Lisa Joy, co-creator and -showrunner of HBO’s Westworld, told her inspiring story in Cosmopolitan, where she opened up about her journey from specializing in finance to creating the show that we’ve all come to know and love.
When Joy gradated college, she got a job at McKinsey & Company in L.A.; although writing was her passion, she knew she had to pay off her student debts, and a job in finance was the way to do that. However, she always set time aside to write, mostly because she loved it.
After two years at McKinsey & Company, Lisa took a job at Universal, where she met her future husband (and showrunning partner), Jonathan Nolan. Seeing how much of a passion Joy had for writing, Nolan decided to give her a gift that would change her life forever: he got down on one knee and gave her screenwriting software (so romantic). However, she didn’t make a transition into the writing world just yet.
It was only after she went on to take – and pass – the bar exam that Lisa then made the decision to pursue writing full-time, when she received the offer to join the writing staff of the series Pushing Daises. It was a leap of faith, wandering into a profession with which she had minimal experience and giving up a significant guaranteed paycheck.
Two years later, Joy joined another show: USA’s Burn Notice. She was the only female writer; as a minority in the writers’ room, the staff wasn’t as welcoming as she would have hoped:
“You know, you really shouldn’t talk in a room because you’re just a diversity hire, and no one wants to hear from the diversity hire.” That was tough to hear. I’m half Chinese. Was she saying that’s the only reason I was hired? Am I not supposed to talk? Is everyone looking at me like I don’t belong? Then I realized, if you’re a minority of any shape, color, or form, it doesn’t matter. Someone is going to look at you like you don’t belong in any room.
Fast-forward to 2013, when everything changed. Lisa Joy sold the script for the Westworld pilot to renowned producer J.J. Abrams, and everything since that moment is what we’ve come to love.
Westworld has a lot of strong female characters: Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton), Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), and Teresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who aren’t necessarily like other female characters on network television – they are gunslingers and fighters who move the story along. These characters are very critical to the story and close to Joy’s heart:
The female characters in Westworld are people I feel very close to. It’s a summation of 30-plus years of living as a woman put into fiction. I think, in this year, if I wrote a piece where women have no shackles whatsoever, I wouldn’t feel like I was being honest.
Cosmopolitan’s article ends abruptly, but it provides great insights into Lisa Joy’s life and is a great read – and not just for Westworld fans. Joy’s life story is an inspiring one for all – and, personally, as a college student pursuing a career in journalism, her story is inspiring to me. It seems to be the exception, not the rule, of someone leaving a high-paying job to pursue her dreams.
Have your own reactions to Joy’s story, or your own inspiring accounts to share? Please do in the comments below.