Lawyer-turned-writer took 'Practice' to heart

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– Photo courtesy of Marc Guggenheim


Marc Guggenheim is surrounded by the Mirakuru Soldiers from season two of "Arrow," the CW super-hero series where he serves as show-runner.


By Kurt Anthony Krug

Legal News

It was serendipitous that Marc Guggenheim’s first job writing for television was ABC’s “The Practice.”

“I was very lucky that I got staffed on ‘The Practice,’ which was about lawyers practicing law in Boston, which, conveniently, I just spent 5 years doing,” said the 44-year-old Guggenheim.

A 1995 alumnus of the Boston University School of Law and show-runner/executive producer of The CW super-hero series “Arrow,” Guggenheim’s interest writing began in his third year of law school. His younger brother Eric, who was in his senior year of film school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, asked for his help writing a screenplay. 

“I really got bit by the writing bug and decided to keep on with that as a hobby while practicing law. By that point… when I was in my fifth year of practicing law, I really had to fish or cut bait in becoming a partner – or trying to become a partner,” recalled Guggenheim. “At the same time I was 29 – 30 was looming – and the practice of law turned out to be really different from what I expected, mainly the fairness – or lack thereof – in dispute resolution. I thought if I was gonna become a professional writer, I should really do it now while I’m still single… I quit my job and moved out to L.A. to try to make a living as a writer.”

After “The Practice,” Guggenheim wrote for “Law & Order,” “In Justice,” “CSI: Miami,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “Flash Forward,” and “No Ordinary Family.” Two of his more notable projects include “Jack & Bobby” and “Eli Stone.”

Not to be confused with John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, “Jack & Bobby” was a critically-acclaimed political drama that aired on what’s now The CW from 2004-05. Co-created by University of Michigan alumnus Brad Meltzer, “Jack & Bobby” chronicled the lives of two brothers, one of whom would grow up to be the president of the United States from 2041-49. Birmingham native and U-M alumna Christine Lahti played the mother of the titular characters (Matt Long, Logan Lerman).

It was on “Jack & Bobby” that Meltzer and Guggenheim met and became fast friends. In fact, Meltzer’s novels appear on “Arrow.”

“Marc is a double barrel threat since he’s a great writer and one of the nicest guys around. He’s one of the first people I met on ‘Jack & Bobby.’ It was my lucky day to find him,” said Meltzer.

“Eli Stone” was an ABC legal dramedy created by Guggenheim and long-time writing partner Greg Berlanti that aired from 2008-09. In it, Eli (Jonny Lee Miller) is a successful lawyer suffering from an inoperable brain aneurysm who has hallucinations that can be perceived as precognitive visions, making him a modern-day prophet. Eli interprets his hallucinations as signs, helping people in accepting lawsuits with little monetary value but achieving a greater moral good. Grosse Pointe native and U-M alumnus Matt Letscher played Eli’s brother Nathan, a physician.

“It started with the germ of an idea from Greg. It was actually two ideas. He was developing one show about a guy who saw visions… He was also talking about another show about an attorney who was a modern-day prophet because if there was a prophet in modern day, an attorney – whose job is to speak for people – seems to make a lot of sense. Then he hit upon the idea of combining those two concepts. So it’s basically a modern-day attorney who sees visions,” explained Guggenheim.

Today, Guggenheim’s concentrating on “Arrow,” an adaptation of the DC Comics character Green Arrow. “Arrow” is a cross between Robin Hood and Batman as billionaire-playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) fights to keep the fictional Starling City safe. The series returns for a fourth season this fall and its spin-off show “The Flash” returns for a second season. Another spin-off series, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” is the works.

“I am amazed at how successful both shows are. I was just telling Greg today that all of this has exceeded our wildest explanations,” said Guggenheim.

According to Detroit native David Ramsey, who plays Diggle on “Arrow,” the show’s writing is what makes it stand out from other super-hero series.

“It always starts with the writing – always. I think that’s why people ultimately come back. Obviously, the action’s fantastic. I’d like to think the acting’s good, but I know for a fact it’s the writing; it’s what attracted me to the script as an actor. The writing and the storyline keep people coming back – I hear that over and over again,” said Ramsey.

An unabashed comic book fan, Guggenheim is also scripting “Squadron Sinister,” a mini-series tying into Marvel’s “Secret Wars” event, where many alternate universes are merged into Battleworld. The Squadron Sinister is a team of super-villains who are a pastiche of DC’s major characters: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern. In this series, they rule a domain of Battleworld and seek to annex their territory.

“I would describe it as a crime drama. I tried to structure like it was an episode of ‘The Sopranos’ or ‘Sons of Anarchy.’ I wanted it to feel like ‘The Godfather’ with manipulations, twists and turns, and the internal politics of a criminal organization. It just so happens that these criminals have super-powers,” explained Guggenheim. “(It) has a good, solid connection to Battleworld. The politics of Battleworld play a role in the book, but – at the same time, for whatever reason – if you’re not reading ‘Secret Wars,’ I think it’s still very easy to follow. It’s got that connection to ‘Secret Wars’ but it’s not that connection you need to understand it or enjoy the book.”

The second issue ships Tuesday, July 7. The first issue has sold out at Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, stated co-owner Dan Merritt. He hopes to restock it before next week.

“(It’s) started off with a bang,” said Merritt. “Some of my favorite writing of Mr. Guggenheim’s is featured in his creator-owned series ‘Resurrection.’”

Guggenheim gave his opinion on how comic books, a medium that has been looked down upon in the past, have become more accepted in the mainstream.

“I would say it’s probably the result of good execution outside of the comic book industry. When you have someone like Chris Nolan taking on Batman and making these amazing movies, when you have someone as talented as (Royal Oak native) Sam Raimi doing Spider-Man… you’re showing how cool these characters are. And you’re showing them to a much wider audience because more people go to the movies than read comic books,” said Guggenheim.

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