Hollywood in post #MeToo has actresses flourishing

HBO’s Big Little Lies has strong women reuniting for a second season premiering in June, with (left to right) Shailene Woodley, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman. (photo courtesy HBO)

 March 2019 has the distinction of being the first Women’s History Month of the post #MeToo era. So let’s take a moment to celebrate our great mothers, sisters, daughters, etc., of the past and present who have accomplished great things. Whether raising a family, becoming a titan of industry, or anything in-between, we should be grateful and respect women for what they have achieved—often at great odds.

 During the recent Television Critics Association’s 2019 winter press tour there were a plethora of interview panels that focused on the current state of women in front of the cameras and behind the scenes. This women’s movement is encouraging for female producers, directors, and studio bosses. But it’s the quality of the work that is the litmus test for this trend becoming the norm—at least I hope so.

 During the TCA press tour there were many examples of women helping women within the entertainment industry. Among them was HBO’s announcement by Francesca Orsi, executive vice president HBO Programming, that the second season of Big Little Lies will premier in June. The award-winning limited series adaptation of the Liane Moriarty bestseller is from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company. HBO reports the drama will continue to explore “the malignancy of lies, the durability of friendships, the fragility of marriage, and the ferocity of sound parenting.”

 Reese is back onboard as producer and star in the second season, along with co-producer and co-star Nicole Kidman. For Big Little Lies 2 the caliber of talent of the mostly female cast includes Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep (as Kidman’s mother-in-law). A longtime supporter of female-driven stories, David E. Kelley is also back as creator, writer, and executive producer.

 There are a lot of actresses flourishing thanks to the meatier roles that are being offered, in addition to a safer work environment. Also at the press tour, NBC presented an interview panel with a great mix of strong women from the network’s dramas. To talk about how things have changed on the set were Susan Kelechi Watson of This Is Us, Jennifer Carpenter of The Enemy Within, Retta of Good Girls, and Lorraine Toussaint of the new ensemble series The Village, which just premiered March 19 on NBC.

NBC’s The Village stars (l-r) Frankie Faison and Lorraine Toussaint (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC)

 Lorraine Toussaint (Any Day Now, Orange Is the New Black) answered a question about the changes she has seen over the years regarding the diversity of strong female characters in major roles by saying, “If you wait long enough in the night the sun will rise. I think we are experiencing a real renaissance of diversity, especially for women, and especially for women of a particular age. Hollywood was always about young women. Now it’s also about interesting women, and oftentimes we get more and more interesting as we get older.”

This Is Us star Susan Kelechi Watson (photo courtesy NBC)

 Regarding changes in the work environment since the #MeToo movement, Susan Kelechi Watson reports that everybody on the set of This Is Us takes the subject of respect very seriously and their consciousness was raised about some things that are ingrained because they’ve been allowed to go on for so long. Susan notes, “Everybody had to attend this meeting to talk about what would be appropriate behavior. And, I confidentially will say, there was nothing inappropriate going on,.” 

 Retta of Good Girls reveals, “Last season when everything (#MeToo) was coming out, we had male guest stars actually ask us questions, which we found interesting and nice for men to ask us what we’ve dealt with. Some couldn’t believe what others got away with.”

 Toussaint adds, “Now it’s the strength of women holding on to each other for courage, and it makes a difference. We’re braver, stronger, and we’re seeing change. We’re also educating men, because I think the greatest part of it is many men didn’t even know what was inappropriate or offensive. It has been so commonplace. So part of what’s happening is the re-education of men in the workplace.”

 It was reassuring to hear Jennifer Carpenter of The Enemy Within, confirm that, “Many men have been really supportive of the movement.”

 It is important to have men and women support today’s generation of girls to find their voices, be treated with respect, and make history being the best versions of themselves…and make their mothers proud.

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.