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Nora O'Brien dies at 44; NBC Universal program executive

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Nora O'Brien, an NBC Universal program executive working on the series "Parenthood," died Wednesday after collapsing while on location in Berkeley. She was 44.

The cast and crew of "Parenthood," a remake of the 1989 Steve Martin film, had taken an evening break from shooting and a few people, including O'Brien, were playing basketball, according to a friend. O'Brien said she felt dizzy and then she collapsed. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, friends said.

Colleagues and friends were shocked by the news Thursday.

Mark Stern, executive vice president for original programming at the Sci Fi cable channel, recruited O'Brien to join him at the channel as a development executive in 2003 after she worked for him at Trilogy Entertainment Group. There, they collaborated on such projects as "The Outer Limits" TV show.

"She was talented, smart and insightful," Stern said. "She had great integrity, not only about her work but also in how she approached life. She stuck up for people no matter what; she didn't play politics. She was really sincere, and that's rare in our business."

At the Sci Fi cable channel, O'Brien worked on shows including "Battlestar Galactica," "Stargate Atlantis" and the acclaimed mini-series "The Lost Room."

In early 2008, she was promoted to a more prominent role at NBC Universal. She became a vice president for drama programming at NBC's television studio, Universal Media Studios, working on such shows as NBC's short-lived "Bionic Woman" and "Kings."

After working 11 years with O'Brien, Stern said that he hated to see her leave Sci Fi. "But it was very gratifying to see her blossom," he said. "She became an invaluable asset at Universal. They saw in Nora what we had seen in her all those years at Sci Fi."

O'Brien, who lived in Santa Monica, was born Oct. 2, 1964, in Hartford, Conn. She was a graduate of Boston College with a bachelor of arts in economics and communications. She began her career at Reunion Productions in Boston, where she wrote and produced documentary films.

She is survived by her mother, Virginia (Ginny) O'Brien; and six brothers and sisters.

Services are pending.

meg.james@latimes.com

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