Summer’s Social Swans, Kim Kardashian’s BFF and the Woman Behind Mad Men

1003_mockup.gifWhere else could you possibly find friends of reality stars (Come on, you can’t expect an A-lister sighting every week) and the last vestiges of Cafe Society all in one room? If it’s Wednesday, at Michael’s, of course. I couldn’t even begin to do justice to the head-spinning scene there today, so I’ll just let the roster of what passes for celebrity sightings these days speak for itself.

I was so excited about today’s lunch, because I was meeting the woman responsible for greenlighting one of my favorite shows, Mad Men. Christina Wayne has had an amazing career  — she also is responsible for getting Breaking Bad on air — and I found her story fascinating. Had it not been for Christina’s spot-on instincts, Matt Weiner’s script, which had been floating around for eights years at that point, might not ever have seen the light of day.  The former AMC senior vice-president of scripted series and mini-series is now president of Cineflix Studios and executive producer of the new BBC America series, Copper — but I’m getting ahead of myself.

A born and bred New Yorker who grew up on the Upper East Side, Christina decided to move back after 12 years in Los Angeles for personal reasons in 2005 (“There was no one left to date!”) and after receiving a call from a friend asking if she’d be interested in working with AMC. Up until that point, the network was pretty much airing nothing but old movies. “I had no idea what AMC was. I thought he was talking about the movie theater chain,” said Christina. Back then, the basic cabler was looking to develop scripted content; Christina signed on as a consultant as the net’s “creative voice,”  but didn’t want to tell her screenwriter friends since, at the time, working in television seemed like a step down and “an embarrassment.”

Diane Clehane and Christina Wayne
Diane Clehane and Christina Wayne

She started by calling everyone she knew in L.A. and wound up with the script for Broken Trail, a huge hit starring Robert Duvall that got the greenlight in eight days. When she read the script for Mad Men on a flight back from Los Angeles, she knew she had something special. AMC wasn’t able to get a studio to pick it up, so the pilot was self-financed for $3.3 million and the rest, as they say, is television history. Without a huge marketing budget, Christina attributes a lot of Mad Men‘s buzz to the nonstop coverage it received in The New York Times who covered the show from every angle possible. “The show was their lovechild,” she said. And still is, I’d say.

After four years of generating commercial and critical successes for what turned into one of the hottest network’s on television, Christina says, “I was seeing a lot of people getting very wealthy, and I took stock and decided I wanted to have more ownership in the shows I worked on.” She found that opportunity at Cineflix Studios where as president, she is responsible for the company’s scripted programming worldwide. Working from the Canadian-based company’s Manhattan offices in Soho, Christina finds herself dealing with talent and executives from all over the world on any given day and loves the creative energy and freedom that allows her to produce groundbreaking television. “I want to work with people with a passion for the business,” she told me. Nice work if you can get it.

Christina tells me she couldn’t be happier about coming back to Manhattan where she and husband her raising their two and a half year old daughter Auden (named for the poet). I’m always curious about how these high powered Gotham goddess do it all balancing careers with the increasing demands of motherhood so I had to ask Christina how she does it. “I’ve got a great nanny,” Christina told me. “She’s the same woman who has been with my daughter since she was born.” Proving my theory that behind every really busy woman is another woman picking up the slack.