Finding his own way: Peter Lenkov 

By Karen Herland

Peter Lenkov did not feel like he fit in as a student in the Communications Studies Department in the mid-’80s.

“All the other kids were talking about how they wanted to make a difference, and I knew I just wanted to entertain.”

Given that every week 15 to 18 million people watch any given episode of CSI: NY or 24, shows he writes and produces, it’s a fair bet to say he got his wish.

“I love my job, I get to write every day," says Lenkov. "This is what I dreamed of as a kid, I would do it for free.”

Lenkov will be on campus Nov. 7 talking to a group of communications students wishing to follow in his rather impressive footsteps. “So many times I would say ‘I wish I’d known this when I started out’,” Lenkov says in a phone interview, “but I didn’t know anyone in the entertainment business.”

Growing up in Chomedey, Lenkov describes his family as fairly traditional and hard-working, not likely to run away and join the circus, or even nearby Belmont Park. “Two of my brothers are business lawyers. My father desperately tried to get me to enter law as well,” he says. But after one year at McGill, he transferred to Concordia. And, although he didn’t entirely fit in, he was able to practice his skills and learn as much as he could.

In a recent moment of flipping though some of the scripts he completed during his time at Concordia, Lenkov came across some particularly brusque comments from one professor. “She wrote a three-page letter and she absolutely hated it. She said it was fluff and had no social significance,” he reminisces.

Most kids would have likely given up their dream and shoved the letter in the trash. For Lenkov, it crystallized what he really wanted. The years of short stories and other scribbling finally made sense. “It gave me so much insight into who I was," he says. "I realized I wanted to write entertainment.”

That determination got him on a plane as a 21-year-old, a few credits shy of graduating. Once in L.A., he did everything he could to get a different script he had into the hands of a producer. (“I really believed in that script,” he says.) After yet another rejection, Lenkov found himself sharing an elevator with the producer who had most recently said no. “She turned to me and said, 'you really should pursue this, you have talent.'”

On that basis, he came back to Montreal, packed his clothes, said goodbye to his bewildered but supportive family, and headed south. "I had no idea what I was getting into."

Since that fateful moment, he has worked on a number of TV shows and films, even returning to Canada to work on La Femme Nikita (the filming took place in Toronto). Not limited to television and film, Lenkov has even explored the world of illustration, writing a series of comic books for Dark Horse (the same company that produces former Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer Joss Whedon's comics).

Lenkov, a proud father of three (soon to be four), is pleased that he has begun production on two animated kids' shows. “All of my stuff was very adult, CSI, 24, and the kids were just too young for it. Now I’m the big hero in the house.”


Concordia University