Theatre instructor to take
television back to 'The '70s'
NBC miniseries script draws on Kansan's memories
by Julie Sachs

Photo by Kelly Heese/University Relations
Kevin Willmott, KU theatre and film instructor, feels at home with '70s-era
memorabilia. He and his writing partner developed the screenplay for an
upcoming network miniseries.

When Kevin Willmott, KU theatre and film instructor, was first approached by NBC to write the screenplay for the network's upcoming miniseries "The '70s," Willmott had to decline­­he and his writing partner, Mitch Brian, were busy working on a script for Oliver Stone.

But NBC was persistent, and the duo eventually agreed. Willmott, a Junction City native who now lives in Lawrence, and Brian, a Hutchinson native who lives in Fairway, both write independently, but also have collaborated for the past six years on screenplays, including previous work for NBC.

The network wanted the miniseries to cover certain themes and to center on a group of friends that would include a model/disco queen and a media type. However, the development of characters to highlight the tumultuous decade was up to Willmott and Brian. One of the characters, Dexter Young, was based on Willmott's own experiences as a civil rights and peace activist in the 1970s and 1980s.

Through the diverse cast of characters, Willmott tries to portray different elements of the 1970s.

"Each one embodies a type of person at that time," Willmott said.
The script focuses on some of the decade's biggest events, ranging from Watergate to Jonestown-like cults. The story begins at Kent State, where the group of friends is studying.

Each half of the two-part miniseries has its own underlying theme, Willmott said. The first half focuses on the Vietnam War and the Nixon years. The second part is post-Nixon, when, Willmott said, many people were experiencing their own identity crises.

"After Nixon resigned, people felt they could relax.... In the second half [of the 1970s], all people really wanted to do was party," Willmott said. "This led to an identity crisis that would be responded to in the '80s."

Although music will be integral to some moments of "The '70s," Willmott said that the series does not focus on music as much as the miniseries "The '60s" did.
"Our story is far more complicated than 'The '60s' story was," Willmott said.
"The '70s" airs at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 30, and Monday, May 1, on NBC.

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April 28, 2000
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