Amazon Studio head Jennifer Salke surprised the crowd at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit on Wednesday by making two announcements: that the Emmy-winning Marvelous Mrs. Maisel would return for a second season in December (after she showed a short clip from an upcoming episode), and that actress Blake Lively will develop a scripted series for the streaming network. She hinted that Livelys show had a fashion theme and a merchandising component.
Salke said she decided to pull the trigger on the Lively project moments before she walked onstage. “I just told business affairs Im going to do this,” she continued, noting that Lively was currently in Rome, sleeping. “Shell wake up to it.”
Vanity Fairs executive West Coast editor Krista Smith asked Salke about the challenges of stepping into a position recently vacated by Roy Price, who resigned from his post last fall following allegations of sexual harassment. “There had been a lot of negativity and a little bit of trauma around the company,” in the aftermath of Prices departure, Salke said, though she also suggested there had also been a fair amount of healing before she got there, and a desire to create a more inclusive culture.
“They intentionally hired someone who could help them,” Salke said. “They really wanted what I do best, which is people, and culture, and talent.”
Salke said in terms of drawing new talent to the streamer, she is transparent and authentic as a leader. “I dont see myself as a boss to be intimidated by.” That works for her, she says, because in the de-stabilized media landscape that seems to be changing every minute, “Talent is feeling slightly untethered. . . . [They] are looking for something that I would like to provide—a home for them creatively.”
Her desire to make excellent TV and movies goes against the idea of “a big volume play,” Salke admitted, but said that most of the great successes shes had (among them Glee, Modern Family, This Is Us) came from deep collaboration. “I am an If you build it they will come person,” she said.
Salke mentioned Amazon deals with Jordan Peele, Nicole Kidman, and Reed Morano as examples of the kind of collaborators she has pursued—people who are “creatively adventurous,” and want to make work that is “culturally meaningful . . . and have an ambition to entertain a lot of people.”
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Joy PressJoy Press is a T.V. Correspondent for Vanity Fair. Her book, Stealing the Show: How Women Are Revolutionizing Television, was released in February.