Perspective | What a ‘Tonight Show’ executive producer does in a day at work – The Washington Post | WHs Answers


Welcome to The Work Day, a series that chronicles a single day in the working lives of various women – from gallery owners to housewives to business executives. In this episode, we hear from Sarah Connell, an executive producer of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” chronicling a workday in June.

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Job title: Executive Producer/Head of Segment Production for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Previous professions: I’ve had the truly unique experience of working in late night television my entire career. From 2002 to 2014 I worked on Late Show With David Letterman. I started as an intern in the fall of 2002 and left the show as a producer in the fall of 2014. I’ve been working late into the night for almost 20 years!

What led me to my current role: Ever since I was 14, I’ve wanted to work at 30 Rock. I was obsessed with Saturday Night Live and late night TV and dreamed of working in New York City. After studying film and television production at Fitchburg State College, I did an internship in the talent booking department at Late Show With David Letterman. Shortly after my internship ended, I was offered a job as a telephone answering service operator, which eventually led to me becoming a talent assistant, talent coordinator, talent booker, and eventually segment producer. In 2014 I was offered a position as Segment Producer on The Tonight Show (finally made it to 30 Rock!) and in February 2020 I was promoted to Supervising Producer to lead the segment production department.

How I spend most of my working day: I’m a mother of two boys – who are 8 and 5 years old – so the day starts early. I spend my mornings getting ready, making breakfast, preparing lunch for the kids, answering Slacks and emails, and taking the kids to summer camp before catching the train.

I spend most of my time working on guest interview segments. We have between 10 and 13 guests per week on the show and I am responsible for supervising them all. I have an incredible team of segment producers and we each produce two to three guests a week.

Preparation for each guest begins about a week after their appearance. When I produce a guest, I look at the project they’re promoting, brainstorm fun things to do with Jimmy, suggest ideas, read through a comprehensive research pack put together by our incredible research team, and brainstorm topics that could lead to a fun and interesting conversation with Jimmy.

Before you arrive, I have a preliminary talk with the guest. Using this conversation, I’ll narrow down the topics Jimmy might delve into during the interview. When I’m not working on the guest, which I’m personally producing, I’m checking in with the other producers to discuss their segments. We’re a very collaborative department and we’re constantly talking and exchanging ideas throughout the day.

5:40 am: The alarm goes off at 5:40 am because I think today is the day I want to work out before my kids get up. It turns out it’s not that day and I snooze until 6:23 am. As soon as I get out of bed, I get ready and answer all the early emails and Slacks about that day’s show.

7:30 a.m.: My boys usually wake up between 6-7am but we had a big weekend so they sleep in. I make them breakfast and we chat while I pack their lunch. It’s their first day of summer camp and they’re excited.

8:55 am: Go out and take the train. I usually work during my train ride to and from work. I have a guest on tonight’s show – Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. I’m writing a section draft that goes to our showrunner and working on the section notes for the interview that will later go to Jimmy. The drafts for these notes go to our amazing research team who have meticulously proofread and fact checked everything.

10:30 am: Daily Zoom production meeting where we go over the details of that day’s shows and then take a look at the upcoming shows for the rest of this week and next.

11 clock: I work on finalizing my segment notes and go over the segment notes for the other guests appearing on the show that day and provide notes or feedback.

1:30 p.m.: Take my Covid test and grab a salad from Sweetgreen below.

3:45 p.m.: Go behind the scenes in the props department to double-check the props, photos, and all other elements used in today’s guest posts.

4:30 p.m.: Michaela Jae Rodriguez arrives. I walk into her dressing room to greet her and walk her through the section. This is her first time on the show and she is so excited to be here.

4:50 p.m.: Jimmy stops by Michaela Jaé’s dressing room to greet her.

17 o’clock: The recording of the show starts.

5:35 p.m.: During the commercial break before Michaela Jaé’s segment, I give Jimmy desk notes for the interview and update him with the timing for the segment.

6:15 p.m.: Phone call before interviewing Steve Carell, my guest on tomorrow’s show.

8:15 p.m.: Get home on time for bedtime. The boys tell me about their first day at summer camp. They loved it!

21 clock: Boys are in bed (a little later than planned). The working day goes on. There are still a few segment edits that need to be signed off. After we wrap up the edits, my husband and I (and our dog, Millie) sit on the couch with bowls of pasta and discuss the day. Then we watch a little TV. We’re rewatching “Veep” right now.

10:45 p.m.: Bedtime. I set the alarm for 5:40 am Yuust in case tomorrow is the day I train.

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