Diane Ruggiero (Co-Executive Producer)
MI.net: [chuckles] How about Rob?
Diane: I think I would have to go with "my lord and master." I think that's in my contract.
MI.net: That's also in your contract: carry the lord and master.
Diane: Carry the lord and master.
MI.net: That's a tough contract that you've got there.
Diane: I peel grapes for him every day. You know what? I don't have a bunch of experience, I only did another show for two years, my show. Just from my limited experience, Rob is just the greatest person to work for ever. It's my North Jersey Italian mentality; I want someone to mess with him, just so I can kill them.
Diane: Like, I want someone to say something bad about him so I could rip them to shreds to show my devotion. I would hate to be the person who came across me, after they crossed Rob Thomas, because I would rip them to shreds.
MI.net: You can go after the guy who canceled Cupid. We all hate that person.
Diane: Well, they're an idiot. I can't help them. [chuckles]
MI.net: Have you ever seen that show?
Diane: Yeah, I have. It's fantastic. It makes me sad that...uh...that I didn't think of it. [chuckles] He always reminds me because I predominately write romantic comedies. That's what I like to do. And so occasionally, I'll do, [snippy voice] "I'm a romantic comedy writer." He'll be like, "Did you see my TV show?" "Oh, yeah." He'll remind me that's what he did for Cupid.
MI.net: How would you compare this experience with your previous show?
Diane: It's completely different. It's a completely different animal. Rob is an amazing person to watch work because he's able to get so much done. When your boss does his job, and does what he's supposed to do, it makes....There's no trickle-down of someone giving you crap when it's really not your fault. You know what I mean? He takes care of business. He does what he's supposed to do and he does it well. And he also has a very clear vision of what he wants, so it makes it very easy to just pitch him ideas, because he'll say yes or no. There's no three-and-a-half hours of wavering, [indecisive voice] "Hmm, I don't know. What do you think?" He's the strong and steady leader. The captain of this ship. Pull the sails up, pull the sails down, or some brilliant nautical terms that I don't know.
[Editor's note: Is anyone else imaging Rob in some cute little sailor's outfit? Aye aye, Captain.]
Diane: And he'll give you an answer. There's no hemming and hawing. There's no bullshit. It's clear, and concise, and it has integrity. And it just makes the job so much better. And he's fun, and funny, and he's a good person, and he's a good guy. And he enjoys life, so he's not the person that has to be here every second, who just lives for work, and doesn't understand having any thing else going on. He has a gorgeous, fantastic wife and a beautiful new baby, and a ton of friends, and a rich life that he lives. And he doesn't begrudge you doing the same. It's just a great experience. And he's very nurturing of writers, and enjoys other writers, and wants people to do well. People that work for him...his last two assistants went on...one created Jack and Bobby and the other was on C.S.I. Miami, and is now on a new show, E-Ring. People that work with him go on to...he enjoys helping them.
MI.net: What have you learned?
Diane: I learned that I could actually do this, which I was concerned about being on someone else's show and writing a procedural and writing a teenager. It was pretty cool just to learn that I could do it. But I also learned how I want to be when I do my own show. I just pretty much want to emulate Rob. That's exactly how it should be. I want the people that work with me to have the experience that I have working with Rob. That is only if I do anything that doesn't involve Rob. [both chuckle] I also so have that feeling that I'm just going to follow him around for the rest of my life.
MI.net: So you are going to follow him and stalk Kristen for the rest of your life?
Diane: Exactly. I'm going to be very busy.
MI.net: I read a quote where you said, "Someday I'll be able to apply what I'm learning from these people to what I want to do creatively." Do you think you have achieved that goal?
Diane: Definitely. Was that about learning from life or learning from other showrunners? I'm trying to remember.
MI.net: You were talking about That's Life.
Diane: Yeah, I think basically what I learned was that....Yeah I learned a lot. That was like my college education. I think definitely, especially from the second season of that show, because it was so demoralizing and I just kind of lost my confidence in my abilities because they were shot down. So that when you kind of get them rebuilt again with someone being encouraging, and someone validating you, you kind of look back and say, "Oh yeah, I was having good ideas. Yeah, I can do this." I was just doing it with the wrong person, or people.
MI.net: So when did you regain your confidence?
Diane: The experience of working on this show and working with Rob was like life-changing, because I was convinced that I could only do my own kind of thing. I was really worried that I wasn't going to be able to write for someone else's show. I was just concerned that I wouldn't be able to do it. And I feel like I've done it pretty well. I know Rob is very happy with what I've done and that validation is pretty much the best thing.
MI.net: It's surprising to hear you have so many doubts because the episodes that you have written have become some of the highest-rated....
Diane: I think any writer feels that. If you talk to any other writer, maybe besides Rob. [both chuckle] I'm sure he has his moments of doubt too. I would be concerned about a writer who didn't have a moment. I think everybody has their, "Oh [sighs]..." Phil Klemmer makes fun of me every time I do an episode. It's like, [completely overwhelmed voice] "Oh God, how am I going to do this." [stop-your-whining voice] "Will you shut up?" But ultimately it's what your writing process is. Once you get into that, it comes with two days of self-loathing.
MI.net: How long does it take you guys to do an episode?
Diane: It depends on how much time we have. Some we'll do very quickly. Some we'll do in five days, some we'll do in two weeks. It depends on where we are at in the schedule and all that.
MI.net: So you want to keep on insulting Phil?
Diane: No, Phil I love. It's Enbom.
MI.net: Oh, sorry.
Diane: No, I don't. I adore him. And that's the great thing, we're like a pretty tight family over here and that makes work a lot more fun.
MI.net: How much interaction do you have with the cast because you guys are in different cities?
Diane: We don't really interact with them except when we go down there. We go down there for our episodes. And then we're down there for like two days. I got lucky last season because "A Trip to the Dentist" and then "Leave it to Beaver," I went down for both excursions because we finished breaking some things for this year. I went down for a chunk of both of them, so that was cool. We are so lucky that we have such a great cast. They're really good people and I really like them.
MI.net: So you still can't think of a word to describe them?
Diane: Oh God. I don't...I honestly use brilliant for all of them. Like for...[pause]...I can't. That's too hard.
MI.net: Okay. Just one final question. Is there anything you would like to say to the fans who are eager for the second season?
Diane: We so think about you, [chuckles] when we're breaking the stories and when we're putting it all together. We're so--[Lilly's voice in the background] Did you just hear Lilly? Did you hear that?
Diane: That's what happens when Rob gets an e-mail. That's the sound.
MI.net: That's his e-mail?
MI.net: That's cool.
[Editor's note: Rob's e-mail alert is cool, but it's nowhere near as cool as Diane's Maui Wowie desktop.]
Diane: I know. Just so that they know that we completely consider them when we do....We're like, "Oh, the fans will really like this. Or the fans will really like this..." It's something that we...feel, that support. We want to please them. [chuckles] [Sally-Field-Oscar-speech-like voice] "We're trying to please you."
And that concludes our interview with Rob's work wife. Thanks, Diane, for taking time out of your hectic schedule to do this interview. We hope Rob doesn't fire you for making fun of him. But considering the fact that without you, Rob would be forced to walk on his own two feet and peel his own grapes, I'm sure he wouldn't fire someone as brilliant, funny, and stalkerish as you.