Charles “Chic” Eglee ’70 remembers the year he went away to Williston. The Beatles’ “Revolver” album had just been released, and it rocked his world. In fact, many of his memories of Williston hinge on the music of the late ’60s— that, and the growing activism on campus around the Vietnam War. A studious kid, Mr. Eglee learned to channel his wit and became a writer and producer for TV shows and Netflix series such as “The Shield,” “Dexter,” and “Hemlock Grove.” Jefferson Airplane. The Grateful Dead. Somebody in the room next door to me was playing “Are You Experienced?” and I walked by and stuck my head in. We all stood in the doorway staring at the record player going, ‘What the f— is this?’ Nobody had ever heard music like this before. The music sounded so original and subversive. That was a great memory of that time.
Can you describe the dorm culture?
The one year I lived in the dorm, which was John Wright House, that was an incredibly kinetic year musically. Jimi Hendrix’s first album came out, The Doors had just come out. The Velvet Underground. To me, I just remember the dorm being essentially a musical environment. There was this kid from Virginia and he was a big Motown head and he always had Motown playing. The Summer of Love happened my junior year.
What at Williston inspired or influenced the career you have now?
I was studying constantly. I had lots of papers to write. It gave me a work ethic. I went to Yale and it was like, ‘Oh a 10-page paper, oh no big deal.’ I had written a hundred of those. The academic discipline that I brought from Williston served me very well in college.
Who were you as teenager?
I remember becoming very political my senior year. The Vietnam War was coming to the fore. In Easthampton, whenever anybody from Massachusetts was killed in Vietnam, they would toll the church bells. I just remember walking around and it seemed like it was endless that the church bell would be tolling. That war just loomed over the campus…That war, man, you had to be there. It was the thing that shaped my generation more than anything.
What are you working on right now?
After a very long run on “The Shield,” I worked on “Dexter” for a couple of seasons, and then I went in to set up “The Walking Dead.” Then I went to Netflix on a show that they had which was the first venture into a regular series. They had this show that had premiered and it was just a disaster. It was a genre show and by episode four everyone had deserted the tent. They needed someone to come in and fix it. I had not been on a fix-it mission before. The show was called “Hemlock Grove.” There were no TV people involved. Nobody knew how to do a TV show. I got the show up and functioning the second year. We earned back the good will of the critics and then got the audience back. And then this last year really had a lot of fun. We got to shoot off all the fireworks at once. That drops in October.
What makes for a good show?
It’s really about storytelling. The great thing about TV is there’s this remarkable alchemy that takes place when you’ve got actors, and writers and this sort of synergistic exchange. The show becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Are you going to resonate in the zeitgeist? Are you going to hit that thing that makes it special? I’ve had the good fortune of having that happen a few times in my career. “The Shield” was one of those shows. That show was really pretty wonderful for me. You look at a show like “Breaking Bad,” and that’s where the writers and the material and the actors, it just took off. It was smartly conceived. There’s a certain ‘lightning in a bottle’ quality to a good TV show.