TV Producer Yahlin Chang speaks to EMPOWER club

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Producer and writer Yahlin Chang spoke with members of women’s equality club EMPOWER about her experience working on the show “The Handmaids Tale” on Nov. 18. The event was hosted virtually by club leaders Maddie Boudov ’21 and Olivia Smith. ’21. Photo Credit: Ava Fattahi

Ava Fattahi

The EMPOWER Club hosted a virtual Q&A session featuring TV writer and producer Yahlin Chang (Leo ’24), who answered students’ questions about her Golden Globe Award-winning show, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” on Nov. 18.

Chang graduated from Yale University magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa before interning and eventually writing for Newsweek magazine. Since starting in the TV industry in 2000, Chang has worked on programs including “ER,” “Supergirl,” “Shades of Blue” and “Ed.”

EMPOWER Club co-leaders Maddie Boudov ’21 and Olivia Smith ’21 asked Chang several questions about how women are portrayed in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” as well as her thoughts about women’s rights in 2020.

“[Chang] is a really inspiring woman and her work on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is super engaging to myself and many members of our club, as we are big fans of the show,” Boudov said. “It was so cool to hear a woman in the entertainment industry who is a writer on a show like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ tell such a powerful, challenging story for women about gender roles.”

During the event, Boudov and Smith introduced Chang, asked her questions and hosted a Q&A session. 27 people were in attendance, including students, teachers and parents.

Chang’s career path

In response to the questions, Chang spoke on topics such as her writing process, women’s lives in 2020, feminism in the show, the recent election and the process of adapting the series from its original book form.

Chang talked about the power of networking during her visit and how making connections provided her with the opportunity to work on “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“The creator of the show, Bruce Miller, is someone I met in 2002,” Chang said. “We were both lower-level writers on this show called ‘ER.’ He was a very kind guy. In 2016 I saw a news article about him in Vanity Fair and the buzz around the show. I congratulated him on the show’s success over Facebook.”

Later, the two met over coffee, and Miller told Chang that he had an open spot for a writer on the show. Chang reflected on the power of relationships and being kind to all in the entertainment industry.

Chang spoke about starting her career as a reporter and how it felt to transition to a writer and producer.

“When I graduated college, I became an intern at Newsweek magazine,” Chang said . “I was a fact-checker at first and made my way to becoming a reporter. I always wanted to be on the other side. I didn’t want to be critiquing work; I wanted to be part of creating something. I always loved TV. Growing up, my family would watch soap operas, and as I got older, I watched hour-long dramas, and I loved how you could get to know characters every week with new episodes.”

Chang’s views on women’s rights

Boudov and Smith also asked Chang about how she feels about women’s rights under the Trump administration.

“While we were writing the show, the Kavanaugh hearings were happening,” Chang said. “During those hearings, women all over the world were having ‘Handmaid-style’ protests. It was all incredibly symbolic and humbling for us as creators of the show. There are fan Facebook groups that as writers, we check out every once in a while. On those pages, women share stories about their lives that are so incredibly frightening, and to hear their stories is shocking yet helpful in the process.”

Chang said she also noticed some similarities between the story in the show and present-day America.

“There are many parallels between the country and the show, such as separating children from their parents and limiting reproductive rights,” Chang said. “The trauma brought upon these children is unforgettable, and it’s ridiculous that the American government continues to do this.”

Asha Haley ’23 is a fan of Chang’s work and said that by attending the meeting, she hoped to learn more about the show and ask questions.

“Hearing from Yahlin Chang was an amazing experience,” Haley said. “‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is a classic, so I was very excited to meet her. Her stories about the show and her own life were so inspiring.”