Q&A: Kay Oyegun on her journey from The Pitt News to 20th Century Fox

Kay Oyegun, a writer and producer on “This Is Us” who has been with the show since the first season, signed a deal last year to continue writing for 20th Century Fox.

Image courtesy of Kay Oyegun

Kay Oyegun, a writer and producer on “This Is Us” who has been with the show since the first season, signed a deal last year to continue writing for 20th Century Fox.

By Sinead McDevitt, Senior Staff Writer

Katherine “Kay” Oyegun signed a deal last year to continue writing for 20th Century Fox. A writer and producer on “This Is Us” who has been with the show since the first season, Oyegun has several upcoming projects, including an adaptation of “Children of Blood and Bone” with Lucasfilms and 20th Century Fox.

Oyegun spoke with The Pitt News about her journey from covering local Pittsburgh goings on to writing scripts in Los Angeles. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Pitt News: What was your experience like at the University of Pittsburgh and working at The Pitt News?

Kay Oyegun: Very normal, regular. It was good. I started out as a bio major, which was a silly notion that I had. I was going to be a doctor. And that didn’t turn out well, for the first semester. But I always wrote, and so I pivoted to communications with a focus in journalism. At that time, there was an opening in The Pitt News and I had never written formally for paper before. So I remember Andy [Medici] was the [news] editor at that time, and so I just went to him. He hired me and then I started writing. I was learning during the day, writing at night, like a superhero, it was great.

TPN: What desk did you write for?

KO: I was sort of the local beat. Every kind of demonstration, anything that was happening in the City. Whenever we did the cancer walk, I covered that. We did this homeless thing, I covered that. Whenever we would have court cases, I covered those. Anything that required me to be out and about in the street. I just sort of wanted to cover anything that felt active.

TPN: What did you do immediately after graduation? What was the first stop?

KO: I ended up graduating with two degrees, a minor and a certificate. I was supposed to graduate with literally everyone I knew in 2009, but I took a semester off. I wanted to get real-world experience. That was my junior year. I lived in New York the entire fall and I worked in the sort of main desk at CBS, and while I was there, Obama was elected president. And so I was like, “Oh, I want to be in news. I love actual live broadcast. This is what I really, really enjoy.” So I came back to Pitt, added a bunch more courses, added the marketing degree and then I continued to work.

Before I graduated, there was an NBC News Associate Program that I was told about. While I was applying, I covered the G20 when it came to Pittsburgh, and that article that I had done helped get me an interview in New York at NBC News. I went to New York, I interviewed, I felt wildly unprepared because this was at 30 Rock at the time, and I ended up getting the job. I ended up getting a news associate position for Nightly News. So literally, I had that job before I graduated Pitt. And the day I graduated, I went to one graduation, because there were a bunch of different schools I was graduating from, so I just picked the one with the least amount of people. Then I went to that graduation and then moved to New York the next day.

TPN: Then how did you end up writing for television like, “This is Us” from being in the news?

KO: Yeah I worked for Nightly News first, and that was great, then transitioned to the weekend Today Show, and while that was happening, Comcast bought NBC and things sort of changed, and I was like, “I don’t know if this is what I want to do forever.” I covered the TSA pat downs, where everyone was scared that they were going to get cancer from the machines, I covered the Chilean miners when they were there, I covered a lot of court cases, again, I did a lot. The Ground Zero mosque, when there was sort of the rise of Islamophobia and attacks and all that stuff. I was out there, doing those kinds of stories. And I was like, “Oh man, I’m like 20” — I think it was like 23 at the time. I was a little bit burnt out, just because it’s my schedule was basically 24/7, so I was like, “You know what, I think I want to do something a little bit different.”

I didn’t know quite what that was going to be and my brother suggested I go to grad school for film school because I started writing. I started teaching myself, basically. I’d read a bunch of scripts, and then I started writing, but on my own time. What ended up happening, I got into the USC for their film school program, and then I asked my boss in New York if I could get transferred out to “The Today Show” in Los Angeles, and she was like, “Sure.” So I ended up moving to Los Angeles, going to grad school and working for The Today Show at the same time before transitioning fully to grad school. Then, I started interning, and was hired as an assistant at places like Fox Searchlight, BBC, ABC, and I was writing all the time. At this point, now I’m physically working at production companies working in studios, as an assistant and I’m reading scripts every day, I’m reading scripts, I’m learning scripts, I’m writing scripts. I don’t think I approach anything the way I used to. I was a very intense young person. I’m aware of that now, before I thought it was perfectly fine, but now I’m like, “What? What were you trying to accomplish?” But I wrote like crazy, like I wrote a lot. And I would write and then I would like throw things away, I would start over again and all that kind of stuff.

All of that is to say, going from being an assistant to production companies, being an assistant on shows, I ended up writing a couple of things that got me represented. Then the things that I wrote got me a staffing job. My first staffing job was on “Queen Sugar,” which is on OWN, and then after that first season was done, I needed another staffing job, so I wrote something else. That got me over to 20th [Century Fox], and then got me a meeting at “Pitch,” which was a show that Dan Fogelman, who created “This Is Us,” created a couple of years ago. While I was meeting with him, we pivoted in our conversation to “This Is Us,” and then I got hired on “This Is Us” the first season, and I’ve been there ever since.

TPN: So do you have any advice for students who may be interested in entering the news industry or the film and television industry?

KO:  I wouldn’t say advice, because I think everyone is inundated with advice. I can only tell you what I did do, and when it came to news, I interned. If you want to get into broadcast, I would say go to a news station, intern at a news station. If you want to get into cable news, go intern there and learn what that space is like. Because the truth of the matter is, it’s a completely different ecosystem and they tend to hire people with experience in that ecosystem. That’s literally what I did. God only knows what life is like in 2021, but it’s just one of those things where it’s like, put yourself out there and get the experience. That’s not really advice. It’s just sort of like, if there’s an opportunity, go take advantage of it.

Then as far as getting into TV, as wonderful a writer as you are, or want to be, continue to write, continue to perfect that, but the best way to get into TV, honestly, is to work in TV. There are production companies everywhere, they’re always hiring interns and assistants. There are agencies everywhere that are always hiring interns and assistants. There’s studios everywhere that are always hiring interns and assistants. And again, these jobs are not jobs that are necessarily posted on LinkedIn. You have to begin that process by getting your foot in the door in that other area so you can make that transition. It’s a much cleaner transition than just being like, “I’m such a good writer, I’m so brilliant, someone’s going to pay me lots of money to write the next whatever.” It’s best for you to be as prepared as possible by learning as much as you can, and then making sound, hopefully prayerful choices.