Yorkey was born in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was raised, before his family moved to Issaquah, Washington. He graduated from Columbia University where he served as the Artistic Director of the Varsity Show. He is an alumnus of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop.
Prior to bringing Next to Normal to Broadway, Yorkey was affiliated with Village Theatre in Issaquah, where he began as a KidStage student and eventually progressed to a seven-year tenure as Associate Artistic Director. Four musicals written by Yorkey—Funny Pages (1993), Making Tracks (2002), The Wedding Banquet (2003), and Play it by Heart (2005) — were staged there.
During Yorkey's tenure as Village Theatre's Associate Artistic Director, he developed a comprehensive new works program, Village Originals. The Village Originals program develops approximately ten new musicals each season, in various stages from reading to full production. Yorkey is credited with the development of over 50 new musicals, including the 2010 Broadway musical, Million Dollar Quartet, which was nominated for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and won Best Performance by a Featured Actor (Levi Kreis) in a Musical at the 64th Tony Awards.
The adults tend to trivialize what for teenagers and young adults is not trivial. Teenage brains don't work the way adult brains work. You know? Trauma and pain? Feel like they're going to last forever. And I think that we forget that sometimes.
— Brian on the downplay of cyber bullying from adults[src]
It's important to remind ourselves that most crimes of sexual assault are not sex crimes, they're crimes of violence. We've found that this kind of thing happens in high schools across America, particularly with athletes, violating other students (which a lot of people don't know) with mop handles and pool cues. Almost at epidemic levels. It's not something that's reported often. Male-on-male sexual assault is, ridiculously under-reported
It was in our hope, in making 13 Reasons Why into a television show, to tell a story that would help young viewers feel seen and heard, and encourage empathy in all who viewed it, much as the bestselling book did before us. Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in Season 1 was to tell the truth about the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it. But as we are ready to launch Season 3, we have heard concerns about the scene from Dr. Christine Moutier at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and others, and have agreed with Netflix to re-edit it. No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message that we must take better care of each other. We believe this edit will help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable viewers.
— Brian Yorkey's statement on the graphic scene depicted in Season 1[[src]]
We're also trying to tell the stories of teenagers, and tell them truthfully, and so they're going to make wrong choices. And our hope, always, is that you watch that and you go,
"That was the wrong choice."
— Brian Yorkey about the choices the characters make
I learned from 1 in 6 was we don't talk about sexual predators, people who have committed sexual assault, as monsters. Because if they're monsters, they're bigger than we are, and you were talking about empathy dissolves those barriers, and we have to recognize that monsters, for the most part, are not born, they're made. You know? And we keep making them.
— Brian Yorkey about people who commit sexual assault
Brian Yorkey • Diana Son • Elizabeth Benjamin • Felischa Marye • Hayley Tyler • Julia Bicknell • Kirk Moore • Marissa Jo Cerar • Nathan Louis Jackson • Nic Sheff • Rohit Kumar • Thomas Higgins
Brian Yorkey • Diana Son • Elizabeth Benjamin • Hayley Tyler • Joy Gorman • Kristel Laiblin • Mandy Teefey • Marissa Jo Cerar • Michael Sugar • Nathan Louis Jackson • Selena Gomez • Steve Golin • Thomas Higgins • Tom McCarthy
Eliza Hittman • Gregg Araki • Helen Shaver • Jessica Yu • Karen Moncrieff • Kat Candler • Kyle Patrick Alvarez • Michael Morris