‘China Beach’ Creator Was 75 – Deadline


John Sacret Young, the writer, producer, director and author behind China Beach, The West Wing and Firefly Lane, died on June 3 in Brentwood, California. He was 75.

Young passed away following a ten-month battle with brain cancer, a spokesperson for his family confirmed.

Born on May 24, 1946, he began his work in TV as a researcher on Police Story, embedded with the LAPD, subsequently going on to write three scripts for the series. Shortly thereafter, he adapted Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War into a CBS miniseries, thereby earning his first Writers Guild Award.

For his work as the co-creator, executive producer and showrunner of ABC’s Vietnam War chronicle, China Beach, which examined the experiences of American combat nurses, Young was honored with five Emmy nominations, as well as four WGA noms, claiming the WGA Award for Episodic Drama for the 1990 episode “Souvenirs,” which he also directed. During its four-season run, the series also won numerous other awards, including a Peabody, a People’s Choice Award and a Golden Globe.

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On China Beach, Young mentored many young writers, directors, producers and crew members, taking pride in particular in elevating women’s careers behind the camera.

Following China Beach, Young worked on projects including Keys, VR.5, Orleans, Thanks of a Grateful Nation, Sirens, King of the World, Level 9, and The West Wing. For his contributions to the latter drama from Aaron Sorkin, as a writer and producer, he was met with two more nominations from the Television Academy and the Writer’s Guild. His most recent series was Netflix’s Firefly Lane, which he wrote and co-produced for Netflix.

On the film side, Young wrote and produced the Academy Award-nominated Testament, starring Jane Alexander and Kevin Costner, as well as the 1989 drama, Romero. As an author, he is remembered for his memoir Remains: Non-Viewable, a Los Angeles Times bestseller centered on his cousin Doug’s death in Vietnam in 1969. His other works in this domain include 1982 novel, The Weather Tomorrow and art world memoir Pieces of Glass – An Artoir, as well as introductions and essays for various publications, including the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. His final book, Pieces of Tinsel, about his experiences in Hollywood will be published posthumously next year.

Young was also a Visiting Professor at Princeton University and Claremont McKenna College, frequently lecturing at USC, UC Santa Barbara and the Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton Presidential Libraries. He served on the boards of the Firestone Library at Princeton, the Humanities Prize, the Burchfield Penney Art Center and the Writers Guild Foundation.

Young is survived by his wife, Claudia Sloan; his brother, Mason and his wife, Beth Gragg; his sister-in-law, Denise; his children Jacy Levine, Jake Young and Julia Young-Cruise, and their mother Jeannette Penick; his son Riley Young, and his mother Colleen McCormick; his children’s spouses, Josh Levine, Liz Wimberly-Young and Daisy Young-Cruise; his grandchildren, Evie Levine, Zora Levine and Archie Young, and numerous writers he mentored over the course of his career.

Donations to the Writer’s Guild Foundation can be made in Young’s name by clicking here.

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