The number of times I had to pick my jaw up off the floor while reading this…too many to count.
Maureen Ryan is now one of my favorite authors. She did not hold back at all, and I loved the snark and straight up reads she dished out in Burn It Down without it ever feeling salacious or slanderous. She has clearly worked a very long time in the industry and this book was her way of exposing the BS she has seen and experienced.
While most of the interviewees chose to remain anonymous, Ryan was able to speak with several high profile individuals on the record, including Orlando Jones, Harold Perrineau and Evan Rachel Wood. She dove into the exploitative nature of Hollywood, its deep seated issues with race and how people of color are treated versus their white counterparts. She also touched on the #MeToo movement and the response, or lack thereof, from studios and elites.
Ryan’s coverage of the misgivings that happened on the sets of shows like Lost and Sleepy Hallow, the treatment of staff by studio executives like Scott Rudin, and the treatment of writers and production staff gave so much context to current affairs like the WAG/ SAG-AFTRA strike (this book was published in June 2023). Obviously much has been publicized about the demands from writers and actors, hearing the stories directly from the stories shed a different light in the issues at hand.
For example, Orlando Jones disclosed why he was unceremoniously killed off of the very popular series Sleepy Hallow and the awful treatment that was recieved by its co-lead Nicole Beharie (hint…it has to do with racism). Harold Perrineau shared similar stories from Lost, as he didn’t want his character to be stereotyped and pigeonholed to one singular storyline – he rightfully feels like these concerns led to his writing off of the show. Evan Rachel Wood shared her experience after disclosing her abuse from Marilyn Manson during the #MeToo movement, disclosing the behind the scenes of the infamous “Rose Colored Glasses” music video. Ryan even took SNL to task, by exposing a toxic work environment that promotes recreational drug use and harassment as a means for creating weekly sketches.
All told, Ryan’s book was engaging and shocking. The media has only given the public a sliver of what has actually been happening behind the scenes that led to the Writers and Actors Strike. Ryan exposes a very messy, misogynistic and racist industry that hopes the public can look past the controversy and keep watching their shows and movies without a second thought.