Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Wizards of Waverly Place" creator Todd J. Greenwald and star David Henrie

I spoke with Wizards of Waverly Place creator Todd J. Greenwald and star David Henrie at the Writers Guild Awards in Los Angeles last weekend. David, who plays Justin Russo on the Disney Channel show, recently wrote his first episode. The pair were at the WGAs to present Another Cinderella Story (ABC Family) writers Erik Patterson and Jessica Scott with the award for Best Children's Script Long Form or Special.

Todd and David talk about Wizards, writing for tweens, and more.

What’s it like to create a kids show?
Todd: I’ve been in the teen-space forever, starting with Saved by the Bell. I’ve seen it all, and I really wanted to do my own thing and step it up little bit. Wizards of Waverly Place is a tween show on Disney Channel, but it’s a show that all ages can enjoy. This is a show that the folks don’t run away from, and I’m really proud of that.

If all ages enjoy it, you must be doing something right…
avid: Genuinely keeping adults entertained is not something a lot of tween shows do. And parents come up to me and say, “I love the show, too. I have a good time watching the show.” I think that’s what’s so special about it.

Do you have tips for writing for tweens?
Todd: Don’t write down to them. Kids are smarter than you think. Write what you think is funny. Of course you’re not going to do crazy, educational, intellectual jokes, but you also don’t want to dumb it down I think that’s what we do on Wizards. ... If you’re going to write for kids, don’t think you’re writing for a baby. You’re writing for smart teenagers, who are pretty much adults, as well.

What do you like so much about writing?
avid: What was the most fun in the writers room is what got me into acting in the first place. I come from a big, Italian family, and whenever my aunts and uncles would have a birthday, I would make a video tape for them, making fun of them. I really loved their reaction.

There was something about creating that video and then acting it out that I really loved.

Getting to be a part of the creative process was something I’ve always dreamed of doing. To be in the room with the writers and pitch jokes and actually see them come to life on screen. was amazing!

Todd: It was a proud moment. He did a great job. He comes from the right place of character. It’s tough—he has to write for himself, he also has to write for everybody else.

Advice for writers?
Todd: You’ve got to keep writing.

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