Juicy gossip, sexual orientation, hookups, expletives and Hollywood drama attracted over 100 students to a talk by writer-producer Allen Heinberg ’89 Thursday.
Heinberg, who currently is a producer and writer for “The O.C.,” and has produced and written for “Sex and the City,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Party of Five,” spoke candidly at the Morse College Master’s Tea about his career in acting — both on and off Broadway — and his current involvement in television. During the talk, Heinberg, a Morsel himself, also shared stories with the predominantly female audience about his experience as an undergraduate at Yale.
Heinberg discussed his recent successes with “The O.C.” He said he was initially confused that a show about young, rich kids at the beach would want a “neurotic, Jewish writer who doesn’t go outdoors.” Although Heinberg, who is gay, said he values infusing parts of his personality into his characters, he blamed the gay undertones between two characters — Seth Cohen and Ryan Atwood — on Josh Schwartz, the show’s creator and writer, who “couldn’t be straighter,” Heinberg said.
“I’m so sensitive about my agenda that I censor it,” Heinberg said. “I understand you don’t want to alienate those who just elected Bush for a second term.”
But Heinberg said he still uses his characters as an outlet. Like Cohen, Heinberg said he is a neurotic, comic-book-loving Jew.
While at Yale, Heinberg said he knew he wanted to be a writer but was wary of the profession because of its independent, non-social nature. Instead, Heinberg said he focused his energies toward the acting and singing scene over attending classes.
“There used to be no interaction with the Drama School [and Yale undergraduates] unless you were sleeping with a drama student,” Heinberg said. “So that’s what I did. I started sleeping with drama students. I’m just going to be frank, I was involved, shall we say.”
After Yale, Heinberg said he worked a job on the side to pay the mortgage while he landed Broadway gigs. But Heinberg said he decided to move to Los Angeles after meeting Michael Saltzman ’86, executive producer for “Murphy Brown,” who arranged a job for Heinberg as a sitcom writer.
“Saltzman loved comic books, the same kind of TV I loved, and musical theater, which is weird because he’s married to a woman,” Heinberg said. “Who am I to judge?”
Anne Dudley ’05, a fan of “The O.C.,” said she enjoyed Heinberg’s humor and laid-back presentation.
“His Tea was really well done because he was engaging and honest about the route he took to where he is today,” Dudley said. “It was also exciting to see the progression of someone who’s gone through Yale.”
Morse College Master Frank Keil confessed he was “quite enamored” with “The O.C.” and said he shared some Yalies’ guilty pleasure in the show’s clever dialogue.
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