Fall 2022

Beattie is a self-proclaimed wheelchair fanatic and motocross athlete.

Katherine Beattie Breaks Down Barriers

From plotting TV crime to landing wheelchair backflips, the NCIS producer is on a roll.

When Katherine Beattie ’08 set out to forge a path in Hollywood, she dreamed more about seeing her name in the credits of a TV series than of becoming a disability advocate. Before her 30th birthday, she’d done both.

By the time NCIS: New Orleans wrapped up its seven-year run in May 2021, Beattie had risen through the ranks to become one of the show’s producers.

Screenwriter / producer Katherin Beattie in her backyard in Altadena, CA.

Screenwriter and producer Katherine Beattie has plans to turn her Altadena, California, backyard into her own skate park.

Along the way, she won the Evan Somers Memorial Award from the Writers Guild of America West for on-screen representation of people with disabilities and for creating more opportunities for the disability community within the entertainment industry.

Beattie, who was born three months prematurely, has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. The disorder, which primarily impacts her legs and arms, causes muscle tightness and fatigue and makes walking difficult.

In spring 2021, Beattie said, she was sad about the cancellation of NCIS: New Orleans, which she and her fellow producers had hoped would be renewed for one more season.

But to her delight and relief, she was soon hired as a supervising producer on NCIS, the CBS cornerstone drama that recently ended its 19th season. This year, she was promoted to co-executive producer for season 20.

The Hollywood Reporter describes the juggernaut crime show as the most-watched prime-time series of the 2020-21 season other than an NFL franchise.

Some 12.7 million viewers in the U.S. tune in per episode. The global audience tops more than 55 million.

“It’s incredible to work on a show that’s so loved around the world,” Beattie said, “and it’s something I’ll never take for granted.”

To Texas and Back

Little did Beattie know when she tagged along with her twin sister on a visit to TCU that she would spend four years in Fort Worth. (Sarah, meanwhile, attended the University of Wisconsin, their mother’s alma mater.)

An inveterate sports enthusiast, Beattie went to every TCU football home game and lived on campus her first three years.

Though she wanted a wheelchair to use on campus, insurance wouldn’t pay for it — and her parents weren’t convinced she needed it. 

“There’s a stigma around wheelchair use, and my parents thought I’d be better off not using one,” Beattie said. “But I had to deal with other things not having a wheelchair brings to you.”

Without the mobility aid, walking to and from classes was enough to tire her. She often didn’t have the energy to walk to an event or party, particularly in the Texas heat.

Screenwriter / producer Katherin Beattie photographed during the workday at home in Altadena, CA.

As a radio-TV-film major at TCU, Katherine Beattie was the executive director of the pilot of a department-wide production.

Her friends knew she had cerebral palsy but often told her they didn’t think of her as disabled.

“It’s not the compliment people think it is,” said Beattie, who never sought to hide the neurological condition caused by brain damage that occurs either before, during or shortly after birth. “It sounds like they think disability is a bad thing.”

Despite the challenges, she said, she loved her experiences as an undergraduate, including her classes as a radio, television and film major and religion minor.

“My first encounter with her really gives you a sense of who she is,” said Richard Allen, professor of film, television and digital media.

Beattie thought she’d aced the first test in one of Allen’s introductory classes but ended up with a failing grade. She asked to go over the answers. 

“I saw what I’d done right away,” she said. “It was a Scantron test, and I’d filled in two bubbles on the same line.”

She didn’t ask for a grade change, however. 

“She said that wasn’t what she was asking for, that she accepted responsibility but just wanted to see what was wrong,” Allen said.

Allen told her he’d raise the grade nonetheless, an offer she accepted.

He served as her mentor, then and now. She comes back to TCU to speak to his classes. And even today, she calls the former Hollywood screenwriter and Emmy winner for advice.

“She’s actually changed the way I advise a lot of people,” Allen said. “My attitude used to be: take whatever job you’re offered because it’s so hard to break into the industry. But Katherine succeeded by following her dreams.”

Upward Bound

Beattie interned with The Ellen DeGeneres Show in Los Angeles the summer before her senior year of college. The daytime talk show was between seasons four and five.

Armed with her degree, she returned to Southern California to work at the show full time but didn’t find the joy she thought she would. She quit the show in hopes of landing an assistant’s job on a comedy series starring DeGeneres’ wife, Portia de Rossi, called Better Off Ted. But the show was canceled before she had a chance to interview. 

Beattie moved home with her parents, who lived in suburban Los Angeles, and began booking gigs as a background actor, which basically paid for her food and gas.

“I love the extended nature of the storytelling for TV. It’s fun to watch your characters learn, grow, make mistakes and evolve over six, 12, 24 hours in a season versus two to three hours in a film.”
Katherine Beattie

“It’s a hustle, and there were many times I’d get home at 4 in the morning,” she said, “but I got to the point where I actually liked it.”

She enrolled in screenwriting classes at the University of California, Los Angeles and then was hired for an entry-level job as an office assistant on Showtime’s Californication. In 2012, she was promoted to script coordinator, a job that includes proofing and formatting the scripts.

During her off hours, she worked to refine her craft by creating a portfolio of writing samples.

Beattie was hired as a script coordinator on NCIS: New Orleans, which debuted in September 2014. She moved up to staff writer in 2017. From there, she climbed the Hollywood writer’s ladder, first as a story editor, then executive story editor. In advance of what proved to be the show’s last season, she’d signed a three-year contract as a producer. 

Beattie would spend 2½ to three weeks at a time in New Orleans when episodes she wrote were being shot. 

“I love the extended nature of the storytelling for TV,” she said. “It’s fun to watch your characters learn, grow, make mistakes and evolve over six, 12, 24 hours in a season versus two to three hours in a film.”

She also enjoys working with other writers. “I love the collaborative nature of television,” she said. “Being in a writers’ room can be exhausting, especially being very vulnerable and open about your life. Even if the ideas never make it to the screen, you have to be willing to share parts of your life.”

Along the way, she established a close bond with series regular Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident in 2001.

Television writer  Katherine Beattie is an avid participant in wheelchair motocross (also known as WCMX), and is often on the hunt for new skateparks to try out. 

“The most amazing thing about Katherine was that she knew how to catch my voice,” Mitchell said. “Other writers might be trying too hard, but she knew how to set up the frame and put up the canvas, and then she let me fill in the paint.”


Despite the rigors of writing for network television, Beattie finds time to serve on the Disabled Writers Committee at the Writers Guild and the Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity, a collection of TV writers from underrepresented backgrounds working to help the medium better reflect and honor the diversity of the real world.

TV writer David Radcliff, who also has cerebral palsy, chairs the Disabled Writers Committee, which he described as a space for writers with disabilities of all kinds to champion one another’s work and to discuss what the industry could be doing better, both on- and off-screen.

“Katherine always has both eyes open to recognize where gaps can be filled — whether in terms of racial or gender disparities or in terms of physical accessibility of space — and where representation can be better,” Radcliff said.

“An episode of NCIS: New Orleans that she wrote shone a light on a talented disabled lead, loaded up its supporting cast with disabled actors and went on to win a Media Access Award for great disability representation on TV,” the writer said.

“Katherine understands the power inherent in writing for television,” said Maha Chehlaoui, program director of the Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity. “She makes it clear that stories matter profoundly: who is in them, who is left out and how they are portrayed, and she makes the case clearly and repeatedly to hire more disabled writers both on camera and off.”

Chehlaoui also describes Beattie, a member of the Think Tank’s steering committee, as a badass on wheels.

An athlete and a professed adrenaline junkie, Beattie has always loved her wheelchair. She considers that a natural evolution of a lifelong obsession with all things on wheels, something that compelled her to teach herself to skateboard as a kid.

While at TCU, she came across a picture of a wheelchair user “dropping into a quarter pipe,” she said. That image led her to the skate park not long after she began regularly using a wheelchair in 2013. 

In 2016, Beattie became the first woman to land a backflip using a wheelchair.

Beattie, meanwhile, remains active in Wheelchair Motocross International. 

With characteristic modesty, she said that contrary to reports on the internet, the only time she ranked as the No. 1 female wheelchair motocross rider “was the early days when I was the only woman competing!” On the Dew Tour competition in May 2021, she finished third.

In November 2021, Beattie was invited to join the USA Para Surfing Team at the International Surfing Association World Para Surfing Championship in Pismo Beach, California. She won a copper medal (fourth place) in Women’s Prone Surfing and a gold medal with Team USA.

Not long ago, she bought her first home near Pasadena, California, and has plans to build a skate ramp in her backyard.

She’s also developing a comedy that she’s pitching to various streaming services. 

“Not a lot of comedies are looking for people who know how to establish a clue trail,” she said with a laugh, “but I am so lucky to have the NCIS experience and to be a part of the [new] golden age of TV.” 

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1 Comment

  1. Proud of another TCU alum making solutions for people. I too am proud Frog BBA 1977. More Important my wife BSN from TCU too. Stephanie Klick is now St Rep for House District 91. NE Fort Worth. One of only two Nurses in St House. She is Chair of Public Health . Hope these two can team together.

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