Teri Weinberg was sitting in her office at Reveille Productions one day last month when her boss, Ben Silverman, walked in and shut the door. Having known each other for years, the two often talked business before moving on to other matters, both personal and trivial. “I always loved when Ben came in and closed the door,” Weinberg says. “But that was one conversation I was not ready for.”
This time, Silverman brought up NBC. Weinberg knew he had met with NBC Universal President/CEO Jeff Zucker recently, but he had been aloof about the details ever since. Now Silverman, who had asked Weinberg to join him years before when he started Reveille, told her he was going to be head of NBC Entertainment and wanted to take her along.
Weinberg accepted. As executive VP of NBC Entertainment, she'll oversee development for a network that has struggled mightily in recent years to reverse its primetime slide from No. 1 to No. 4. And just as she learned the production business on the fly years back, Weinberg is cramming for her first network gig as the new regime takes a crack at turning NBC around.
A CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD BREAK
In classic Hollywood fashion, Weinberg got her first break by pounding the pavement and refusing to take “no” for an answer. After bartending to put herself through Arizona State University, where she studied interior design, she moved to Los Angeles and slept on a friend's floor.
Despite having zero experience, Weinberg chased a job at ICM. After three weeks of self-described “begging,” she finally got the ICM human resources department to break down and give her an interview.
Weinberg talked her way into a job as a floater assistant, working on everything from music to comedy to television. Over time she became a full-fledged agent.
Weinberg had known Silverman for years since he once dated her roommate. When he decided to leave the William Morris Agency and start Reveille in 2002, he turned to Weinberg, who jumped at the chance to try something new.
“I was his girl Monday through Sunday,” she says. “Basically, I did anything to make his life easier to get this company off the ground.”
Despite starting in a modest role, Weinberg quickly became invaluable to Silverman.
“She came into the company at an early level, but we were a company that built from the ground up,” says Silverman. “And she proved herself very quickly and developed tremendous relationships.”
Although her initial duties included casting reality shows, she got a chance to return to the scripted world she had worked in as an agent when Reveille landed a 13-episode commitment from NBC for an adaptation of British comedy Coupling. The show didn't last—it was cancelled after the fifth episode—but it taught Weinberg about the difficulty of adapting foreign television for an American audience. And that lesson proved essential when Reveille brought over another British hit, The Office.
“We knew the challenges going in: how hard it would be to capture the vision of the show, the long pauses and everything,” she recalls. But Reveille found an ally in Kevin Reilly, who loved the show when he was an executive at FX, and took it with him when he jumped to head entertainment at NBC.
Weinberg, who likes to call herself the most hands-on non-writing executive producer in town, was side by side with the show from idea genesis to the editing room. And once The Office found its legs after a rough start, next up was Ugly Betty, a wildly popular international soap opera that Reveille was adapting for ABC.
Weinberg was even more involved with Betty. She was the last person wardrobe had to go by to get anything on set and paid obsessive attention to star America Ferrara's bangs while shooting the pilot. “They had to be perfect,” she remembers with a laugh.
The work and attention to detail paid off: While in the writers room one day, she received a call with the news that ABC had decided to put Betty on television's biggest stage, Thursday night. She was ecstatic—until she realized the 8 p.m. time slot put Betty head-to-head with The Office.
“We were thrilled,” she recalls. “But then I calmed down and thought, 'Oh great, now I am up against myself.'”
LETTING GO OF HER BABIES
Now, as a network executive, Weinberg is up against something else: the pressure of turning around struggling NBC. And while she is both well-liked and well-respected in Hollywood circles, she must handle that weight while learning the network game on the job.
“There is pressure that comes with any network job, but we just want to remind everyone at NBC that we work in entertainment, that this is fun,” she says. “Obviously there are needs [at NBC], but we know only one thing: to trust our gut.”
Weinberg likes to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to hop on a stationary bike and give her Blackberry its own workout. But even with her stamina and discipline, she knows her new expanded role won't allow her to have the same hands-on role with all of NBC's shows that she enjoyed in the past.
“I don't want to micro-manage, but I like to be as actively involved as possible,” she says. “But I need to learn more about programming and sales, for instance. I want to help bridge those gaps if there have been those gaps in the past.”
First, though, Weinberg needs to find a way to let go of the shows she helped create at Reveille. During an interview in her first day in her new NBC office, she slipped and said “we” when noting that shooting had just begun for the second season of Reveille's Showtime series The Tudors.
Sighing when alerted to the slip, she said, “I try to correct myself, but they are still my babies.”