TV is where the real drama is.
On Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter published its new TV Drama Actress Roundtable, featuring Gillian Anderson (“The Crown”), Cynthia Erivo (“Genius: Aretha”), Elizabeth Olsen (“WandaVision”), Sarah Paulson (“Ratched”), Mj Rodriguez (“Pose”) and Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”).
Among the subjects they discuss is the issue of pay equity for woman on-screen.
“I just need to point out that I first fought for pay equity way back when it was audacious by anybody’s standards, because I was a nobody when we started to do that series,” Anderson says of her time on “The X-Files”. “But when I really spoke up about it was when it happened again, four or five years ago, after the career I’d already had post-‘X-Files’. We were going back to do another season and Fox came to me to offer, I don’t know, a 10th of what my co-star [David Duchovny] was being offered. That was the point where I was like, ‘F**k this. I’m actually going to talk about this [publicly].'”
Talking about her own experiences, Erivo says, “I mean, the obvious is I’m a Black woman and that has a lot to do with how you’re paid, how you’re hired, if you’re hired, the way you’re hired — it affects everything. I’m lucky enough to have a team behind me that is brave enough to ask the questions I’d like asked: What I’m being paid compared to the leading man in the show, or if I’m being paid a lot less, whether or not they are willing to come up so it becomes equal.
Issues of equity extend well beyond pay, though, Erivo explains.
“Like, if we could please have this makeup artist with me because usually there are no Black makeup artists on a set and you’re the only one who needs one, and I’ve had to have that fight every single time I’ve gone onto a set: ‘I need to hire these two people because they are the only people that understand how to do my face or my hair,'” she says. “It isn’t about vanity, it’s about making sure that whoever I’m playing is represented in the right way because they understand how to work with my skin tone and my hair. But you keep sticking with it because it’s not just me having my way, it’s me being able to employ two other people.”
Talking about their acting roles, the stars get into what it’s like diving deep into some dark places with their characters.
“And that was potentially the toughest thing about the show, because it was a wonderful experience as an actor to be able to not have to reach for any emotion, but then you also have to go through the psychological warfare of figuring out, ‘Why do I feel so awful in the morning?'” Taylor-Joy says. “Like, ‘What is happening?’ And then you go, ‘Oh, it’s not my feelings,’ but I have to sit in them all day and I have to be aware enough to go, “You are not depressed, the character is depressed, and at some point that will leave you.” But I do think a bath every single night — being able to have the visual representation of washing yourself clean of something — helps.”
Olsen talks about her own career choices, recalling, “[In the beginning,] I was just trying so hard to not be put in a box that that’s what was guiding my choices. I knew that I didn’t want to be an actor who was thought of as ‘youthful and beautiful’ and whatever that attachment people like to put onto young women, and so I did everything in my power not [to be seen as] that. But I didn’t have my own pillars of why I wanted to do things beyond just the character. That started to solidify only in the last five years. So, I made a lot of odd decisions [after theatre school at NYU] because I didn’t know enough about film and the machine of it.”
The actresses also talk about what roles they’re personally love to play, and how they view each other.
“No one has asked me to do a comedy, and I’m a little frustrated about that,” Paulson says.
“And you’re funny as f**k,” Erivo tells her, to which Paulson responds, “I spend a lot of time in these worlds where I’m either running or crying or screaming or playing a real person and trying to get their physicality, and I’d really like to do a nice road picture with me and a couple of chicks”
Anderson exclaims, “Ooh, I’ll go with you!”
“How about all of us just in a road movie — like, get a Winnebago and let’s go?” Paulson suggests.
“I’m down,” Erivo says, and Rodriguez adds, “Yeah, count me in.”