The latest edition of The Hollywood Reporter’s Emmy season roundtable series featured six of television’s biggest comedic actresses: Issa Rae, Kathryn Hahn, Pamela Adlon, Emmy Rossum, Minnie Driver, and America Ferrera. But instead of discussing technique or style or even comedy, the women talked about “unlikable” women and racial progress in television and brainstormed how to ask for the paycheck they know they deserve.
Driver discussed her role as Maya DiMeo, the mother on Speechless, a character that other women did not want to take because she’s “unlikeable,” saying, “No, I actually have a real problem with women being called unlikable because you never hear that about a man. They’re called antiheroes and they’re funny and they’re strong and they’re interesting.”
Ferrera was asked about whether or not the fact that her role on Superstore is not explicitly centered around her Latinx identity was a sign of progress. She responded that her personal success unfortunately doesn’t necessarily mean “broader success and more opportunities” for Latinx actors and characters:
There’s so much nuance in the way that we talk about the roles that women are now finally getting to inhabit because we’re behind the camera, because we get to write our own stuff and say “This is what feels real to me, this is what I recognize myself in.” The same is true for people of color: If we don’t get in the positions of power, if we can’t tell our stories, if we can’t write and direct and produce our stories authentically, then those roles and those opportunities that feel new and fresh aren’t going to come.
After a quick discussion about the inclusion of male genitalia on television, the conversation veered toward equal pay in Hollywood, related to Rossum’s recent, successful bid to be paid the same amount as her Shameless costar William H. Macy. At this point, the discussion essentially became an organizing committee of sorts, with Driver pushing the other women on what the balance should be for women who want to get paid what they deserve but don’t want to risk their careers over it, which is a very real conundrum. After all, as Pamela Adlon noted, Suzanne Somers was booted from Three’s Company after asking for a pay raise.
While Rossum straightforwardly said that people respect you more when they pay you more, suggesting that actresses hire people who negotiate “on your behalf in an unemotional business way, because at the end of the day, it is a business,” Ferrera pointed out that the situation is not the same for everyone.
Each of us, we find ourselves in different places with different platforms and kinds of access, and we have to get it right with ourselves…and coming to terms with that. And then having the conversation with the entire system built around you to keep you from asking for more.
As Kathryn Hahn said, “America for president.”