Jessie Nelson

Jessie Nelson is a writer, director and producer, who wrote the book of Waitress the Musical based on Adrienne Shelly‘s 2007 film.

Jessie studied briefly at the University of California Santa Cruz, but eventually dropped out to work with an experimental acting troupe known as the Mabou Mines, where she began her career in theatre. She had a starring role in a Shakespeare in the Park presentation of The Tempest, which co-starred the late Raul Julia before he became a star. She also co-wrote the children’s book Labracadabra and has been the Artistic Director of the Sundance Institute’s Writers Lab.

Before being approached to write Waitress, she had seen the movie multiple times in her life, as her daughter discovered it when she was 12 years old and played it at every slumber party. She said: “I was fascinated by what these young girls were connecting to, and even what my husband was connecting to in it.”

As Adrienne had passed away, her husband reached out to a number of women directors in Hollywood to continue her work. Adrienne had several screenplays that had not been made into films, and he was hoping that new directors would continue her legacy. Jessie became aware of him during that period, and later heard they were looking for a writer for Waitress as a musical.

Jessie wrote, directed, and produced “Corrina, Corrina” with Whoopi Goldberg and “I Am Sam” with Sean Penn, who received an Academy Award nomination for his performance. She also directed “Love the Coopers” with Diane Keaton and John Goodman.

She also co-wrote and directed the musical Alice by Heart with Steven Sater, featuring music by Duncan Sheik, which opened off-Broadway at the MCC Theater in February 2019. She is working on “Little Voice” for Apple TV+ with Sara Bareilles and J.J. Abrams.

Jessie brought her experiences o the show: “I was a waitress for nine years. That period when I carried the tray was one of the most unexpectedly meaningful times of my life because of the camaraderie I felt with the women I worked with – women I normally would never have known. I saw them five nights a week, eight hours a night, and in many ways they became closer to me than my closest friends. When I got my first break, and left the restaurant in California, two of the older waitresses flew to New York on opening night to surprise me. We had never seen each other without a name tag or uniform.”

Selected Previous Credits


  • Disenchanted Director
  • Love The Coopers Director, Producer
  • Danny Collins Producer
  • Fred Claus Producer
  • Because I Said So Writer, Producer
  • I Am Sam Director, Writer, Producer
  • The Story of Us Writer, Producer
  • Stepmom Writer
  • Corrina, Corrina Director, Writer, Producer
  • To the Moon, Alice Director, Writer


  • Little Voice Director, Writer, Producer
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm Director
  • Earth To America Writer
  • Daniel and The Towers Writer
NameJessie Nelson
TrainedUniversity of California
RoleBook Writer