Josh Berman: Death Becomes Him
BY Jeremy Kinser
September 15 2011 7:00 AM ET
“If I’d let my mom, she’d go around the country and march in parades,” he says. “It was my grandfather who was most supportive. He was the one I was most concerned about because he was ex-military and in his 70s. He just said, ‘Oh, well, some people have blue eyes and some people have brown eyes.’ ”
Yet the most impactful member of the Berman clan is undoubtedly Deb, his late grandmother, who provided an unlikely inspiration for his TV heroine. “I was known as this dark procedural, testosterone-y writer and I wanted to write something about a great character with a heart,” he recalls. Berman thought about his grandmother, who instilled confidence and pride in him and gave the character her name.
“Even though she was a 4-foot-11, chubby Holocaust survivor, she carried herself like a supermodel,” he says. “But no one wanted to buy a show about an old Jewish grandmother.” Berman was determined to inject her spirit into a character who would live and breathe and be dynamic on television.
“I created a package that wasn’t a supermodel and infused her with a supermodel’s spirit and point of view,” he says.
Also unusual is Diva’s broad demographic appeal, which is particularly gratifying to Berman. The show’s message rings true with viewers of all ages — a chubby fourth-grader in his teacher friend’s classroom is one devoted fan — and he hears from straight male enthusiasts. “They say their wives or girlfriends are watching it and then they’ve gotten hooked,” Berman says.
But he insists there’s no need to insert recurring LGBT characters into a series that already constantly touts self-acceptance. “I feel more of a responsibility to have a life-affirming show that says you should feel good about yourself no matter who you are,” Berman says. “I think regardless of whether it’s gender or race or religion, I want people to feel good about themselves and not to be their own worst critics.”