Anthony Q. Farrell On Writing For Comedy & Nurturing The Next Wave Of BIPOC Showrunners

DGC Ontario Member Anthony Q. Farrell is a Writer, Producer, Actor, Director, Showrunner, and leads BIPOC TV & Film’s Showrunner Bootcamp. We spoke with Anthony about how he got his start in the industry, what he’s learned as a comedy writer and showrunner, setting up BIPOC writers for success, and his newest series, Overlord and the Underwoods.

Originally a theatre actor and comedian, Anthony has written for the Emmy-winning sitcom The Office, Nickelodeon’s The Thundermans, CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie, directed several episodes of the new CBC comedy Son of a Critch, and is also the creator of the BAFTA award-winning series Secret Life of Boys. Anthony concurrently serves as a Writer, Director and Producer on the family sitcoms The Parker Andersons and Amelia Parker, and recently co-created a new family sitcom, Overlord and the Underwoods, with Cloudco Entertainment’s Ryan Wiesbrock. Anthony was named the 2021 Showrunner of the Year by Playback Magazine, and also leads BIPOC TV & Film’s Showrunner Bootcamp, a workshop-style intensive for mid-level to senior BIPOC writers and aspiring showrunners looking to advance their skills and learn how to manage a writer’s room.

How did you first get involved with film and television?

Anthony Q. Farrell: I started performing in theatre, doing stand-up, sketch, and improv. From there I slid over to film and TV as an actor. I yearned to have more control over my career so I started writing and directing after that.

One of your first high-profile jobs in the industry was as a writer on The Office. What did you learn about showrunning and writing for comedy through that experience? 

AQF: I learned how important creative collaboration is for a showrunner. It’s important to be a great listener when you’re leading. It’s about more than just being a good writer or director, it’s about making sure that everyone around you also has an opportunity to excel.

You were recently named Showrunner of the Year by POV Magazine – congratulations! What is one piece of advice you would pass on to aspiring showrunners looking to elevate their careers and make a difference in the industry?

AQF: Many new showrunners deal with imposter syndrome. I would implore them to feel confident in the fact that they’re there for a reason. Lean on those around them to make the best decisions possible for their show. Collaboration is key. No showrunner is perfect, so don’t put that pressure on yourself.

You organized the first-ever Showrunner Training Bootcamp hosted by BIPOC TV & Film, which trains mid- and upper-level BIPOC writers who are ready to make the jump to showrunning. Why did you feel it was important to launch this initiative?

AQF: In Canada, most writers and Directors aren’t a part of the full process of making a series. So when they get the opportunity to run a show, they often aren’t prepared. With BIPOC showrunners, the likelihood of them getting another chance if they don’t do well the first time is extremely low. So we started the program to make sure they’d be as prepared as possible when they got their first chance.

You serve as the showrunner for The Parker Andersons and Amelia Parker, and also recently launched your new series Overlord and the Underwoods, which has an unusual premise: an average family discovers they have an intergalactic supervillain cousin who comes to stay with them. What was the inspiration behind this series?

AQF: The original idea for Overlord and the Underwoods came from Ryan Wiesbrock at CloudCo Entertainment. I joined the project to help develop it further because I loved the nostalgia in it. Like 3rd Rock from the Sun or Alf, it was a sci-fi comedy for the entire family to enjoy together. Everyone on the team really focused on making sure the show felt funny and fresh and I think we succeeded.

Watch new episodes of Overlord and the Underwoods on CBC Gem. Applications for this year’s BIPOC TV & Film’s Showrunners’ Bootcamp are accepted until February 10, 2022. 

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