How do you go from big-budget blockbuster director Steven Spielberg to famed television creator and producer Norman Lear? For Mike Royce ’86, it started with a provocative documentary that he watched in a film class. When he started at Ithaca College, Royce had dreamed of making movies like “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Today, he is an executive producer, co-developer and co-showrunner of “One Day at a Time,” a Netflix sitcom about a divorced Cuban-American mother and her family that explores a myriad of pertinent political and social issues.
A cinema and photography major at IC, Royce worked as a stand-up comic after graduating. He has since written and produced shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Men of a Certain Age,” “Lucky Louie,” “1600 Penn” and “Enlisted.”
Royce’s new show is a reboot of Norman Lear’s classic “One Day at a Time.” Aside from the obvious pressures that come with that — “You can’t do a Norman Lear show and have it suck,” says Royce — there are also challenges in writing about cultures and topics he hasn’t personally experienced. Royce’s co-showrunner, Gloria Calderón Kellett, draws from her own experience to supply the authenticity of the show’s Cuban-American family. She and Royce also rely on a diverse writers’ room that purposefully includes Latinos, women and LGBTQ people.
“This show can’t be written by 12 white guys,” says Royce. “And by the way, no show should be written by 12 white guys.”
Royce helps to deliver the show’s snappy dialogue, a skill he discovered and honed in screenwriting classes at IC. He also draws from his own personal experience to shape some of the characters and relationships. The two teenagers on the show, Elena and Alex, are inspired by Royce’s two children.