Gretchen Berg

February's "Movers & Shakers" column profiles ’Burgh native Gretchen Berg, who has been building a career in TV in Los Angeles. Now the former Franklin Park resident has added executive producer of the hospital drama “Mercy” to her résumé.



In case you’re wondering: No, the new hospital drama “Mercy” (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC) is not based on the exploits of UPMC Mercy’s medical staff, but that doesn’t make its connection to Pittsburgh DOA. The show’s executive producer, Gretchen Berg, 38, is a North Allegheny High School grad and former Franklin Park resident whose sister Katy happens to be a nurse liaison—at UPMC. (Another sister, Jennifer, is quality coordinator for Universal Media Studios in L.A., covering such shows as “The Office” and “30 Rock.”)

“Mercy,” which is set in Mercy Hospital in New Jersey, is to nurses what “Rescue Me” is to firefighters: relationship drama with relatable characters and a plot that interweaves ripped-from-the-headlines subjects like health care reform and military personnel suffering PTSD from the Second Gulf War.

If you’re just tuning in, here’s the back story: During a deployment to Iraq, nurse Veronica Callahan (Taylor Schilling) is forced to deal not just with casualties of war but of the heart after learning about her husband’s infidelity. While on the front lines, she bonds with Dr. Chris Sands (James Tupper), and things turn romantic. Season 1 begins after Veronica has returned home to Mercy, coping with reintegration into “normal” life. She recommits to her husband, only to learn that her wartime tryst has landed a two-year assignment at Mercy.

Created by Liz Heldens (“Friday Night Lights”), Berg and her writing partner, Aaron Harberts, craft the show’s scripts. Berg’s writing credits include “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Roswell,” Pushing Daisies,” “John Doe,” “Wonderfalls,” “Pepper Dennis” and “North Shore.” Berg decided to pursue a career in TV production and film writing when she was a girl in the Pittsburgh area (where her parents still reside) and knew she’d need to be in L.A. to do it. So after graduating from Northwestern University in 1993, Berg headed farther west to Tinseltown. Living her dream, Berg says, is “a blessing that I don’t take for granted. I’ve loved every job I’ve ever worked on.”

Q+A

PM: Take me back to your early years in L.A.
G.B.: L.A. was a great place to be broke because it was possible to live well on the cheap—you could eat from a taco truck for $4 a week. When I got here, I put myself on a five-year plan, but my goal was to get paid for my writing at least once in those years. [Those early years] were the happiest because Aaron and I were able to try a bunch of things: features, TV movies of the week, hour-long, half-hour. It was a blast. At first we didn’t get any responses to our material, but there was nothing else we could do or wanted to do, so we just kept writing.

PM: Then the proverbial big break came?
G.B.: Yes, Aaron and I were hired as staff writers on  “Beverly Hills 90210” and were assigned to write the ninth-season episode that brought Luke Perry’s character, Dylan, back to the show. We marched into Aaron Spelling’s office all dorky and enthusiastic for our first meeting. We knew in that moment that we were part of something iconic. That gig lasted two years—the best first job anybody could have.

PM: Where do you find inspiration?
G.B.: Anywhere and everywhere. It’s my job to be inspired.

PM: Favorite movie and TV show?
G.B.: The Hustler [because] Paul Newman was so good at his job. “Remington Steele”—about a woman in L.A. working in a man’s world—influenced me as a teenager. Stephanie Zimbalist was a great role model for girls. I wish there was more of that on TV now.

PM: What’s your opinion about the “state” of TV today?
G.B.: Some of it is garbage, but the cream rises to the top eventually.

PM: Describe your childhood in Pittsburgh.

G.B.: It was the perfect place to grow up. My friends and I would disappear into the woods, play games like Capture the Flag and wander home when the sun went down. It nurtured my imagination, which helps to this day. I can trigger myself into a day-dreamy state anytime.

PM: Tell me about your years at North Allegheny High School.
G.B.: N.A. was big on athletics, but I didn’t have school spirit. I was the weird loner type in the acting and drama classes. We wrote a lot in class, so I learned early on about the importance of good structure. And having access to the school’s TV studio was like being given a box of crayons and blank paper—an open forum to pursue and shoot our own ideas.

PM: What made you choose Northwestern?

G.B.: I wanted a TV/film program but not at NYU or UCLA. I wasn’t interested in baptism by fire. I wanted a liberal-arts education, not just intensely film.

PM: What’s next on your horizon?

G.B.: “Mercy” just got its back nine, which means it will air [at least] through mid-May. I love the security, but I get an itch in my traveling boots. However, if “Mercy” and I are together for 15 years, I’d be thrilled. Aaron and I just sold a pilot to Warner Brothers, “Midnight Mass,” based on a DC Comics book series—sort of Thin Man meets the “X-Files.”

PM: Since you weren’t a jock in high school, do you follow Pittsburgh sports?

G.B.:  I’m a huge Steelers fan! It’s in my DNA. Every Sunday, priority No. 1 is the game. I host a potluck at my home with people from all over. Here, the game starts at 10 a.m., which offers so many options for morning alcohol: Irish coffee, bloody Marys….

PM: Would you consider a move back to Pittsburgh some day?

G.B.:  I’m not ready to leave L.A., but I could absolutely move back. Pittsburgh has a special place in my heart. In fact, if you weren’t from Pittsburgh magazine, I may not have called you back immediately.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Watch: Scarehouse Visit is One These Steelers Won't Forget

Watch: Scarehouse Visit is One These Steelers Won't Forget

Bud Dupree, L.T. Walton, Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier were among those on the Halloween adventure to the renowned haunted house in Etna.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
TasteBuds Is Returning To Pittsburgh

TasteBuds Is Returning To Pittsburgh

The event pairs the city's top chefs with young adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Underrated Fountains in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Underrated Fountains in Pittsburgh

While we all know and love the grandeur of the fountain at Point State Park, there are many hidden fountain gems throughout the city. These are a few of our lesser-known favorites.

Comments


Madness and Mayhem in the ScareHouse Basement

Madness and Mayhem in the ScareHouse Basement

Visiting the world-famous haunted attraction's adults-only, subterranean experience.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers' Latest Soap Opera is Timely If Not Manufactured

Steelers' Latest Soap Opera is Timely If Not Manufactured

All of a sudden the Steelers have that us-against-the-world mentality many a team has sought to manufacture in tough times such as these.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

Robert Hallett, Goldsmith, handcrafts the jewelry in his Oakmont shop.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Celebrate the Life and Work of George Romero This Week

Celebrate the Life and Work of George Romero This Week

A preview of the week-long tribute to the late filmmaker, plus reviews and more movie news.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Pick of the Patch: Pumpkin-Themed Proposals

The Pick of the Patch: Pumpkin-Themed Proposals

In honor of fall, we’re showcasing three couples whose proposals involved one of the best things about the season: pumpkins.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Holiday How-To: Upgrade Your Fall Decor with Advice from Local Experts

Holiday How-To: Upgrade Your Fall Decor with Advice from Local Experts

Interior designers share their tips on creating easy, elegant décor that will take you from Halloween through Thanksgiving.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module