Cord Jefferson

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Cord Jefferson
BornTucson, Arizona, U.S.
OccupationScreenwriter, director, journalist
EducationCollege of William and Mary (BA)
Notable worksAmerican Fiction (2023)
Notable awardsPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Movie
Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award
Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay

Cord Jefferson is an American writer and director. After studying at the College of William & Mary he started a career in journalism and wrote for numerous publications before becoming an editor at Gawker until 2014.

Jefferson transitioned to working as a writer for television. He wrote for the Comedy Central late-night series The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (2015–2016), the Netflix comedy series Master of None (2017), and the NBC sitcom The Good Place (2017–2019).[1] For his work on the HBO limited series Watchmen (2019), he received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Movie. He made his feature directorial debut with the satire American Fiction (2023), for which he received a nomination for Best Picture and won Best Adapted Screenplay at the 96th Academy Awards.

Early life and education[edit]

Cord Jefferson was born in Tucson, Arizona, to a white mother and black father, an attorney. After living outside the United States for several years until Jefferson was about five years old, the family returned to Tucson. His maternal grandfather was shocked by his daughter's choice to marry a black man, and he shut her and his grandson out of his life.[2] Jefferson's parents divorced when he was 14 years old, after his first year of high school. Jefferson graduated from Canyon del Oro High School north of Tucson.

He attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where his father had attended law school.[2] After college, Jefferson lived in Los Angeles and in Brooklyn, New York.[3][4] He also went to NYU business school.[5]

Jefferson's mother died in 2016 of cancer.[4] When his father needed a kidney transplant in July 2008, Jefferson donated one of his, traveling to Saudi Arabia where his father lives.[3] Jefferson wrote a personal essay on the experience, noting that he was treated for atrial fibrillation and that, after surgery, he quit smoking and began to take better care of his health.[2]


2009–2014: Journalism and Gawker[edit]

As a writer, Jefferson got his start in journalism. Among his first jobs were writing for both Stereohyped and MollyGood.[6] He spent two years as an editor at Gawker, from 2012 to 2014. He also wrote for publications including USA Today, Huffington Post, The Root, and The New York Times Magazine.[7]

2014–present: Television work and film debut[edit]

Jefferson started his television career in 2014 as a staff writer for the Starz comedy-drama series Survivor's Remorse before writing for the comedy Central late night series The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore from 2015 to 2016. Jefferson then became a story editor and consulting producer for Aziz Ansari's Netflix comedy series Master of None (2017) and the Mike Schur-created NBC sitcom The Good Place (2017–2019), for which he received Writers Guild of America Award nominations.[8][1] For his work on the HBO limited series Watchmen (2019), he received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Movie for the episode, "This Extraordinary Being". In the middle of 2020, Jefferson worked on a TV series about his time writing for Gawker. He is developing the show for Apple TV+.[9] Later in that year, he signed an overall deal with Warner Bros. TV.[10]

In 2021, Jefferson served as a writer and supervising producer for the HBO limited series Station Eleven. He made his feature directorial debut with the satirical film American Fiction (2023), which won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.[11]



Year Title Role Notes
2023 American Fiction Director, writer, producer


Year Title Role Notes
2014 Survivor's Remorse Staff writer 6 episodes
2015–2016 The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore Writer 196 episodes
2017 Master of None Story editor, consulting producer 10 episodes
2017–2019 The Good Place Writer, story editor, co-producer 25 episodes
2019 Succession Consultant 10 episodes
2019 Watchmen Writer, story editor 9 episodes
2021 Station Eleven Writer, supervising producer Episode: "The Severn City Airport"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Refs
2018 Writers Guild of America Awards Comedy Series Master of None Nominated [12]
2019 The Good Place Nominated
2020 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series The Good Place (Episode: "Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy") Won [13]
Writers Guild of America Awards Drama Series Succession Won [14]
Watchmen Nominated
New Series Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Movie Watchmen (Episode: "This Extraordinary Being") Won [15]
2023 Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award American Fiction Won [11]
Mill Valley Film Festival Breakthrough Directing Won [16]
Audience Award Won
Middleburg Film Festival Audience Award - Narrative Feature Won [17]
Virginia Film Festival Programmer's Choice Award Won [18]
Breakthrough Director Award Won
2024 Academy Awards Best Picture Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Won
British Academy Film Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Won
Critics' Choice Movie Award Best Adapted Screenplay Won
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Film Won [19]
Outstanding Director Won
Outstanding Emerging Director Won
Outstanding Screenplay Won
Outstanding First Screenplay Won
Independent Spirit Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Screenplay Won
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Won


  1. ^ a b "Cord Jefferson". National Endowment for the Arts. February 28, 2020. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "'Watchmen' Writer Cord Jefferson". Fresh Air. August 13, 2020. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Contributor Cord Jefferson". Huff Post. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Jefferson, Cord (November 2, 2014). "On Kindness: My mother is sick". Matter: Medium. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  5. ^ Pond, Steve (November 28, 2023). "How 'American Fiction' Grew Out of Cord Jefferson's Own Experiences of Being Piegonholed as a Black Writer". The Wrap. Retrieved April 5, 2024.
  6. ^ "Cord Jefferson". Eric Pesola. April 7, 2008. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  7. ^ Phillips, David (July 28, 2020). "'Watchmen' Screenwriter Cord Jefferson on the Origin of Hooded Justice". Awards Daily. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
  8. ^ Berkowitz, Joe (May 18, 2017). "From Gawker to "Master": How One Writer Made It to Aziz Ansari's Show". Fast Company. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  9. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (June 17, 2020). "'Watchmen' Writer on Trump in Tulsa, Bad Cops, and America's White Supremacy Problem". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
  10. ^ Spivey, Kemberlie (November 12, 2020). "'Watchmen' Writer Cord Jefferson Inks Overall Deal With Warner Bros. Television". Forbes. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Hammond, Pete (September 17, 2023). "'American Fiction' Wins Toronto Film Festival's People's Choice Award – Oscar Harbinger?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
  12. ^ "Writers Guild Awards Winners & Nominees: 2019-2013". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on May 30, 2019. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  14. ^ "2020 Writers Guild Awards Nominees & Winners". Writers Guild of America. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
  15. ^ "Watchmen". Television Academy. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  16. ^ Anderson, Erik (October 17, 2023). "'American Fiction,' 'Rustin,' 'The Taste of Things,' 'Radical' Win 46th Mill Valley Film Festival Audience Awards". AwardsWatch. Retrieved December 3, 2023.
  17. ^ Davis, Clayton (October 23, 2023). "Cord Jefferson's 'American Fiction' Wins Audience Award at Middleburg Film Festival". Variety. Retrieved December 3, 2023.
  18. ^ Cary, Cal (October 28, 2023). "'American Fiction' attracts audience — and an award — at Virginia Film Festival". The Daily Progress. Retrieved December 3, 2023.
  19. ^ Complex, Valerie (December 15, 2023). "Black Reel Awards Nominations: 'The Color Purple' And 'Rustin' Dominate". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 16, 2023.

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