On my first day as the digital lead for a legacy media publication, I got to work so early I was forced to sit outside my locked office for 30 minutes until someone, mercifully, came and let me inside.
On Patrick Duchand's first day at Scarlet, he crashed his bicycle into a car door carelessly thrown open by his brand's best-known reporter and took a header into the street.
Suffice it to say, the real world and the "real world" as presented on Freeform's The Bold Type are not totally comparable. But never has a show captured -- or even attempted to wrestle with -- what it's like to run the digital arm of a legacy media company like Entertainment Weekly (where I once worked) or Cosmopolitan (on which Scarlet is based). It's a niche lane, but one I call home: as the head of a dot com, now and in the past, watching the small battles that happen daily for Patrick as head of The Dot Com (always a proper noun) for Scarlet magazine lets me feel seen.
"Patrick is a complicated guy. He's in a leadership position, he has a lot on his plate," actor Peter Vack, who plays Patrick, told me in a recent interview. "I think some people see Patrick as a villain and that is sometimes what happens when someone comes into a new environment with a strong sense of themselves and a strong sensibility. They can ruffle feathers. But it was always my intention to not come from a place of malice. Patrick is sometimes unintentionally aggressive but it never comes from a place of anger, it only comes from a place of excitement for him. Sometimes people like that don't know when they're bulldozing over other people, and they still do. But if he ever is that way, he's not aware of it."
Since his auspicious entrance, Patrick has butted heads with various members of Scarlet's masthead, most notably Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens), the magazine's star reporter, and Jacqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin), the brand's editor-in-chief. From the jump, the response to him has been hostile. "I don't write for The Dot Com," Jane famously told him on that first day. "Unless Jacqueline asks for something specifically for digital." Jane's passive-aggressive battles with Patrick have continued throughout the season, with Jane never fully trusting Patrick, even as the biggest story of her career -- a deeply reported takedown of a fashion photographer who abused her models -- ended up being published first on the Scarlet digital site after almost being scooped by another outlet.
"What Jane might not understand is that Patrick sees her as a great talent and a huge asset. So he wants to nurture her," Vack said of his character's contentious relationship with Jane. "That's another thing that makes the relationship fun. I want to nurture her work and support her but I might not know the ways I rub her the wrong way and she is overly focused on those. Even though she finds me to be a problematic person in the workplace, Patrick really sees her as one of the most important staff members at Scarlet. Sometimes people who challenge you bring out the best of you."
Places can too. As the former head of a dot com at a legacy publication like the one portrayed on The Bold Type, the thing that kept me up most at night was knowing I had been entrusted to uphold the sanctity of the brand, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because while the print product took up most of the staff's time (often, to be fair, with good reason, as both the editing and packaging of stories earmarked for the magazine were more rigorous than for a typical online piece), most readers interacted with the brand via its digital footprint -- and that never stops moving. More difficult: while internal debates between print and digital happened almost regularly (Jane's "I don't write for The Dot Com" is the realest of reals), people who engaged with the content never even saw a difference between the two, nor did they really care. If an article was deemed offensive or incorrect, it was an article produced by the brand -- not the website or magazine. It's a responsibility that often felt impossible to uphold; like being the property manager for a multi-million dollar mansion -- it's not yours, but you better make sure nothing goes wrong.
None of that internalized struggle is played out on screen for Patrick, but Vack said it is something he considered often in his job as an actor. "Patrick, when I'm playing him, he does have an awareness [of being a steward for the brand]. There's an energy of being young, having a lot of power, and knowing that you were hired to go against the grain -- but when you do land in that situation, it still feels like going against the grain. You're going to come up against personalities who might not want you to do the thing you are there to do," he said. "That creates a very exciting energy as an actor to play with. I do have a sense of how important the job is in the world of the show with everything we do. And that's part of what makes the character so enlivening to play."
Vack, 32, has appeared in numerous films and television shows (in addition to The Bold Type, his busy 2019 has included a supporting role in the Netflix film Someone Great as well as an appearance in the Amazon comedy Brittany Runs a Marathon, out later this year), but has never worked in a journalism setting before. "But I do have friends who work in this world. One of my friends is an editor of a magazine and another one of my friends works in a creative director capacity. I was definitely thinking of their personalities when I auditioned," he said, adding that most, if not all, of the authenticity on The Bold Type comes from the show's whip-smart writing staff. "When you have good writing, you don't have to do so much research as an actor." (Vack has not met Joanna Coles, the former editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan and executive producer on the show; in real life, Coles resigned as Hearst's chief content officer last year after Hearst, which publishes Cosmopolitan, hired a digital-first president to run the company.)
The Bold Type wrapped up its third season by having Patrick land the biggest story of his short career, one built on the back of the magazine's hard work. It was a familiar outcome for journalists in this modern age, where the speed of digital publishing will always defeat the printing press to market -- even if the allure of print remains more appealing to writers because it fosters an intimate relationship with a reader who isn't distracted by dozens of other open tabs. What happens next remains to be seen, but the show has been renewed for Season 4 and if Coles' own story is any indication, the future of Scarlet might find Vack with an even larger role to navigate going forward -- especially with Jacqueline seemingly overthrown by the board in the Season 3 finale. So, how does he view digital journalists now that he's played one on TV? "I imagine them all working in an office that looks exactly like the one on The Bold Type and wearing the same costumes," he said. "So, I know what it's like now. Hire me! I hope this interview can do double duty. Maybe I can get this job in real life."
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