In The Mix

Dream It, Do It

Connecting diverse hopefuls with their dream jobs is the quest of this exec.

Donna M. Owens
  • Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Karen Horne’s Twitter profile hints at her work: “I try to help writers write, directors direct and actors act.”

As senior vice-president of programming, talent development and inclusion for NBC Entertainment and Universal Television, she helps discover and nurture under-represented talent, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

“We’re broadcasters in a world that’s becoming more diverse than not, so diversity is just good business,” Horne says. “A variety of backgrounds means different points of view.… We need people who know those stories to tell them.”

Within her wheelhouse are NBCUniversal’s Talent Infusion Programs (TIPS), which launched in 2000. Its initiatives include Writers on the Verge, the Emerging Director Program, StandUp for Diversity talent search and the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival, which celebrates diverse storytelling. Female Forward launched a year ago to support women directors.

“Everything we do focuses on inclusion — gender parity, LGBTQ, individuals with disabilities,” explains Horne, who leads a six-person team in Los Angeles. “We receive about 50,000 applicants a year.”

Bitten by the TV bug in middle school (“I wanted to be Barbara Walters”), the New Jersey native earned a broadcasting degree from Montclair State University. Early on, she landed a job as an executive assistant to Bob Iger, then president of ABC Entertainment.

She went on to be a director of the Black Filmmaker Foundation, to lead writing programs at Nickelodeon and Walt Disney Studios and to coproduce the Emmy-winning animated series Spawn at HBO. These days, the busy wife and mom racks up frequent-flyer miles traveling to film festivals, industry conferences and premieres. By day, she may be hosting a writers’ boot camp, then walking a red carpet that evening.

“Honestly, while most might consider attending award shows or meeting celebrities fun — and don’t get me wrong, I never forget how blessed I am to drive on this lot every day — the best part of my job is placing that call to an actor, writer or director and telling them that they’re getting the job.”

She’s proud that some of the producers, writers, directors and actors who’ve come through NBC’s programs have won Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards; alums such as Donald Glover and Mindy Kaling are now major stars.

“If you see it, you can be it,” Horne says. “There is access here. We want to see you on our sets and screens.”


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2018