Kerry Washington and Drama Actresses Discuss Female Camaraderie in Hollywood

by Amy LaCount

The June issue of The Hollywood Reporter features a roundtable of six well-respected dramatic actresses in anticipation of the Emmy Awards, coming up this September (for which Neil Patrick Harris was just announced as host!

The actresses are Monica Potter of Parenthood, Kerry Washington who heads Scandal, Kate Mara who stars in critically acclaimed Netflix original House of Cards, Connie Britton from Nashville, Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men, and Anna Gunn who plays the matriarch in Breaking Bad.

Ages raging from 30 to 46, the actresses have a conversation illuminated with humor (the women talk incessantly about how they love Cheez Whiz and they are all quite confused by hashtags!) camaraderie, and respect – but also one that demonstrates the challenges of being an actress in a largely male-dominated industry, especially, as Washington demonstrates, for women of color.

Here are the highlights:

THR: What’s the most surprising thing about being a working actress?

Mara: Maybe I’m just lucky, but I feel like people are generally nice and generous and not that dramatic.

Moss: Yeah, especially actresses. I think people expect us to be clawing at each other.

Gunn (to Britton): I remember seeing you at auditions years ago, and we struck up a friendship just from seeing each other in those rooms. It was nice to meet somebody that you could talk to and there wasn’t he vibe of, “Oh, I can’t talk to you because we’re going in for the same job.”

Hollywood is an industry that promotes an image of “catty” women, actresses who compete fiercely not only in the realm of acting but also in beauty and sex appeal. Actresses are shown to fight with each other simply because they are women, because of a misogynistic ideal that women are incapable of supporting each other. Tinseltown loves feuds, encouraging them for the drama, for the reporting value, for the patriarchal standard (remember The Hills? Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey? And most recently, Amanda Bynes’s twitter?)

It’s completely refreshing to see these women speak to each other in a spirit of support and empathy. As writer Melissa Heckman says, “…people who see another feminine person and purposefully ignore the culturally prescribed girl hate and learn to say, ‘God, you are beautiful and I want to be your friend,’ rather than, ‘She’s so much prettier than me, I hate her.’ Ultimately feminist, we heal through loving each other in a world that teaches us to mistrust each other.”

Gunn discloses that she sometimes receives gendered criticism for her character’s behavior. “It was interesting that this gender war broke out — she’s such a bitch, she’s nagging with Walt because he’s cooking crystal meth. She’s ruining all the fun.”

When asked about the audition process, Potter tells a story about trying to fit into a certain body image after giving birth while Moss shares that she put on a prosthetic fat suit for her role in the first season of Mad Men.

Britton supplements, “It’s our responsibility to play these full-fledged women, and to play women who look like people we actually see in life. It’s more interesting, and I think audiences appreciate it, too.”

Washington’s perspective as the only woman of color in the six-person interview is critical and intersectional: “It’s a little bit different for me because I’ll audition for something and they’ll just decide that they’re not going “ethnic” with a character, which I hear a lot. People have artistic license … that’s what casting is: fitting the right look to the right character. Whereas you could maybe lose some weight, there’s not really anything I can do, nor would I want to, about being black.”

All Image Credit to The Hollywood Reporter

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