WHEN WATCHING A PLAY OR FILM, it’s easy to forget that behind the acting and the set and the costumes is the one enabling the creation of it all—the writer. Or writers plural, as is often the case in television shows. And as both an accomplished playwright and a showrunner for TNT’s popular drama Animal Kingdom, Eliza Clark ’03 is one such voice behind the scenes.
Based in Los Angeles, Clark has been writing for Animal Kingdom since its debut season in 2016, and is currently the show’s executive producer. She works alongside her brother, Spencer Treat Clark ’05, an actor and recurring character in the series. The cast also includes actors Ellen Barkin and Denis Leary, to name a few.
“As the showrunner, I lead the writing staff and produce the series,” Clark explains of her role. “On any given day, I am in the writers’ room, the editing suite, on set, or in production meetings.”
Clark’s interest in showbiz can be traced back to her days at Taft, where she was the first student with two Taft alumni parents, Rob Clark ’72 and June Pratt Clark ’72. (Her mother graduated in Taft’s first coed class.) As a Rhino, Clark was heavily involved in theater and even wrote and directed her own play, Talk of Pleasant Things.
“The play was terrible,” she laughs. “It was a very dramatic, dark sort of Eugene O’Neill rip-off.”
Clark did a ton of performing at Taft—she was member of Hydrox and Collegium in addition to acting in numerous productions—and this would set the stage for her career.
“When I played Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, that was very exciting. I remember feeling like this was a world I wanted to be a part of.”
Clark went on to Yale for its esteemed theater program, and it was there that she began to focus on playwriting over acting. After graduating as a theater studies major in 2007, Clark moved to New York, where she started producing plays with friends. She soon got an agent, which led to her interest in TV and eventual move to LA to write for AMC’s Rubicon.
“It’s very rare to be able to make a living working in theater, and that’s initially why I started writing for television,” Clark explains. “TV pays the bills. But quickly, I fell in love with it. It’s so rewarding to see how quickly things move in TV. I write something and a few short months later, it’s onscreen. In that sense it’s the opposite of theater, which can sometimes be an excruciatingly slow process.”
While writing for Rubicon, Clark met her husband, Zack Whedon, a writer who was also working on the AMC series. The pair married in 2012 and now have two young sons.
“Finding a work-life balance is always a challenge,” admits Clark, who’s still a passionate playwright when she’s not busy working on Animal Kingdom and caring for her children. Over the course of her career, Clark has written four plays that have been produced, the latest being Quack, which recently went into its second production and has received rave reviews.
As for the future, Clark would love to create a television series that “comes from [her] brain.” She and Zack are currently collaborating on an AMC adaptation of Fates & Furies, Lauren Groff’s bestselling novel.
“We’re in a very exciting time for TV,” Clark says. “The possibilities are endless.”
—Carola Lovering ’07