The genetic mutants on NBC's freshman hit Heroes have all sorts of super powers: They can fly, light things on fire, read minds, and travel through time and space. But none of them have the super power that is Katherine Pope's: the ability to protect a creator's vision while wrangling him through an intricate network bureaucracy.
Her latest victory is working with Heroes' creator Tim Kring, with whom she also worked on Crossing Jordan.
Pope, executive VP of NBC Entertainment, has some insight into the producer's mind: she started her own career as a writer and producer for VH1's Behind the Music in May 1999. She also wrote and produced documentaries for CBS and was an associate producer for A&E's Biography. Not to mention she's married to documentary filmmaker, Richard E. Robbins.
“My husband loves the intense detail of creating something from start to finish,” she says. “He will live with a show for two years that is only 70 minutes long. But I like the diversity of responsibility that I have.”
As a network development executive, Pope, 34, neither creates nor selects a show. Her work takes place during the long process that starts with a great idea and doesn't end until a show goes off the air. In the meantime, she serves as the show's champion, guardian, manager and critic. Over the course of a day, Pope says she might hear a show pitch, see a rough cut, sit in a casting session, watch an incoming episode and read a script.
Her role is to make sure NBC shows reach their potential: “I take such personal and emotional joy in seeing a creator's show picked up and taken to series. I think I do drive people crazy a little bit because I do care so much about the material.”
“When you are looking for an executive, you are looking for the full package,” says Kevin Reilly, NBC Entertainment president. “You want somebody who is tenacious with creativity and tenacious inside an organization. You need someone who is a very good manager and can maintain their objectivity without losing their passion.”
Passion seems to be the key to Pope's success.
“Katherine is the one who convinced me to release the money to go double-down on Heroes,” says Marc Graboff, president of NBC Universal Television West Coast operations, who oversees both Pope and Reilly. “She's got this hard-to-find combination of skill sets. She has great relationships with talent and she speaks their language, but she also has the ability to deal with the talent representation and knows when they are being manipulative.”
Says Heroes' creator Kring, “Katherine always starts from a very simple premise: 'How can I help make this better?'”