By Kathy Chouteau
When it comes to Hollywood success stories, it’s hard to top the tale of a former Richmond newsman turned prominent executive producer of a current hit TV show. The critically acclaimed show in question is Miss Scarlet & The Duke on PBS’s Masterpiece, and the man is Harvey L. Myman—a creative force behind other hit series like Roseanne, Home Improvement, That 70’s Show and Everybody Loves Raymond.
In an interview with the Standard Tuesday, Myman, whose new show premiered this month and airs Sunday nights, reflected on his experiences working as a news editor out of Richmond City Hall and offered comparisons with the work he’s doing today in Hollywood.
In the late 1970s, Myman served as city editor of the Richmond Independent and Berkeley Gazette newspapers, which later merged to become the Independent Gazette, at which point Myman rose to the role of executive editor.
The onetime newsman—who counted Sam Singer, president of nationally acclaimed Singer Associates Public Relations in San Francisco, among his staff reporters—recalls it as a time when Richmond’s downtown had declined into “a ghost town” amid “a very different time in history” when certain old establishment power structures prevailed.
“They thought they could speed up the creation of Hilltop [Mall] and the development of that whole area by essentially abandoning downtown,” said Myman about that era. “What should have been a vibrant downtown became this abandoned area.”
Myman also covered San Pablo as part of his earlier duties for the paper, which he said at the time “was a small city that didn’t operate as such” and lacked its current diversity.
Eventually, Myman left the Bay Area in the 1980s to take a position as the managing editor for news operations at the Orange County Register, where he led the paper to its first Pulitzer Prize in 1984. On the heels of that success, and amid queries from national newspapers, Myman came to a career crossroads.
After considering his options, he opted to try something different, traveling to Los Angeles periodically to meet with various connections to explore a possible career in TV and movies. “I really didn’t have the discipline to sit home and write spec scripts,” said Myman.
His strategy worked when he landed his first job in entertainment working at ABC as a program executive. A variety of senior level roles followed for Myman at The Carsey-Werner Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, HBO Independent Programs (producing not for HBO, but for “the outside world”), J2TV/J2Pictures and Rocket Science Productions.
In 2015, he partnered with other industry executives to form Element 8 Entertainment, via which he serves as an executive producer on Miss Scarlet & The Duke.
“The response to that has been wonderful,” said Myman about the hit show that tells the tale of Miss Scarlet, whom amid certain gender roles regarding women in Victorian London, works to carry on the legacy of her father’s detective agency. Kate Phillips stars as Miss Scarlet and Stuart Martin plays her childhood friend and potential love interest, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector William Wellington, a.k.a., The Duke.
Myman’s work on the show focuses on development in a very hands-on way, from working with the writer and fine-tuning the scripts to casting to finding the right director and more. “In some ways it’s a lot like being a managing editor,” he said about his executive producer role.
“It seems like they’re light years apart, but if you break it down to the component parts there’s lots of similarities to what I learned as a journalist and a writer: It makes me better at working effectively as an editor on scripts, better in terms of helping develop stories and having a feel for what’s a good story. All those reporting and editing skills I think have made me a better producer,” said Myman.
Myman resides in Los Angeles’ Studio City area and noted that he would like to visit next time he is in the Bay Area, recalling the beauty of the region where he used to enjoy sailing and exploring local parks.
“All cities are interesting if you dig into them…Finding them is like digging for treasure,” mused Myman about community reporting. Especially when considering “those people who first came to Richmond and people who sort of hung in with Richmond or cared and created community programs and lived and worked there.”
He added, “I’ve been very lucky to be able to spend my days doing things that I truly enjoy,” he added.