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Hobbs native gets Oscar nomination

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Erica Rivinoja did what most working people would love to do — she slept in Monday morning.

While catching her Zzzzz’s, Erica’s phone was blowing up with text messages of congratulations.

If during her dreams she was nominated for an Oscar award, then the Hobbs native awoke to her dreams becoming reality.

Early Monday morning Rivinoja, a 1995 Hobbs High graduate and two-time Emmy award winning writer, received her first Oscar nomination as a writer for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”

“Oh my gosh, it’s so fantastic!” Erica said Monday from her home in California. “I’m very surprised because comedies don’t usually get nominated. So I was very shocked this morning.”

Upon waking up, she was just as shocked to see all the text messages she received.

“I looked at my phone and there were about a billion texts,” Erica quipped, “and so that’s when I realized I got it.”

Of course, as a good daughter should, Erica’s first phone was to her mom, Sue, who still lives in Hobbs with her husband and Erica’s father, Bob.

“She had texted me, and I had called her,” Erica said. “Obviously we are very excited.”

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, headlined by British actor and comedian Sacha Boran Cohen, was nominated for two Oscars. The second is for Maria Bakalova in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role category.

“I was so excited to get to work with Sacha Baron Cohen and all of his writers,” Erica said. “He was just trying to make a film that was much more feminist, so I was excited to be brought in as a woman, as an American woman, because most of his writers are British. We worked so hard on this movie even during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s good that it is being recognized and I really like the message of the movie.”

Erica has been nominated four times for a Primetime Emmy Award, winning in 2008 and 2009 for her writing work on Comedy Central’s “South Park.” Overall, she has been nominated nine times and won three awards. The third award was through the North Dakota Film Society, where “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” won Best Original Song.

Erica’s other film credits include 2019’s “The Addams Family,” 2016’s “Trolls,” and 2013’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” where she was a writer. She also has television credits with the FOX television series, “The Last Man on Earth,” and “Bad Teacher.” Erica also has producing or co-executive producing credits on “The Last Man on Earth,” “Bad Teacher,” “Marry Me,” and “Up All Night.”

After responding to her “billion” texts, Erica said she walked to a spare room in her house for Zoom meetings regarding her current project. She is the showrunner of the reboot to “Clone High,” an upcoming animated television series from HBO Max. Erica was a writer for the original series, which ran from 2002-03, on MTV.

“You know, awards don’t pay,” Erica said with a laugh. “They’re nice, but you still have to have a job. It’s icing on the cake. The best part is being able to do the work and getting paid to be funny for a living. I am the luckiest person in the world to have that.”

Being a showrunner has a bit more responsibilities than creating characters and writing episodes.

“It’s fun because it is writing, but it’s also doing a lot more of the producing and having just a bigger say on how the show comes about,” Erica said. “So I do really like the whole producing aspect. I am actually directing a feature as well, the animated version of ‘Cat in the Hat’ for Warner Bros., so that’s really exciting too because it’s good to be a woman who gets to direct a movie.”

Being proud of her Hobbs heritage, Erica said a lot of her inspiration to be successful in the world of television and film came from two role models when she was younger.

“Hobbs made me who I am and I am always grateful to Hobbs,” Erica said. “Especially the teachers I had in Hobbs. Martha Whitman was one of my high school English teachers and was always so, so, supportive of my writing career. She really taught me to be a writer and to appreciate literature. Karen Salb, who was my dance teacher, just made me want to reach for bigger things. Hobbs is a small town but there are so many amazing people and things that I learned there. I am so grateful to have grown up there.”

Todd Bailey can be reached at editor@hobbsnews.com.

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