "Winnie Holzman (Book Writer for Wicked)". Wicked West End London. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "My So-Called Life". Emmys. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d "The So-Called Players". My So-Called Life Bible. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Winnie Holzman". Playscripts. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "ABC Family Announces Pick-Up Of Dramas "Huge" And "Pretty Little Liars"" (Press release). ABC Family. 27 January 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 January 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  7. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (22 March 2010). "Nikki Blonsky to star in ABC Family's 'Huge'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  8. ^ Ram, Archana (4 October 2010). "ABC Family cancels 'Huge': Are you sad to see it go?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  9. ^ O'Connell, Michael (18 June 2014). "Showtime Orders Cameron Crowe's Rock Comedy Pilot 'Roadies'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Golberg, Lesley (8 December 2014). "Showtime's Cameron Crowe Comedy 'Roadies' Casts Quintet". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (15 December 2014). "Christina Hendricks to Co-Star in Showtime's Cameron Crowe Comedy". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Ng, David (10 April 2013). "Finally a go: A couple finishes writing 'Assisted Living,' at Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, nearly 30 years after its inception.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  13. ^ Friedlander, Whitney (29 March 2013). "Wicked Writer Winnie Holzman and Her Husband Paul Dooley Wrote and Star in a Play Together. It Only Took Them 28 Years". LA Weekly. Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  14. ^ Strouse, Lainie. "Home > Writing Tools > The Craft > Huge’s Savannah Dooley & Winnie Holzman: Secret Burdens, Huge Challenges". WGA (Writer's Guild of America). Retrieved 3 January 2014. 

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