Playwright draws from her southern Roots
Madison native Kendall Sherwood continues her work for TNT
story by michael prochaska
Madison native Kendall Sherwood began her career interning for a television show titled “The Closer,” starring Kyra Sedgwick.
The show itself is coming to a close this August, but Sherwood, a graduate of Clemson University, has discovered that Hollywood moves fast in generating new opportunities.
In response to her loyalty and hard work, Sherwood will continue working for TNT network on its new drama “Major Crimes,” a spinoff of “The Closer,” that will premiere August 13.
In fact, as a script coordinator and writer’s assistant, Sherwood has already overseen the formation of the first season episodes.
At 25, Sherwood is the youngest of the writing team. She helps finalize scripts by putting her own background and personality into perspective for the all-male writing staff.
Her background mirrors that of “The Closer’s” star character, Brenda Leigh Johnson, a deputy police chief who moves from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
“A lot the guys will turn to me and ask about a southern expression,” Sherwood said.
For about 30 minutes each day, Sherwood and the writers discuss current events and how to incorporate stories of their personal lives into the show’s story arch.
But for the main plot, they have the help of an LAPD homicide detective with 30 years of experience.
“About 70 percent of stories come in from his experience,” Sherwood said. “Everything from how a blood splatter might work to the intricacies of the Justice System.”
Some may not be able to stomach the gritty details of a detective crime drama, but dark subject matter is nothing new to Sherwood.
While obtaining her Master of Fine Arts in Writing for the Screen and Stage from Northwestern University in Chicago, Sherwood brainstormed “Devil May Care,” a play about a pastor and woman who unexpectedly meet in a rural Baptist church in the middle of the night and uncover deep secrets about each other.
Sherwood later went on to write a play about sex slavery in Ohio.
“Those two are on the darker end of the spectrum,” she said. “They are something very far from my own experience but I can relate to them in some way. There’s something great about drawing people in about a story that they don’t expect to be drawn into.”
Not everything Sherwood writes is entirely fiction. Each piece takes hours and hours of research. “I was shocked to discover that the heartland of Ohio was a hot spot for human trafficking,” she said. “In the middle of white-bread America, this horrible epidictic is happening, and it goes on under the radar.”
Her job takes a willingness to write about things she might not know very well but that still interests her, she said. Currently, Sherwood is also working on several TV pilots – one of them is a retelling of Robin Hood.
So how does Sherwood know when a story is a play, a TV pilot or a movie?
“I tend to be very purposeful when I choose media,” she said. “I will say, ‘where does it live? Does it live on the stage or does it live in the screen?’”
“It’s how she sees things that always surprises me,” said her mother, Joan Sherwood. “I’m struck by her ability, by her depth and her perception at such a young age. I’m really, really proud of her.”
Printed in the July 26, 2012 edition.