Feb 23, 2021
By Kelby Clark
Aaron Rahsaan Thomas describes his journey from the ViacomCBS Writers Mentoring Program to co-creating CBS’ "S.W.A.T."
Early in his writing career, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas didn’t know how he was going to make a living. When he was selected for the ViacomCBS Global Inclusion Writers Mentoring Program, he found the guidance he needed.
“I had a solid education,” says Thomas, now the co-creator and executive producer of CBS’ S.W.A.T. “But the program provided me with things I didn't learn in school—things writers of color rarely get from the business itself.”
In its nearly two decades, more than 100 emerging diverse writers have graduated from the Writers Mentoring Program, which focuses on helping new diverse voices break into the TV business. As part of the eight-month program, writers develop a new script with the help of an executive mentor. They also participate in a 16-week workshop about the industry, with access to agents, managers, producers, and showrunners.
Many of the program’s alumni have gone on to become executive producers and showrunners on various television series. Before S.W.A.T., Thomas wrote for shows such as Numb3rs, CSI:NY and SouthLAnd, Sleepy Hollow, and The Get Down on Netflix. Now, in addition to running the S.W.A.T. writer’s room—which includes four fellow writing program alumni—he also teaches screenwriting at his alma mater USC.
Thomas spoke with the ViacomCBS Newsroom about how the program helped him and how the S.W.A.T. writers ground the show with real-life issues.
"You're always told as a writer to write what you know, but that's easier said than done when what you know is not represented anywhere."