Celebrating Women: Wendy Walker
An Emmy-winning news producer talks about her second act—scripted shows
Photo by Becca Batista
How did you become a producer?
I went to school in Virginia and went on to get my master’s at George Washington University. At the same time, I was working at Brooks Brothers. Ethel Kennedy was a client and I ended up working as her social secretary. I was the liaison with the media on a golf tournament she sponsored in honor of her late husband, and I met White House producers for ABC News. That’s when I got the bug. So I walked into ABC News in Washington and said I wanted to be a producer. They offered me an entry level position and I worked my way up. In less than a year my boss left ABC to start this new organization called CNN, and he hired me.
What was your first position with CNN?
I started as assistant to the Washington bureau chief. We were starting from scratch, so I did anything that needed to be done. In 1980, I became a producer and covered the White House for 10 years. I covered Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. It was an exhausting position with such extensive travel that today I don’t even want to get on an airplane.
How did you get to be the producer of Larry King Live?
I was picked by the president of CNN when the job came up in 1993. I was with CNN for 32 years, 18 of which were spent producing that show.
Where did you go from there?
I had always wanted to get into scripted television. After 18 years of live shows, I had a lot of ideas for scripted ones. The first one I pitched made it onto ABC last year. The show lasted for one year, and now I’m working on other ideas that I’ll be pitching to networks.
What was your favorite assignment?
Producing the series of US-Soviet summits with Reagan and Gorbachev, from Malta to Reykjavík.
Who is the most interesting person that you’ve met?
Probably the one who stood out the most was Marlon Brando.
What has been your biggest disappointment?
That we didn’t get a second season of Notorious.
What would you suggest to others who want to be a producer?
Decide what kind of producer you want to be and get your foot in the door. Work harder than anyone else. If you are really good, people will notice. Most people I know who are successful have come up through the ranks.
Whom would you like to meet?
Kevin Spacey, but only if I could be his really close friend. I think he’s an amazing actor.
Tell us about your family.
I have a 21-year-old daughter who’s interested in music, and my son wants to be a screenwriter. I’ve been in a 10-year relationship with Randy Woods.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I love to swim, spend time with my kids and Randy, and with close friends.
What’s on your bucket list?
I have an Emmy Award for news and I would like to get an Emmy for a scripted show. I’d like to see my children continue to grow and flourish and to be happy. I want to go to Africa and India, but that would require getting on a plane, so I might just have to watch a documentary.