2017-04-12 / Local News

Hollywood writer/producer returns home to talk about her career

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff


Laura Gutin Peterson flanked by her mother Myra Gutin (left) and best friend Meredith Becker, at the Women’s Philanthropy event featuring the Hollywood writer/producer. Laura Gutin Peterson flanked by her mother Myra Gutin (left) and best friend Meredith Becker, at the Women’s Philanthropy event featuring the Hollywood writer/producer. Laura Gutin Peterson discovered her voice as a writer in Marsha Dollinger’s English class at Kellman Academy, now Kellman Brown Academy.

A writer/producer of the award-winning hit comedy “Black-ish,” the Cherry Hill native found her funny bone at BBYO events and meetings. “(We would) just spend hours and hours sitting around trying to get each other to laugh,” said Gutin Peterson, the daughter of Myra and David Gutin and a 1994 graduate of Cherry Hill West.

No laugh track was needed when Gutin Peterson spoke at a Women’s Philanthropy event the Woodcrest Country Club on March 28. She had a ballroom full of women cracking up at the wine and dessert mixer describing her career ups and downs in Hollywood.

“It’s a trip to be back to Cherry Hill. I haven’t been inside the Woodcrest Country Club since Jeffrey Cherkas’ bar mitzvah,” she quipped at the event co-chaired by her best friend Meredith Becker and mom to benefit Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey’s JFund.

Gutin Peterson got her start answering phones and stuffing envelopes on the set of “ NewsRadio” soon after moving out West after college. She worked her way to becoming a writer and producer on a string of TV sitcoms and animated young adult programs, many of which barely lasted months. In a 20- year span, she worked on 20 shows until landing onto “Black- Ish” during its second season last year. This year, the show was nominated for three Golden Globe awards, including Best Comedy.

Becker, a childhood friend, had the honors of introducing Gutin Peterson, “a writer, producer and Cherry Hill girl,” she labeled “brave” for following her dream without a clear roadmap.

A mother of two boys, Gutin Peterson acknowledged that the early years were rocky. When she and her father David drove her Toyota Camry out West, she spent large swaths of the trip feeling sick to her stomach.

“As we got closer to LA, I kept thinking, ‘what have I done?’” you moved across country, you don’t know anyone, you have no job, you never met your roommate,” she said.

However, within weeks, she landed on “ NewsRadio,” her favorite TV show at the time. Although the job was as entrylevel as they get, she was thrilled to be on the set with some of her favorite actors. Early on, she learned Hollywood jobs don’t last long and entry-level writer wannabes get yelled at. A lot.

While there were some glamorous Hollywood parties over the years, she said she spent most of her free time writing “spec” scripts in the hopes that she would get her big break. That came when she landed her first writing job on “Four Kings,” which lasted only three months.

“I felt like a fraud,” Gutin Peterson admitted. “Every minute of every day, I felt someone was going to hand me a credit card and say, ‘no, you’re supposed to be getting the coffee.’”

Asked whether she experienced anti-Semitism in Hollywood, she said it wasn’t really a factor with so many fellow Jews in the business. Sexism was more blatant but it has gotten better for women in the last 20 years she said.

“A lot of men think women are not funny,” she said. “They will hire enough women not to get in trouble, but beyond that, they’re not doing any favors. It was incredibly frustrating but also really great for me. I decided I would go into every room and prove I’m the funniest person in the room.” s

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