EXCLUSIVE: 'Dora the Explorer' Writer Maria Escobedo on Being Latina in the Industry

Inspiring Latina: Dora the Explorer Writer

Maria Escobedo has been a writer for over a decade, penning scripts for well-known shows like Dora the Explorer and Grey’s Anatomy. We spoke to the amazing Latina about her career in the industry and her mission to nurture new talent through the Rising Creators Project.

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How did you get your start in the industry? Tell us your story.

I am from New York, and I was born and raised in Washington Heights. I never really thought of being the writer. I went to the High School of Art and Design, and that’s where I discovered creative writing and photography and drawing. Eventually, that led me to film school at the School of Visual Arts in NYU. Out of there, I wrote an independent film, and it did great on the festival circuit. People that watched the film said, ‘You should think about TV because your characters are great and your stories are very character driven and TV is all about character.’ I ended up writing specs, which I didn’t even realize that is what you had to do to get into TV writing. I submitted one of those to the Disney writing fellowship, and that’s what led me to California. That is how I landed at Grey’s Anatomy. We had a writers strike after I had moved my family out here and a friend of mine told me about an opening at Dora the Explorer and because that’s a different guild they weren’t on strike so I did that. I got the job and that is what sort of start of the cycle of me working a lot in children’s animation. From there I sold a pilot to Nickelodeon and I ended up writing a Disney Channel movie as well as Lifetime movie and then wrote on a lot of kid shows. It’s definitely been interesting.

What’s it like for you being a writer for shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Dora the Explorer?

I was also a writer on East Los High, which is a kids show in a way because they are teenagers and they are making lots of mistakes. But at the same time, we are giving them the best tools to get through them and in essence that is what we are doing with all the kid shows I have worked on. We are letting them enjoy themselves and enjoy their time being kids, but giving them some tools help them. Whether it’s emotional issues and helping them understand how to cope with it or just tools to help them grow.

What’s it like for you to be part of the creative process for the shows that you have worked on and continue to work on?

I feel blessed in some ways, because I have been lucky enough to work on some shows that really do make a difference. I feel in some cases that I am just enjoying the ride because I wasn’t the creator of some of these shows. That’s the interesting thing about being a writer that jumps into a show because you give as much as much you can. You really participate in a way where it’s not just about your script but you also contribute to the overall story and all of the episodes. The episodes might have a little bit of your voice because all of us writers are in room together and discussing things. The newest show I’m working on, Nina’s Worldon Sprout is also about an abuelita voiced by Rita Moreno and the writer’s room is actually in Canada but I’m in L.A. I am pitching stories from my computer via Skype so it is kind of fun because you are not there but you are there. You are hearing other people’s ideas and you are giving your opinion on that and helping others to grow.

What inspires you when you are writing a script?

There are so many different places that inspiration can come from. I love books, so I love to look at my daughter’s old children’s books. I love the picture books and the storybooks. As I read, I get ideas, and I think of it even from spending time with my daughter. Even though she is older, there are still things we talk about or we do that we think back on her childhood. Average people who are writing get inspiration too from those things and while they might brush them off to me those are the gold nuggets.

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