Television drama writer Kimberly Ndombe visited Peddie virtually on February 15, 2021 to describe her career and communicate the importance of embracing identity, pursuing passion, and fighting for social justice.
A graduate of Syracuse University and a Remembrance Scholar, Ndombe began her career writing an episode for Freeform’s family drama, The Fosters. Since then, Ndombe has worked as a staff writer on other shows, such as Good Trouble and Raising Dion, and served as a story editor for the critically-acclaimed webseries Sorry for Your Loss. Currently, she is an executive story editor on NBC’s Chicago Fire and spends her free time pursuing social justice. Ndombe incorporates social action into her writing, striving to tell stories that shed light on important social issues in America.
During her visit, Ndombe spoke about her upbringing as a first generation African-American in the suburbs of New Hampshire. Growing up, she always had a profound love for writing, television, and movies. After graduating, Ndombe’s career began to take shape, as she pursued her interest in television writing while also becoming more comfortable with her identity as an African-American. Ndombe stressed the importance of making connections in order to pave the way for future writing opportunities. She recommended that students think of building a network “as making friends,” emphasizing how collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds led to many opportunities for her.
It never came easy for Ndombe, as committing to this career seemed like a frightening uphill climb. Writing for television was largely unknown to her and very different from her parents’ dreams of Ndombe becoming a lawyer or a doctor. Even as an overachiever, Ndombe had to overcome what all must face when choosing an uncertain path: the fear of failure. Originally a comedy writer, Ndombe bravely changed course and switched to writing drama. She hoped that Peddie students might learn from her example that people can move on from something familiar to pursue areas they are more passionate about. As Ndombe eloquently stated, one should “commit to the journey and not be afraid to fail”.
Peddie’s Interim Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and English and Creative Writing teacher Diku Rogers, who helped organize the event, said she “appreciated Ms. Ndombe’s honesty about turning a creative passion into a profession.” Ndombe demonstrated that pursuing what you love can be tricky at times, but her journey shows how, with hard work, success is possible even in the most competitive and unfamiliar fields.
Following her main visit, Ndombe virtually visited Peddie’s Writing for TV class and discussed her own writing process. She encouraged the students to cut down on scene descriptions that explain the actions and visuals of the scene and “kill our darlings.” Ndombe believes that young television writers, including herself at one point, focus too much on writing the perfect scene description. In her view, dialogue and story matter much more, as the scene description is not seen by anyone other than the crew.
The COVID-19 pandemic that has turned lives and careers upside down over the past year has influenced Ndombe to view ambition in a different light. She encouraged everyone to “make projects that you want to make” since we never know when something disastrous could prevent us from doing what we love. She urged us to write what we are passionate about and incorporate our own interests into our writing. Ndombe embodied this principle herself too, as she lived her dream of writing a science fiction show when writing for Raising Dion, a story based on a comic book about a widow raising her young son that has super-powers.
This idea of “making the projects you want to make” also applies to Ndombe’s desire to tell stories that address contemporary social topics. For example, she wrote for The Fosters, which focuses on a lesbian couple raising their foster family. Outside of writing, Ndombe is heavily involved as an activist, joining the recent Black Lives Matter protests in her pursuit for social justice. When she moved to New York and later to Los Angeles, Ndombe discovered the importance of her identity, something she had overlooked when growing up in a predominantly white suburban neighborhood. Ndombe believes her distinct journey and identity allows her to bring unique ideas to the writers’ room.