‘Wayman Tisdale Story’ Producer on Emmy Win

Veteran film and TV exec Michael Swanson discusses the documentary on the late NBA great and jazz musician.

This movie resonates with audiences because Wayman was a fun, lovable, big teddy bear who loved life, and you could always see that about him no matter what he chose to do. When he was diagnosed with cancer, everyone was shocked, and when he eventually passed away from it, that was even more devastating.

I’ve heard people ask after some of our screenings, “Why did this have to happen to Wayman? He was the nicest guy.” This film resonates because it draws audiences into the intimate world of Wayman Tisdale as he deals with his life’s ups and downs.

TR: How did you feel when got the Emmy nomination and eventually won?

MS: When I found out about our nomination, I was honored, humbled, excited, proud, all at the same time. I knew what that meant for the work, most importantly, and I was just grateful that Wayman’s story got recognized on this level.

Sitting at the Emmy ceremony through all those other categories before best documentary was very nerve-racking. When they said we won, my initial reaction was that for the rest of my life I can be called “Emmy-winning producer Michael Swanson.” [Laughs.] We all shouted, jumped up, hugged everyone on our team, and went up there to get our Emmys. I will never forget that moment.

TR: What’s next for you?

MS: Staying busy. I’m a studio production exec at NBC/Universal, and the shows I cover, Parks and Recreation and Community, begin production soon for their new seasons. So I’m preparing for those shows to start up. And [the film’s director] Brian Schodorf and I are discussing another sports-themed film. Of course I’m always cooking something up with my wife, writer-director Christine. She wrote a wonderful script that will complete our All About You and All About Us movie trilogy.

The Wayman Tisdale Story is now airing on ESPN and NBA-TV and is available everywhere, including the film’s website.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.