@story MARLA CANTRELL
@images KAT HARDIN
Seth Plattner belongs in New York City. He knew it long before he moved, when he was still a boy in Fort Smith. His mother once lived there and he listened to her describe the city, the thrum of traffic, the lights like Christmas all year long. On his first visit during high school he toured New York University. When he was a senior he made the decision to attend. “I only applied to NYU [New York University] so quintessentially I was putting all my eggs in one basket. I’m glad I got in because I didn’t have a backup plan.”
His major was English, but his real love was creative writing. He’d dabbled in theater, liked the idea of writing comedy, and decided it might be a good idea to intern somewhere. Like, say, “Saturday Night Live.” “Seth Meyers, who is the head writer now, was just coming in. Amy Poehler was really big then. It was the year they brought in the people who are the key players now. I was there Kristin Wiig’s first year and she’s huge now. I remember when she was on the bottom rung, but everbody knew she was something special. It was also the year Andy Samberg came in as a cast member with his two friends, who were his writing partners. “SNL” was on the cusp, I felt.”
Seth drops the names easily – Meyers, Poehler, Samberg. That year he only wore tennis shoes, so he could run up and down stairs, passing out last-minute changes on scripts riddled with handwritten notes. At the beginning of the week there were thirty skits, by Saturday only eight survived, and those were being altered until just minutes before the actors took their spots on stage.
The writing was quick, pithy, to the point. He loved it. He had a tentative agreement to work at “SNL” after graduation, but when the time came there were no openings. “People hold on to those jobs forever, and why wouldn’t they?” Seth asked.
So Seth kept looking for a place to land. He found it at “ELLE Magazine,” where he works as the assistant to the editor in chief Robbie Myers. He seems to have a knack for showing up when great changes are imminent. “I came into “ELLE” at what I like to call the very end of the glory years, when magazines were abundant, tons of money, they were throwing lavish parties, they were spending every dime and dollar to send editors to Europe to shows,” Seth said. “That was their heyday. But to survive today it’s about becoming a brand. “ELLE” is the magazine, but it’s also the website, the iPad application, it’s a book, it’s our integration into TV. So we’ve done a really good job of branching out to make “ELLE” a name and not just a magazine.”
The TV integration is an MTV reality show, “The City,” that follows those with key roles in the fashion industry and at “ELLE Magazine.” Seth shows up alongside four beautiful, complex women – all driven to succeed, and all determined to get their own way. “What’s on the screen is only a tenth of what goes on in a day,” Seth said. ..”You work in a magazine and people have egos, because people have ideas and they’re cerebral and they want to be heard. ..But drama is what sells, and we do show a lot of drama.”
It’s a big life for the twenty-six-year-old, but not entirely unexpected. “I’ve worked really hard,” Seth said.
As for the crowds in New York, Seth has adjusted. It’s not like he was really ever alone, even in Fort Smith. “I’m a triplet, and in that set I have an identical twin. We were two peas in a pod and had that connection you hear about. I have an older brother, and a step-sister I’ve known since she was a baby, so she’s my sister, you know. And my mom, of course, who’s wonderful. ..The other kids all attended the University of Arkansas and stayed home. I moved on. We’re like that ABC show “Brothers and Sisters,” we get in each other’s business, we fight, but we love each other very much. My mom’s favorite thing is to have us all in the kitchen, all these conversations going on, and her just being able to listen.”
Seth thinks growing up in Fort Smith has helped him succeed. “I’m able to take everything in and process it slower,” Seth said. “It gives me time - not jump the gun. That’s the way we are in the South. ..We keep our wits about us. ..I’m hospitable. I think we all are in the South. I don’t think there’s anybody here who hasn’t found my disposition charming. ..Northerners take to it.”
His editor is encouraging him to write more. “She said I had a light that has been hidden too long,” Seth said. He carries a notebook with him, jotting down thoughts, ideas, sparks from a conversation that could turn into something more. But if he finally sits down to churn out a book, he won’t be looking to New York for inspiration.
His story will be about his hometown, its idiosyncratic residents, and just how interesting life is, away from the big city, a world removed from the engine that keeps New York moving at breakneck speed.
"At my heart," Seth said, "I'm still just a kid from Arkansas."
Catch Seth on MTV's The City.