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How Matt Williams, the Creator of ‘Roseanne,’ Spends His Sundays


Over the past four decades, Matt Williams has been intimately involved in many of America’s most successful television programs.

He is credited as a writer, showrunner, producer or creator on “The Cosby Show,” “A Different World” and “Home Improvement,” among others. “Roseanne,” which he created, transplanted his family from New York to Los Angeles, where they lived until the Northridge earthquake in 1994. After the earthquake, Mr. Williams relocated to Manhattan with his wife, the actress Angelina Fiordellisi, and their two young children. From then, Mr. Williams lived a bicoastal life, commuting weekly between New York and Los Angeles for almost 20 years as he worked on movies and TV shows.

In 2018, he closed his production company and began living, once again, full time on the East Coast.

“It was really time to make New York City my home again,” he said. “My wife and I especially enjoy Sundays in New York. After all that hustle and bustle of Monday through Saturday, the city sits back and relaxes a little on Sunday, so you can enjoy New York in a different way.”

His first book, “Glimpses: A Comedy Writer’s Take on Life, Love, and All That Spiritual Stuff,” was published this year.

Mr. Williams lives in a three-story townhouse in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan with Ms. Fiordellisi and their black Labrador, Nova.

HUDSON WALK AND TALK My wife and I usually wake up early on Sunday morning, and, over coffee, we talk about our week and what’s happening with our kids and our little granddaughter, who’s 1 year old. Once we’ve completed this weekly ritual, we are out the door. We love to walk, especially on Sundays, and our first walk of the day is through our neighborhood and to the park along the Hudson River. Our black lab, Nova, comes with us. On the way back, we’ll usually grab breakfast sandwiches and maybe that extra cup of coffee at Merriweather Coffee and Kitchen on Hudson Street.

PEOPLE-WATCHING We go back home to read the paper, get caught up on emails or whatever else we have to do. We relax until it’s time to go for our second walk. This is a long walk, without the dog. I moved to New York in October of 1976, and I often tell people that back then you didn’t leave the house without $20 mug money in your pocket. I’m still shocked about the arc from 1976 to today, and how much the city has transformed.

On this walk, we go through different parts of the city: the High Line, the Meat Market, SoHo, the East Village and the Lower East Side. We just walk and walk and walk. That, to me, is the great joy of Sundays in New York. As a writer, there isn’t anything on earth more intriguing than human behavior, so I love walking the streets and watching people.

I’m convinced that if you are a writer, it’s impossible to have writer’s block if you’re a writer in New York City because everywhere you go there’s stories and snippets of dialogue. And all of that is just like priming the well: It gets my mind going, and in these walks, I’m gleaning little snippets of humanity that may one day become part of a novel or short story or something.

HATS, SHOES, SALAD Once back near home, my wife will stop in any shop if they’re selling hats or shoes, if only for a look. Then, we usually end up having lunch somewhere in the West Village. There’s an Italian place on 7th Avenue near our home called Rafele, which is really great. I always start with the melanzane — a miniature eggplant Parmesan — and usually order the pappardelle bolognese or linguine vongole. Angelina orders the cavolfiore salad and always has tonnarelli cacio e pepe. The servers are prompt and polite. And the best part is you can actually carry on a conversation. The restaurant isn’t as noisy as others in the neighborhood.

TV/MOVIE TIME Midafternoon, we’ll either walk around the corner to a movie or watch something at home. We don’t go as often to the movies since we’ve got streaming services, so we may try to find something to watch like “Ted Lasso,” “Shrinking” or a classic film. After a career in TV production, it took me a long time to be able to watch TV and relax. But I’ve been working on this, much to my wife’s delight, and I’ve gotten better at it since leaving the industry.

RECHARGE AND REFILL After the movies, I go to my home office to write in my journal because I have to get down what I witnessed or overheard earlier in the day. Sundays are like filling up for me, and I fill my journal. Nothing structured. I saw a woman walking a dog. She had white sneakers, the dog had a red collar and the dog was prancing.

I find that by the end of Sunday afternoon, my brain and my heart are kind of recharged, and I’m ready to plunge into the week and get into a rhythm of writing, which I do Monday through Saturday in a very structured manner. Sunday, though, is free-form. It’s just plain “What if?” If you think of creativity as water, during the week, you’ve got the pitcher, and you’re pouring the water out. Sunday is about flipping the pitcher up and refilling it for the week.

CONNECTING THE DOTS Cooking is the ideal activity for me as a writer because I find that while I’m cooking, my hands are busy, but my brain is still connecting all those little snippets I’ve heard or observed during the day. While cooking, I will jot down anything that bubbles up without judgment. I don’t ask why I’m writing about that pigeon I saw in the middle of Eighth Avenue poking at this piece of toast so persistently that he was almost run over by a car. It’s just allowing my brain on Sunday to flow, because come Monday morning, my butt is in the chair at 8:30 a.m.

READING AND WINE My wife and I are both voracious readers. After dinner, we will curl up, usually with a glass of wine, and read. I’m currently on a Tana French kick. I’ve been reading her back to back because I just love her voice. I love anything having to do with Ireland. I also just read Kristin Hannah’s “The Women.” I also read a lot of creative nonfiction these days. Hampton Sides is one of my favorite nonfiction writers. I just read Timothy Egan’s “A Fever in the Heartland.”

INTENTIONAL I try to go to bed with some clarity as to my intentions for the week. I write out my intentions in my office. I intend this to be the most productive week of writing I’ve ever had because I have no meetings. This week, I intend to do nothing but spoil my granddaughter and take her to as many places as possible. By setting intentions on Sunday night, I set the ground tone on my expectations. It might not work out exactly as planned, but I’ve at least gotten the compass out and have a sense of where I’m heading for the week.



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