Murphy worked through plenty of projects during his lifetime to become one of the most ambitious and influential creators in modern television, changing the way characters and narratives are built, bringing a new era of inclusion and involvement of marginalized people on the screen.
The television writer, producer and director Ryan Patrick Murphy was born on November 9, 1965, in Indianapolis, Indiana, the U.S. where he majored in journalism. He worked as a journalist through his early years, until he started scriptwriting in the late 90s when Steven Spielberg bought his script Why Can’t I Be Audrey Hepburn?
That’s when the magic started. His television career began with the comedy series Popular, followed by the drama series Nip/Tuck, where he earned his first Primetime Emmy Award nomination. Later he won his first Emmy Award with the popular comedy series Glee, one of the first scripted network series to introduce LGBTQ+ main characters.
Murphy declared that at the beginning of his television career, he was rejected from projects on several occasions, not being able to sell a script and being told that “everything I did was too gay or too out-there”, he said to The Guardian.
Murphy brought to the screen a popular terror anthology where the cast switches roles each season, American Horror Story, a cult series and his most personal and bold shot that ended up defining a very personal aesthetic.
He also directed the box office success Eat, Pray, Love with actress Julia Roberts and the television film adaptation of the Broadway play The Normal Heart with a star cast. Some other popular and successful tv projects during the 2010s include the comedy-horror Scream Queens, the drama anthology Feud, the anthology series American Crime Story, the police drama 9-1-1 and the acclaimed drama series Pose.
Pose was the first series ever to cast the largest number of transgender actors for a scripted network series. Ryan also announced in May 2018 that he would be donating all his profits from Pose to charitable organizations working with LGBTQ+ people.
In an interview, he told Variety: “The thing that struck me in talking to so many of them, was how much they’ve struggled, how under attack they feel, how many of them find it difficult getting healthcare and finding jobs. I just decided I need to do more than just making a show for this community. I want to reach out and help this community”.
In 2018 Murphy signed with Netflix one of the greatest deals the company has ever made, with a development deal of $300 million US dollars for a series of projects. The popular drama series The Politician premiered next year, followed by a strong set of successful films, documentaries and shows.
In 2020 he premiered the heart-breaking documentary A Secret Love, the period drama miniseries Hollywood, the thriller Ratched with Sarah Paulson as the lead actress, and the LGBTQ+ Broadway film adaptations The Boys in the Band and The Prom, both with a cast full of Hollywood stars. All of these while working on his successful franchises American Horror Story, American Crime Story, The Politician, 9-1-1 and its spinoff 9-1-1: Lone Star.
Today, the producer is considered to be one of the most influential creators on television. He has brought marginalized characters to be the main roles in many of his projects, giving the opportunity to many actors and actresses to shine on the small and big screen. Most important, the majority would not play roles according to their stereotypes, but to vindicate themselves as interesting, deep and extravagant characters.
He told The Guardian “the stuff I always wanted to make, now, mainstream companies will step up and give you millions of dollars to do. They know there’s an audience for this, and they will show up. That is a very big difference from when I was starting out when I wasn’t allowed to even write a gay character.”
He also noted that this effect is spreading across creators. “More and more showrunners, writers, networks, are taking people who are marginalized and making them the leads. These people have gone from being sidekicks at best to being captains of their own story, and that’s significant” he said.
The writer and director have received six Primetime Emmy Awards from 32 nominations, a BAFTA Award from three nominations, a Tony Award from two nominations, two Grammy Award nominations and one Golden Globe Award from five nominations.
Let’s hope that one of the most brilliant, ambitious and outstanding creators in modern film and television continues to bring controversy and conversation to the screen for many more years.