Moorestown's Dana Calvo returns to newsroom roots in Amazon's 'Good Girls Revolt'

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Executive producers Dana Calvo attends the Amazon 2016 Summer TCA Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 7, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Amazon Studios)

BEVERLY HILLS - Moorestown's Dana Calvo has wanted for a long time to bring a newsroom story to television.

The story the reporter-turned-TV-writer (Narcos, Made in Jersey) tells in her new Amazon series, Good Girls Revolt, has waited longer.

Inspired by Lynn Povich's book The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, the 10-episode season premiering Friday on the streaming service picks up toward the end of the Mad Men era.

It's December 1969. A free concert at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California has turned deadly. Patti Robinson (Genevieve Angelson) has a lead on an angle that could put her news magazine ahead of the competition, and, like any good reporter, she's willing to do whatever it takes to get the story.

Patti, though, isn't a reporter, even if she's doing the work of one.

Along with the rest of the college-educated, all-female research staff at Calvo's fictional News of the Week, Patti's blocked from a job that's open only to her male peers - who get the bylines, the attaboys, and the paychecks that, the women will eventually learn, are three times the size of theirs.

"The women were making $7,000 a year, and the men were making $20,000, $21,000 a year," said Calvo.

A graduate of Moorestown Friends School and Swarthmore who reported for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times before changing careers, Calvo has blended some of the facts of Povich's story with mostly fictional characters, portrayed by a cast that includes Anna Camp (The Good Wife), Jim Belushi, Chris Diamantopoulos (Silicon Valley), Erin Darke, and Hunter Parrish (The Following).

Appearing as the only two historical figures are Grace Gummer (Mr. Robot), who guest stars as Nora Ephron - the writer and director worked at Newsweek early in her career - and Joy Bryant (Parenthood) as lawyer Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represented the women of Newsweek in their 1970 discrimination complaint.

Writing after Ephron's death in 2012, New York Times columnist Gail Collins called her "an excellent life lesson for some of the people who have been insisting for the last 90 years that feminists are dour and wear unattractive clothes."

The same could be said for Good Girls Revolt, which signals, with a newsroom tryst at the beginning of the pilot, that it won't let gender politics get in the way of a good time.

Norton, who went on to become the first woman to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and who has represented the District of Columbia in Congress since 1991, had a request for her character, Calvo said.

"I said, 'We're going to go home with her, and we're going to just invent stuff.' But we want to show this human side of a pregnant African American woman in her late 20s with a high-stakes case. And she said something to me that was just so moving.

"She said, 'I'm a very powerful woman. Some people even say I'm angry, but every woman has a soft side, and I'd love you to show that.' . . . So we did."

Calvo got her start in television working on Aaron Sorkin's 2006-07 series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (she and Sorkin were introduced by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, whom Calvo has described as a mentor).

Before beginning work on Good Girls, she wrote for Netflix's international hit Narcos, where her experience reporting on immigration and drug trafficking on the U.S.-Mexican border was an asset.

"I was an upper-level Spanish-speaking female who had experience covering narco-trafficking," she said, laughing. "If I can't get that job, I'm really in trouble."

The events of Good Girls Revolt predate Calvo's reporting career by decades, but the attitudes that precipitated those events weren't unfamiliar.

In 2003, "I was an award-winning journalist at the L.A. Times," when her then-fiancé, also a reporter at the paper, was transferred.

"I was encouraged to pack us up and resign my staff job and move to Houston, [where] he could be a national reporter. And a female editor pulled me into her office. At the time, I was 32, and she was 10 or 15 years older, and she said, 'This would never have happened to a man. Ever.' "

Hollywood's not exactly in the forefront of feminism, but Good Girls Revolt is doing its bit to change things there, too.

"The amount of pride I would feel to go into video village [where camera feeds are monitored on the set] and see a female director, a female first [assistant director], a female executive producer, a female writer, and all these key department heads who are women - it's meaningful," Calvo said.

"I'm so grateful. It's landed. It's about women. It's about something important. And it's still really entertaining. And then I get to showcase how fun it is to work in a newsroom."

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