Remembering the writer and showrunner
ONE OF THE POWERHOUSE creatives of American television, Zack Estrin helped shape many of the most memorable genre series of the 21st century.
Born in Woodland, California, he had the screen in his genes. His father was writer and producer Jonathan Estrin, while mother Patricia was an actress.
Estrin earned his writing stripes on ’90s teen drama Dawson’s Creek before assuming a co-producer role on season two of witchy fantasy Charmed, also scripting such acclaimed episodes as the quirky “Chick Flick” and time travel tale “Morality Bites”.
As supervising producer he worked on 2003’s Miracles, which starred Skeet Ulrich as a supernatural investigator, and Tru Calling, where Eliza Dushku played a morgue worker with the power to relive her days.
While a run on the award-winning Prison Break brought him mainstream success, Estrin always had a penchant for the fantastical. 2005’s Point Pleasant focused on paranormal occurrences in a small New Jersey town while 2010’s No Ordinary Family, created by Arrowverse tsar Greg Berlanti, fused superheroics with domestic drama. The River, meanwhile, explored high strangeness in the Amazon, while Zero Hour chased Dan Brown as it mixed holy relics with global conspiracies.
Estrin was co-creator of 2013’s Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, a fantasy series that riffed on the works of Lewis Carroll. 2015’s The Whispers took on demonic entities and child possession, and saw him work with Steven Spielberg, an experience he compared to “having Picasso or Monet tell you how to hold your brush”. More recently he was showrunner on Netflix’s reimagining of ’60s SF classic Lost In Space, which turned the bright, brash whimsy of the original into something altogether grittier.
“He was funny, kind, and irrepressible in the best way,” said Jane Espenson, paying tribute to her collaborator on Tru Calling and Once Upon A Time In Wonderland. NS
Estrin’s mother Patricia appeared in Freddy’s Nightmares and Kolchak: The Night Stalker.