By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Donielle Muransky might have taken the long way to becoming a television screen writer, but when she arrived she was well-prepared.
The Poland native and Seminary High School graduate was added to the writing staff of ABC sitcom “The Goldbergs” this summer.
But before that, she spent years working her way up the ladder.
A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Muransky, 29, started as an intern and would go on to become a page and then a writer’s assistant.
She went on a lot of coffee runs in those early years, but also absorbed every bit of information she could about the business and the workplace. When her break finally came, she was ready.
It all started when Muransky, who is the daughter of Mahoning Valley businessman Ed and Christine Muransky, was hired as a summer intern on the Tina Fey sitcom “30 Rock.” It was the summer going into her senior year of college, and a turn of events that would determine her career path.
“That was when I figured out that [being a television writer] is what I wanted,” she said. For many of the interns – some were children of staffers – it was just a summer job and they treated it that way. But to Muransky, it was the first step to her dream and she gave it her all.
“I was like ‘Tina Fey is down the hall, what is everyone doing?’”
Before “30 Rock,” Muransky – who had a range of theater experience – was toying with the idea of being a makeup artist for screen actors. She took a few screen-writing courses in college but majored in English literature.
Such a career track meant that it took longer than that of writers who majored in the field and were hired right out of college. But it gave her insight into just about every aspect of television production and taught her the ropes.
“If I would have been hired at age 22, I would have been a disaster,” she said. “[Thanks to] all those years I spent in [writers] rooms taking notes, now I know how to spot problems in stories, and pitch a joke [during a meeting]. As much as I hated working so hard as support staff, if I could [give advice to] my younger self, it would be ‘be patient.’ You learn a lot along the way even if you can’t see it at the time.”
After “30 Rock,” Muransky became a page at NBC in New York, and then moved on to producer’s assistant for The CW drama “Gossip Girl” in 2012. She then moved to a similar post with “The Carrie Diaries” in 2013, followed by writer’s assistant at “The Michael J. Fox Show” and, in 2015, script coordinator on “The Jim Gaffigan Show.”
She moved to Los Angeles three years ago, and started on the production staff with “The Goldbergs” in 2016 before being named a staff writer in July.
The popular ABC sitcom is set in a Philadelphia suburb in the 1980s. Muransky had been working as a writer with the upcoming spinoff series “Schooled” before being moved to “Goldbergs.”
“Schooled,” which premieres Jan. 9, is set at William Penn Academy – the same high school that the Goldberg children attend but about four years later. AJ Michalka, who plays Lainey on “Goldbergs,” is now a teacher at the school. Tim Meadows is back as the principal, as is Brian Callen as the gym teacher.
Like the character Lainey, Muransky’s life has changed a lot in a short amount of time.
“My life from a year ago to now [is so different]. I was struggling so much then, submitting to shows, and no one was hiring,” she said. “But if you hang in there ...”
Script writing is a group effort, which is something that Muransky enjoys.
“TV writing is super-communal,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I like it. There are a million people working together, punching up the jokes.”
For “The Goldbergs,” things start to take shape in May when the pre-production phase begins. With the scripts finalized, shooting begins in August, and the season premieres in late September.
“The Goldbergs” takes ideas from creator Adam Goldberg, who modeled the show after his own life and family, and the writing staff keeps that in mind.
“The stories are super important to [Goldberg],” said Muransky. “They are based on his life, but he wants the funniest joke, so we are punching things up right up until the last minute, working until 11 at night.”
Screen writing may be an art form that is best learned on the job, but comedy comes naturally to Muransky.
She has always gravitated toward sitcoms and uses her powers of observation to turn everyday life into character-driven dialog.
“I’m constantly taking notes of things people say,” she said, and it makes its way into her scripts as jokes.
Does that mean that comments made by her own family members sometimes come out of the mouths of overprotective mom, Beverly Goldberg, or her excitable son Barry?
The answer is, of course.
“But my family knows that I would never put anything in a script that is too sensitive!” she said.