For the Weekend: Jane Espenson

Photos by Jakob N. Layman

In this series we explore the favorite haunts and hangs of notable SoCal residents.

Name a popular sci-fi or fantasy show and there's a pretty good chance that Jane Espenson has written for it. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Firefly," "Battlestar Galactica," "Caprica," and "Game of Thrones" have all featured the prolific TV scribe's name on their credits. Right now, Espenson is a consulting producer for "Once Upon a Time" and is working on the hit series' anticipated spinoff. She's also executive producer of the webseries, "Husbands." In between the day-to-day television grind, she frequently travels to fan conventions. These days, she's also traveling across the country for book signing events to coincide with the release of the new "Husbands" comic book. Proper weekends are a rare treat for Espenson right now, but she still finds time to squeeze in a little fun.

We met with Espenson on a Friday afternoon, when she was deep into a game of Scrabble with a group of friends. They play together as regularly as people with hectic schedules can. We asked about these wordsmith challenges and what else Espenson does on her days off.

How long have you been playing Scrabble with your group?
The last 21 years. We all met in the Disney Writer's Fellowship in 1992. Kim and Michelle were feature writers in the program and I was a TV writer in the program. We became friends then. At some point along the way, we started playing these regular games of Scrabble. It's our chance to get together and gossip and play with the dogs and play Scrabble. We love Scrabble.

How long do your games usually go?
The standard length of a Scrabble game. We try to not let the game get too interrupted. We try to play straight through. I've never looked at my watch. How long does a Scrabble game take? Forty minutes, maybe? We play two or three games. Sometimes, we'll put the Scrabble away we'll play some other word game or something.

What makes a game of Scrabble a really good game?
I think the most important thing is the spirit in which it's played. It has to be played in a spirit of where you are rooting for everyone to do their very best, to find the innovative word, the clever solution. Someone just played argot-- A-R-G-O-T. When we realized that that was the end of escargot-- if we had an E-S-C-- those are the moments we play for. It's when you see something cool, where somebody has played something that's very clever. Kim got a bingo already today. You love a game with a bingo, a seven letter play, or a really clever use of the letter q. Maybe two years ago, they came out with a revised list of Scrabble words and they allowed a lot more q words. So qi is now alright. That was very exciting in my world.

Do you check the dictionary a lot?
We're constantly checking the dictionary, usually because we know a word is a word, but we don't know if it's in the dictionary. The Scrabble dictionary is a very idiosyncratic list of words. There's stuff that you think would be in there, but it's not, like ahi, which may actually have made it in this last time around. Particularly, exotic foreign food words are not in there, even though you know it's a word. Or, there is something that you would never expect would be in there, but it is, like zowie, which I played earlier today.

What else do you like to do on your days off?
I like to go ice skating.

At Pickwick Ice in Burbank?
Yes, Pickwick Ice, which is right by where we write "Once Upon a Time." We're going to be doing some writing sessions of "Once Upon a Time" where we'll only be there in the mornings. That will be perfect because the free skate hours are always in the afternoon at Pickwick.

Do you go out to restaurants?
I love to go out to eat. I love Bazaar, José Andrés' Bazaar over at the SLS Hotel. Amazing. I love Craft, which is Tom Colicchio's restaurant in Century City. Fantastic. Little hole in the wall places, an obscure Vietnamese place or Thai place.

Do you do movie or TV related stuff on the weekends? Do you go to the theater to see movies or watch DVDs?
No, I actually don't watch a lot of movies at all. I like TV better. I really like to step away from scripted stuff entirely, sort of rest my script-y brain. I think that's why I love "Project Runway" so much.

I go to the theater sometimes. When we're in New York, we're going to see a show on Broadway, "Matilda," me and Brad Bell. Brad Bell is my producing partner who created "Husbands." He really created Husbands and I'm producing it with him. We have a friend who is in a Broadway play, so we're going to go see a Broadway play.

What else? So much of my free time now is taken up with promotion for "Husbands" or shooting, all that stuff that's involved in doing a show. You can really list going to an award show as a thing you do for fun. There's been some of that lately, so many web TV award shows. The GLAAD awards are coming up, I'm going to that. The Buffy comic that I worked on this season is up for one of those.

And, of course, I love dogs. My parents have dogs. My friends have dogs. Oh, I go to Palm Springs to visit my parents. That's a thing I do. It's fun. Hang out and be 12 again. I'm an only child so I sort of get babied, even now, pushing 50, It's still sort of like, "Mom, what's for dinner?"


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