Jessica Biel, Nicholas Braun, James Gunn and Octavia Spencer Join Varietys Virtual TV Fest

Variety is pleased to announce programming for its third annual Virtual TV Fest on June 7-9, featuring three days of engaging conversations with the year’s top contending creators, talent and industry executives including Henry Winkler, Octavia Spencer, Robin Thede, James Gunn, Jessica Biel and David Nevins. 

Winkler will be honored with the Variety TV Legacy Award, recognizing his extensive creative achievements in TV storytelling. He will participate in a conversation with Variety TV editor Michael Schneider, celebrating his journey from “Happy Days” to current series “Barry.” 

Spencer, star and executive producer of the Apple TV+ series “Truth Be Told,” joins an exploration into the making of the series which dives into the world of true-crime podcasting. Other panelists include executive producers/actors Ron Cephas Jones, Kate Hudson and creator/executive producer Nichelle Tramble Spellman. 

Thede of “A Black Lady Sketch Show” is featured in an HBO Max variety series roundtable, where creators and talent from variety and sketch series reveal how they develop and produce their projects. Additional panelists include Sam Jay (“Pause With Sam Jay), Aida Rodriguez (“Fighting Words”), Marlon Wayans (“You Know What It Is”) and Ricky Velez (“Here’s Everything”).  

Gunn of “Peacemaker” joins the HBO Max directors session also featuring Antonio Campos (“The Staircase”), Lucia Aniello (“Hacks”), Salli Richardson Whitfield (“Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty”), Reinaldo Marcus Green (“We Own This City”), Jeremy Podeswa (“Station Eleven”) and Hagai Levi (“Scenes from a Marriage”).

Nevins, chairman and CEO of Showtime and chief content officer of Paramount+, will participate in a keynote conversation with Variety co-editor in chief Cynthia Littleton about how he is shaping the new streaming service Paramount+ while simultaneously strengthening the Showtime platform. 

Biel joins her Iron Ocean Productions co-founder Michelle Purple in a Keynote conversation about their collaboration on such projects as “Candy,” “Cruel Summer” and “The Sinner.” 

Additional sessions include a supporting actors roundtable conversation featuring Janelle James (“Abbott Elementary”), Nicholas Braun (“Succession”), Naveen Andrews (“The Dropout”), Kaitlyn Dever (“Dopesick”), Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and Andie MacDowell (“Maid”). 

W. Kamau Bell, executive producer and director of “We Need to Talk About Cosby,” Ry Russo-Young, producer and director of “Nuclear Family,” James Lee Hernandez, executive producer and creator of “The Big Conn” and Joe Litzinger, executive producer of “Life Below Zero” will share how they developed provocative narratives around fact-based storytelling in an exclusive documentary roundtable.

A reality roundtable discussing the genre’s rise to new heights will feature Julie Pizzi, president of Bunim Murray Productions and executive producer of “The Challenge”; Tom Campbell, executive producer of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”; Stephen Warren, executive producer of “We’re Here”; Jack Mizrahi, co-executive producer of “Legendary” and Nneka Onuorah, director of “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.

A “Meet the Makers: Lifetime’s ‘List of a Lifetime’” conversation features director Roxy Shih and actors Kelly Hu, Brenda Lee, Shannon Doherty and Sylvia Kwan. 

Other highlights include a conversation with Mike Darnell, president of unscripted and alternative at Warner Bros. TV, on how he successfully leads long-running reality shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” 

The fest will conclude with the 11th annual A Night in the Writers’ Room programming which will be livestreamed to TV Fest registrants on June 9.  

Amazon Advertising, Apple TV+, CBS Studios, HBO Max and Showtime are premier partners of the Variety Virtual TV Fest. Lifetime, MTV, National Geographic, Snap Inc. and VH1 are supporting partners. The Wall Street Journal is a media partner. 

ABC and Disney Television Studios, AMC, Apple TV+, CBS Studios, Fox, FX, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock, Prime Video, Showtime, UCP, Universal Television and Warner Bros. TV are supporting partners of A Night in the Writers’ Room on June 9. 

Additional programming will be announced soon. Sessions will take place between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. PT daily. Guests may interact in a series of “rooms” including a lobby, exhibition hall, exhibitor booths and theater on the virtual platform. Registration is free, but required for access at

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