Winnie Holzman is best known for creating My-So Called Life and writing the book for the musical adaptation of Wicked, and now she’s an Executive Producer and writer on Showtime’s series Roadies. Created by Cameron Crowe and premiering this Sunday night, the series the daily lives of the people behind huge arena concerts of a fictional musical group called The Staton House Band. An ensemble show that largely focuses on Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino‘s characters (a will-they/won’t-they pairing of hypersexual colleagues), each Roadie has a very specific job and personality, including out lesbian sound engineer Donna Mancini, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes.
photo by Mark Seliger/SHOWTIME
In the pilot, Donna tells Wes (Machine Gun Kelly) she and her partner, Lori, are trying to have a baby. In episode two, written by Winnie Holzman, she delivers a fantastic line about how her girlfriend “can make her cum without touching [her]” but will never quite understand what life is like on the road. By episode three, it’s made clear long-distance relationships are complicated.
Donna is fairly visible in the show, a part of the crew but not a major cast member, and at TCA, we talked with Winnie, who told us we can expect to learn “a lot more about Donna” later in the season.
While Showtime refers to her as a “tough lesbian who doesn’t suffer fools” in her character bio, Winnie (who has a queer-identified daughter she wrote the show Huge with) sees the character as more open.
“She’s queer,” Winnie said of Donna. “I cannot tell you exactly—I cannot predict to you exactly who she will sleep with if you know what I mean. Because I think there’s a certain fluidity to her when she’s on the road kind of thing.”
As for how much screen time she’ll get, Winnie said it’s all about finding a balance with such a large, talented cast.
“All I can say is, I think with an ensemble, it’s not always easy,” she said. “You have to sort of take turns. It’s not always predictable because stories—you never know the direction you’re going. That’s part of the fun of TV. I just know you’re definitely going to get to know more about her.”
A woman sound engineer, her own peers treat her with respect and love her “Song of the Day” choices, but Donna notes that she’s still met with misogyny on tour with men who assume she can’t possibly be in charge of the sound.
“I think people still do assume that, and I think there’s obviously sound women who are out there that are great,” Winnie said. “I think it’s less known that there are, and I love that we’re going to be able to [show that].”
As for the casting, Winnie says she found that Keisha, who first found fame in the 2002 film Whale Rider and went on to star in another ensemble show, Game of Thrones, was perfect for the part.
“She just had that combination of toughness and vulnerability that we were looking for, and she just has a charisma, I think,” Winnie said. “I think we were casting people who, in a funny way, we saw as stars in their own right, but they are behind-the-scenes.”
Roadies premieres on Showtime on Sunday, Jun 26 at 10 PM ET/PT. If you want to watch the episode ahead of time, you can see it below.