As for his new projects, Mr. Berlanti co-wrote and directed the pilot for Eli Stone, an hour-long drama (featuring Angelina-ex Jonny Lee Miller and Victor Garber, from Alias) about a hot-shot San Francisco lawyer who might be able to see the future and use his power to go beyond the shallow depths of money and power. “We wanted to tell a simple story about a guy who is trying to change his life and re-examining his life that has a part in magic and mysticism,” Mr. Berlanti said. “We’re trying to deal with socially relevant issues from week to week …. When it comes down to it, people, they want to do their part to change the world, they just don’t know how. We want to remind people to think about that.”
He also developed the much-buzzed-about Dirty Sexy Money with Six Feet Under writer Craig Wright, about an ethical attorney (played by Peter Krause, the former bad-boy undertaker Nate on Six Feet Under) who promises himself that he won’t get involved with a powerful, moneyed New York family like his father did. But he soon does, of course, hoping to wield a positive influence through their connections to money, religion and business.
“The idea was just: How do you do a postmodern Dynasty and talk about the underbelly of a family? Not just the glitz and the glamour, but the underpinning fact that they’re just as screwed up as all of us—but even worse, because it’s all underpinned by money,” Mr. Berlanti explained.
MR. BERLANTI GREW UP IN RYE, N.Y., and moved to Los Angeles when he was just a 23-year-old, fresh-faced graduate from Northwestern University. He lived beneath the Hollywood sign, but wept at night because he felt so out of place and hopeless in the unforgiving city.
He temped for an insurance company and interned at CBS before finally selling a film pitch. He was writing the movie for Kevin Williamson, the creator of the WB’s mega-hit Dawson’s Creek.
Mr. Berlanti eventually became a writer for the WB’s verbose teen drama, and later took it over when Mr. Williamson left to create a show for Miramax . He oversaw the coming out of Jack (Kerr Smith), the dreamy gay arty boy who dated Joey Potter (Katie Holmes) before reckoning with his sexuality, as well as the first romantic gay kiss on network television.
“I had to threaten to leave the show to make it happen,” Mr. Berlanti said of the kiss, adding: “It’s funny, because Kevin on Brothers & Sisters—we have him kissing guys every week.”
He moved on to create Everwood, the smart, family-friendly drama about a New York doctor (Treat Williams) who moves his brooding teenage son, Ephram, and daughter, Delia, to a small mountain town in Colorado after the death of their mother.