Screenwriter David Digilio ’96’s new TV show airs on ABC

David Digilio ’96, inset, is the creator of a new TV drama, “Traveler,” about two friends whose roommate frames them for a terrorist attack. Above, the actors from “Traveler,” from left: Matthew Bomer (who plays Jay Burchell), Aaron Stanford (who plays Will Traveler), and Logan Marshall-Green (who plays Tyler Fog).

The idea for a new TV show came to screenwriter David Digilio ’96 in 2005 during the 10th reunion of his wife, Kim Sladkin Digilio ’95, when he was surprised to see how much people had changed since college. “It got me thinking, how well do we really know our friends? Particularly in college when ... so many people try to reinvent themselves,” says Digilio, who had written the screenplay for the film Eight Below. That July, he shared his idea with his agent for a TV show about two friends whose roommate frames them for a terrorist attack.

The show premiered Thursday, May 10, at 10 p.m., and then was scheduled to move to Wednesdays at 10 p.m., starting May 30, on ABC for eight episodes.

Traveler explores friendship, along with the paranoia of today’s post-Sept. 11 society. Three friends finish graduate school and head out on a cross-country road trip. At the first stop, one of the friends, Will Traveler, frames the other two for the bombing of a New York art museum. “These two friends are then forced to go on the run and figure out who the hell was this guy they just spent two years of their lives with, and why did he do this?” explains Digilio.

As the creator and co-executive producer of Traveler, Digilio wrote the pilot and helped oversee the writing, casting, and editing of the series. His team includes director David Nutter, known for launching hit shows like Without a Trace, and executive producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, who won an Oscar for the film American Beauty.

Although Digilio has made it to network TV, he says he spent several years “paying his dues” in Los Angeles — fetching coffee, learning how to structure a story, and working as an assistant to film producer Tom Sternberg ’59, who was making The Talented Mr. Ripley.At night Digilio wrote a script about a blind Princeton athlete restarting his life through rowing that won a Walt Disney Screenwriting Fellowship in 2001. The following year Digilio was hired into Disney’s Professional Studio Writer Program where he worked on Eight Below, about a team of sled dogs left alone to survive a harsh Antarctic winter when two explorers must abandon them.

It was at Princeton that Digilio found his calling working behind the camera. “I always thought I would be in front of the camera. A movie star. ... But at Princeton, I was quickly put in my place. I never got the leading-man roles,” says Digilio, who majored in psychology and earned a certificate in the Program in Theater and Dance. For his senior thesis, he wrote a one-man show that examined the psychology behind serial murder. Writing his thesis, he says, “hooked me on the storytelling process.” He has not acted since.