Baldwin alum goes from ‘Buffy’ fan to Hollywood career as writer for HBO series

Baldwin alum Alyssa Thorne first became interested in screenwriting while she was in high school.

Izzy Swanson and Leila Usanovic

Baldwin Class of 2010 alum Alyssa Thorne never imagined that she would go from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer to sitting across the table from the people who wrote it as part of her job as a TV writer. 

“I watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer when I was in high school and it was the first thing that I watched where I realized that someone was writing it,” Thorne said. 

So Thorne began researching how screenwriters gain success in Hollywood. Then after college and years of work, Thorne eventually found herself as a writing assistant for HBO’s series The Nevers, where she had a meeting with three of the original screenwriters of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. 

“That was just a huge highlight for me, and I realized this is where I want to be and this is what I want to do,” Thorne said. 

Thorne’s professional journey took her from Emerson College to Los Angeles, where she first worked as an assistant for a company that produces reality TV series. 

She eventually became a writer’s assistant, a job which Thorne said could be stressful at times. 

The writer’s assistant is the one who sits in the writers’ room and takes notes throughout the day, among other things. It’s a tricky job because you can’t just paraphrase — sometimes a writer will come to you and be like, ‘What was that line I pitched for so-and-so on Tuesday last week?’ and you need to have the exact line ready to go,” Thorne said. 

Then, during her seventh year of working as a writer’s assistant, she was hired as a staff writer for The Nevers on HBO. The series follows a group of Victorian women who have supernatural abilities. They must use these powers to fight enemies and succeed in a mission that could change the course of the entire world.

Thorne co-wrote episode 11 of the upcoming season. 

One benefit of being the writer of a specific episode is that the writer gets to participate in rehearsals, which can be really rewarding, Thorne said. 

I really like the process of working collaboratively with people who have so many different skill sets to make something come to life,” she said.

But seeing actors saying lines you have written isn’t as surreal as people might think, Thorne said. 

It’s funny, because the bigger the production is, the less exciting it actually feels. When I would write for student films and small things like that, the pipeline from me writing it to seeing it filmed was a lot shorter, so that was sort of surreal and exciting,” she said.

“With something like The Nevers, by the time we’re shooting, we’ve been through multiple drafts, several rounds of notes from producers and other writers and the network, not to mention already hearing it at the read through with the actors,” Thorne said. 

When we were arranging travel, she told me to buy her a one-way ticket. I knew then that she was fully committed to her path”

— Kim Thorne

Due to how difficult it can be to make it as a screenwriter, many people give up, Thorne said. But she never debated switching career paths. 

Getting established “can be miserable at times, but there’s little moments where you get to go onto set and you see something really cool being shot or you get to have a really great conversation with the director, or you meet another writer who tells you something cool about their career, so you just find the little things and string them together that make you feel like it’s worth your time,” Thorne said. 

Thorne’s seventh-grade language arts teacher, Daniel Shaner, said she demonstrated a dedication to writing even in middle school. 

“At a young age, she had already established a voice and a style that were distinctly her own.  She was able to weave subtle humor and emotion into her work in a way that many people never master,” Shaner said. 

Shaner said he never doubted that Thorne could accomplish her dream of becoming a screenwriter.

“She seemed to have always had the ability and the desire to achieve anything to which she had set her mind. She also had a family and a friend group that supported her completely, and that can be extremely important in maintaining your drive to succeed,” Shaner said.

Thorne’s mom, McAnnulty kindergarten teacher Kim Thorne, said she recognized how serious her daughter was about her writing career when it came time to book her first airline flight to Los Angeles.

“When we were arranging travel, she told me to buy her a one-way ticket. I knew then that she was fully committed to her path,” Kim Thorne said.

Her mother said she originally hoped that her daughter would go into a career with more stability, but Alyssa’s passion for writing outweighed other options. 

“She had a dream, as cliche as it sounds, and I wanted both of my daughters to find what made them happiest,” she said.

Alyssa Thorne said making the decision to move across the country was not a hard one. 

“Everyone from L.A. is from somewhere else, so if your goal is to find people like the people you grew up with, you can,” Thorne said.