If you’re a writer interested in exploring identity, religion, or politics, then you should familiarize yourself with Reza Aslan. For the uninitiated, Aslan is an Iranian-American author, religious studies scholar, and TV host. He’s currently starring in a new show for CNN called Believer. Billed as a spiritual adventure, the new series features Aslan immersing himself in the world’s most interesting faith-based groups to “experience life as a true believer.” I left the cable TV life a long time ago, so I haven’t actually watched this, and I probably won’t until it arrives on a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu.
In the meantime, I’d recommend you check out another show of his that you might have missed last year called Rough Draft:
“Rough Draft with Reza Aslan is a timely and fast-paced talk show about writers and writing. Today’s biggest scribes (screen, television, books and press) sit with Reza for a lively discussion that’s intimate, provocative and always entertaining. Intercut throughout the show are clips of unscripted and exclusive green room footage featuring Reza, the main guest and the evening’s musical guest, all sharing tales over drinks prior to the show.”
What I like most about the series is the rapport between Aslan and his guests. One of my favorite episodes was the one featuring Transparent showrunner Jill Soloway. Although Aslan does get into discussing the writer’s room and process, more importantly, he touches on the larger cultural and social impact that shows like Transparent can have on future generations. Each episode has a musical guest, and a laid back vibe as everyone hangs out in the green room. The exchanges are conversational, personal, informational, and of great insight to any writers interested in writing for television. I’ve embedded my favorite episodes below, but you can watch all episodes of Rough Draft on their YouTube channel.
As a bonus, I’m also including this epic clip where Reza OWNS a stupid Fox News anchor. The lady starts off the interview by basically asking, what business does a Muslim have writing a book on Christianity? This in reference to Aslan’s #1 New York Times Bestselling book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Aslan begins the schooling by laying down the facts: He’s a scholar of religions with FOUR degrees who’s been studying the origins of Christianity for TWO DECADES. The rest is pure gold and a must-watch because the woman refuses to let up on her ignorance. SMH.