Press: “It’s So Hard to Be Right”: The Comedy Actress Roundtable

The Hollywood Reporter has added an interview from the Comedy Actress Roundtable as well as the interview segments of the rest of the Roundtable actors. Check out the interview & links to the segments below.

Seven of TV’s top funny ladies — Drew Barrymore, Rachel Brosnahan, Alison Brie, Tracee Ellis Ross, Debra Messing, Molly Shannon and Frankie Shaw — open up about pushing boundaries, demanding fair pay and the long, hard battle to keep their clothes on: “It wasn’t until we started having these conversations that I realized I’d been sexually harassed.”

These days, there is a palpable camaraderie when you bring together Hollywood’s highest-profile actresses. At least a few of those who gathered for The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Television Comedy Actress Roundtable have spent recent months in war rooms and on email chains mapping out a plan to change the gender politics that have contributed to a culture of #MeToo accusations and glaring pay inequality. The passion that has fueled the Time’s Up movement was on display during this mid-April conversation, which touched on everything from nudity demands to a yanked episode of Black-ish. Over the course of an hour, the septet — Drew Barrymore, 43 (Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet); Alison Brie, 35 (Netflix’s GLOW); Rachel Brosnahan, 27 (Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel); Debra Messing, 49 (NBC’s Will & Grace); Tracee Ellis Ross, 45 (ABC’s Black-ish); Molly Shannon, 53 (HBO’s Divorce); and Frankie Shaw, 36 (Showtime’s SMILF) — got deeply personal, with at least a few tales prompting spontaneous table-banging and plenty of applause.

Let’s start broad: What’s the most amusing or frustrating feedback you’ve received when trying out for a part?

TRACEE ELLIS ROSS I had a casting director say I need to work on my girls, as they [her breasts] were referred to, because they were too low, which is where God put them, so I think they’re in a really good spot. (Laughs.) But she called down the hall for one of her assistants to bring another bra …

ALISON BRIE During an audition?

ROSS
Yes, ma’am.

DREW BARRYMORE Oh no.

ROSS Yes, ma’am. (Laughter.) She was like, “Does anyone have on a 34B?” They come down, and it was a 32 something or other, and I was like, “That’s not gonna fit.” She was like, “They’ll spill out, it’ll be great.”

FRANKIE SHAW One time I was in an audition for House of Lies, and the casting director said I needed to show more skin. She actually took the shirt off her back and gave me her tank top. I still didn’t get the part.

MOLLY SHANNON I remember going to an audition when I was first starting out, and I bumped into another girl auditioning who, right before I went in, was like, “Oh, my God, have you gained, like, a hundred pounds?”

RACHEL BROSNAHAN No!

BARRYMORE That happened to me recently. I’d gained a bunch of weight, and I was in a restaurant, and a woman goes, “God, you have so many kids.” And I was like, “Well, two.” And she goes, “And obviously one on the way.” I looked at her and, for the first time in my life, I go, “No, I’m just fucking fat.” (Everyone claps.)

There’s been lots of discussion lately about whether we can and should be able to separate art from the artist. Where do you stand?

SHAW It depends on how harmful they are.

ROSS And what the harm is.

This has come up in the context of Roseanne Barr and her controversial social media presence, which prompted some to boycott her sitcom [before it was canceled by ABC a month and a half after this interview].

DEBRA MESSING In a perfect world, we take on a different character, one that’s separate from ourselves. The thing that has made Roseanne and Roseanne Barr so …

ROSS Compelling?

MESSING Divisive.

ROSS Better word.

MESSING … is that, in its day, it was one of the greatest shows ever, and it really pushed the boundaries, but she made it clear from the beginning that this was her — she said, “I’m just being me.” That’s very different from saying, “I’m creating a character.” And then when you have someone who is very outspoken on social media and who says things like “Heil Hitler” or that gay people are pedophiles or …

BROSNAHAN Oh God.

MESSING So, it’s not about having a conversation about health care or about defense of the country, it’s about humanity, racism, sexism.

SHAW
And essentially normalizing white supremacy.

BROSNAHAN There’s a difference between being tolerant and tolerating intolerance, and there is no need to tolerate intolerance. So, can we separate an artist from their art? Yes, we do all the time. We have forever. Should we? I think we need to re-evaluate.

ROSS
And we’re in different times because of what’s happening in the White House. Things that were not tolerated or not acceptable have been lost, and I think there is a recalibration that needs to occur. It’s the reason it feels so frightening right now.

SHAW What’s the answer? How does it change?

MESSING I mean (turns to Ross), there was an episode of your show [Black-ish] that was shelved because it had to do with “Take a knee,” right?

Full Interview: The Hollywood Reporter

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