By Evette D. Champion
Even at a young age, twin sisters JaNeika and JaSheika James knew they wanted to have careers in media. They both attended and graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree that focused on telecommunications; however, they chose two different career paths.
JaSheika participated in ABC’s Talent Development Production Associate program in Burbank, California. Here, she began writing scripts for several hit television series like Desperate Housewives, Dexter, and Revenge on ABC.
JaNeika, on the other hand, continued her education and attended Syracuse University where she obtained a Master’s degree of fine arts in television, radio, and film. While attending the university, she worked on a project called ‘The #African American Female Influence in Television.” By working on this project, she was able to interview Yvette Lee Bowser, someone who she had admired for a long time.
Although it began as a simple interview, JaNeika would begin working for Bowser in the writer’s room for her show on UPN called Half & Half. After six years working with Bowser, JaNeika would move on and work at ABC Studios and then to VH1 to develop scripts. Soon, she would enroll with her sister in a Writing Intensive course offered by Fox.
Now the sisters are on a staff of 14 writers for one of the hottest television shows out right now, Empire. The girls are very proud to say that they help bring quality programming and entertainment to viewers all over the globe.
Black Enterprise had the opportunity to sit down with JaNeika to discuss her experience working on Empire.
BE: Did your opportunity to work on Empire come about after being finalists in Fox’s Writing Intensive program?
JaNeika: Yes. I was working at VH1 last year in scripted development and I decided to apply for the Fox Writing Intensive. I reached out to our agent and he submitted both of us to the program, but JaSheika at the time had been working on Empire as a script coordinator, so she was already working on the show just not in a staff writer capacity. When we applied to the program, we got in and given that JaSheika had relationships with some people on the show we had a connection there.
Taking part in the program, one of the opportunities you get is to be able to interview for different Fox projects and [the network] offers an opportunity to be financially responsible for your first year on the show. So we had a blessing two fold.
[The program] was a great opportunity because it really prepared us for this opportunity. It was really great to get your ideas out there and really learn, and pitch and be able to put emphasis on other people’s ideas.