Cherry Cheva (Chevapravatdumrong) is best known as a writer and producer on Family Guy. She is also, however, an author of two novels, She’s So Money and DupliKate, and she also co-authored, with Alex Borstein, It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One. She majored in psychology at Yale University. She later earned a Juris Doctor degree from New York University Law School, where she took part in the law review. Then she moved to Los Angeles to pursue writing. Below, we discuss her transition, her books, what it is like writing for Family Guy, & more.
Your initial studies in school was law and psychology, so how did the transition to writing come into play?
Cherry: I ended up as a psych major pretty much just because my school didn’t have a creative writing major, or else I totally would’ve done that. But then I took intro psych and liked it and majoring in psych was less credits than majoring in English, which gave me more room in my schedule to take random writing classes. Law school I went to just because my parents were really gunning for it and I didn’t have any better ideas at the time (I knew I wanted to write, but at that point in my life it seemed like a crazy, distant dream), so basically I just went, graduated, didn’t take the bar exam, and then moved to LA and got an assistant job at an agency.
Was it something that your parents encouraged, as far as a creative pursuit?
Cherry: HA! Nooooo. Frankly, they discouraged it. Which I have no problem with; it’s probably a better idea to tell your kids to go after a practical job instead of a creative one, since the latter are so hard to get, and then if they decide to go after their dream job anyway, hey, at least you know they REALLY want it.
Being the only female writer on Family Guy, do you feel like there is more pressure to bring a more feminine POV to the writers table?
Cherry: Not really. We’re all just kind of in there together (and actually I’m not the only female writer right now; I have been at various times, but right now there are two of us). I would say that the rare occasions I’m called on to provide something specific, it’s for, like, what’s the best way to describe this…“young people stuff”? Like younger pop culture or how the kids are talking on the internet nowadays or whatever, which sometimes includes girly stuff but sometimes is just, you know, teen stuff in general.
So what exactly is the ‘gag room’, and what is the creative process behind that method?
Cherry: Because our writing staff is so huge, it’s actually pretty unwieldy to have everyone in the same room at once, so oftentimes a group of about five people will go off into a separate room and work on a specific, smaller part of the script: a TV gag or cutaway, or sometimes just pitching on one line, or sometimes writing a whole scene. So basically these people go off and come up with various options for what the cutaway could be, and then they go back in the big room (where the other writers are working on the main script) and pitch them, and then one of the options gets chosen to go in the script.
You’ve released a few novels in addition to script writing. Is this something that stemmed from your love of writing for the show? Could this lead to other writing gigs such as movie screenplays in the future?
Cherry: It’s something that stemmed from my love of writing in general—which means that yeah, I would LOVE to write for any medium, movies included, so that would be awesome if that happened!
She’s So Money does a good job portraying the differences between cultures, classes, and genders. Are you a firm believer in morals over money when it comes to your career in present day?
Cherry: I haven’t had that sort of dilemma presented to me yet. I don’t think it’s particularly on the up and up to be a hitman, if that’s what you mean [smiles].
Family Guy, particularly Brian, likes to toy with the idea of religion quite frequently. Do you ever feel conflicted whenever Seth makes Brian go on an atheist rant?
Cherry: Not at all.
Could we talk about Tricia Takanawa for a second? Tricia’s cultural background prevents her from entering certain buildings. In the series, she cannot go into a certain hotel because “they don’t allow Asians inside”. Are some of these gags based on real life experiences or just general stereotypes?
Cherry: General stereotypes. A while ago we were working on a scene with asian college kids drinking and turning red and lord KNOWS I have real life experience with that, but in general, it’s just the stereotypes that everyone already knows and is familiar with.
Let say, Family Guy gets cancelled, but American Dad and Cleveland Show are still on the air, would you transition into those shows or would you try something new?
Cherry: Any and all of the above! I would just love to keep writing for TV in general– it’s the most awesome job ever, so all those options sound good.
Since you’re surrounded by the animation industry year round, have you ever took an interest in Anime? Do you have any particular favorites?
Cherry: Not really. I watched Serial Experiments Lain a long time ago and the only thing I remember about it was that it was fairly depressing but had a good (but depressing) theme song.
We are assuming this is top secret, but we have to ask…can you drop any hints on any future Family Guy plans?
Cherry: Um…in the most recent episode I wrote, Meg likes a guy. Whooo! Generic enough for ya? [smiles]
Want to keep tabs on Cherry’s projects and upcoming episodes? Follow her cookie crumb trail below: