Jean Bentley | June 8, 2021 | Television
As co-showrunners of NBC's family tearjerker This Is Us and Hulu's coming-of-age Love, Victor, the longtime writing team of Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger is perhaps one of the industry's most prolific pairings.
Elizabeth Berger and her writing partner, Isaac Aptaker.
Running one of the most popular shows on broadcast television is a full-time job. But apparently that wasn’t enough of a challenge for Isaac Aptaker and his writing partner of more than a decade, Elizabeth Berger. The duo, co-showrunners on This Is Us alongside its creator, Dan Fogelman, also helm the streaming dramedy Love, Victor, a continuation of their Greg Berlanti-directed box-office hit, Love, Simon.
Michael Cimino as his hit character, Victor Salazar, on Love, Victor
This Is Us recently wrapped its fifth season, while season two of Love, Victor debuts June 11, which means that yes, the shows were both in production at the same time—and their writers rooms overlapped. While they couldn’t be in two places at once, Aptaker and Berger did the next best thing: They made those two places as physically close together as possible.
“We got writers rooms in buildings that were only about 50 or 60 feet apart, so it was a lot of literally speed-walking back and forth between the two conference rooms and trying to keep straight which show we were talking about at which time,” Aptaker says on the phone from the Atlanta set of the Amazon romantic comedy I Want You Back, which he and Berger also somehow found time to write between their multiple shows. (By the way, Berger couldn’t chat because she’s on maternity leave, in case you worried she wasn’t busy enough.)
When the pandemic hit, those rooms turned virtual, which was both efficient and exhausting at the same time. Says Aptaker, “Our 50-foot walk was collapsed to a few mouse clicks to switch from one to the other, which definitely wasn’t good for getting our steps in, but it was efficient.”
To combat Zoom fatigue, they’d spend a couple of hours in one “room,” take a break, and then spend a couple of hours in the other. The biggest help, though, came from all their collaborators—they co-showrun This Is Us with Fogelman and Love, Victor with Brian Tanen. There’s also Adam Londy, who runs Berger and Aptaker’s production company (and is constantly putting out fires—“So many things are getting dealt with that don’t even wind up on our radar,” says Aptaker).
It takes a village, essentially. Says Aptaker, “There’s so many people who are just really good at their jobs that allow us to take on more than we probably should.”
The cast of This Is Us.
Their next project: the Hulu romcom series How I Met Your Father starring Hilary Duff, a spinoff of the long-running CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother that will feature the Younger star navigating the app-filled dating world of 2021 and, in the future, telling her son how she met his dad.
Aptaker and Berger have done family dramas and young adult fare, and now they’ll tell fun stories about dating and finding yourself in your 20s and 30s—stages of life they’ve navigated together since they met as undergrads at NYU. Their partnership has lasted well over a decade at this point, and the key to its success is something intangible.
“If you’re going to hitch your wagon to someone else, I think it really has to work on every level,” says Aptaker. “We’ve just been so fortunate that for whatever reason—creatively, personality-wise—we just have fun together and really see eye to eye.”
Photography by: Corey Nickols, Mitchell Haaseth/Hulu, Courtesy of: Maarteen De Boer/NBC