Jennifer Aniston, Zendaya, Reese Witherspoon And More Talk Race And Privilege In ‘THR’ TV Drama Actress Roundtable

TV’s best actresses are all in one place.

In a new Hollywood Reporter drama actress roundtable, Janelle Monáe, Jennifer Aniston, Zendaya, Reese Witherspoon, Helena Bonham Carter, Rose Byrne all sit down to discuss their careers the Black Lives Matter movement and more.

RELATED: Reese Witherspoon Is ‘Committed’ To Being ‘Educated About Bias And Racism’

Reese Witherspoon. Photo: Ramona Rosales for The Hollywood Reporter
Reese Witherspoon. Photo: Ramona Rosales for The Hollywood Reporter

Speaking about racial issues, Witherspoon, says, “I think being an awake, aware, conscious, empathetic, thoughtful human being, if you have even an ounce of any of that, it’s pretty exhausting and morally trying. And it’s been a time to really dig deep and examine what are you doing in your life and in your business and in your work and really look at those things with new eyes.”

Aniston adds, “And having the [space] to be alone and not be distracted has been almost divine timing in terms of the order of how everything has unfolded. I think that’s a blessing of this pandemic because there wasn’t any chance for people to get distracted going back to work or going out to dinners or whatever. We were all pulled together and it feels extremely unifying and oddly beautiful. And I’ve never read more in my life.”

Jennifer Aniston. Photo: Ramona Rosales for The Hollywood Reporter
Jennifer Aniston. Photo: Ramona Rosales for The Hollywood Reporter

Monáe talks about her own experience as a Black woman in the industry and dealing with these issues head-on.

“This is an interesting time and an important time for all of us to check our perspective. For me and my people, for the Black community, this is not an exciting time,” she says. “And this isn’t a time that we get to really reflect. We’re dealing with a lot of trauma. We were dealing with COVID-19, which affects us disproportionately — if America sneezes, the Black community gets pneumonia — and now we’re having to deal with the very colour of our skin making us a target. For me, I’m trying to figure out how to channel my anger.”

She continues, “Also, Black people make up the essential workers who are making sure that we have our packages and our food, and this is not a time for them to reflect in the ways that we, as artists, have the privilege to do. So, I’m checking my privilege and I’m also mourning with my people. One of the things that I learned about me is that I’m not settling for those who say that they’re allies. I’m not settling for lip service. If you want to show me that you’re an ally, it’s going to have to be rooted in acts of service.”

RELATED: Zendaya Admits She Enjoyed Working On ‘Spider-Man’ After ‘Euphoria’ Because It’s Not ‘So Heavy’

Zendaya. Photo: Ramona Rosales for The Hollywood Reporter
Zendaya. Photo: Ramona Rosales for The Hollywood Reporter

Talking about the opportunities she’s had in the industry, Zendaya says, “I also think it’s important being a light- skinned woman to recognize my privilege in that sense as well and make sure that I’m not taking up space where I don’t need to. I think that’s been a choice for myself. Rue had no description. Our creator [Sam Levinson] wrote Rue based off his own experiences with addiction and he is a white man, so Rue could have been that. So, I’m very grateful and hopefully I’ll be in a space like these ladies where I can create the things and make space for women who look like me and women who don’t look like me. That’s the ultimate goal, to make room [because], for a lot of Black creatives, it’s not a lack of talent but a lack of opportunity.”

On her role in season 2 of “Homecoming”, Monáe admits, “This was the first script where it didn’t specify ‘urban’ or ‘Black.’ And I’m obviously very proud of who I am and where I come from [but] there was just an amount of freedom that I felt like I had in that. I didn’t have to live up to some stereotype of what you think [she] represents or what Black people can be.”

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