The pandemic and social unrest – the combined beasts that these two bodies are – have powerfully pushed us to look inwardly at ourselves. The Hollywood Reporter gathered an interesting bunch of actors at its roundtable recently and they each answered the question of what they have learned about themselves during this unique moment in history.
“[I’ve learnt] a lot, and I’m continuing to learn,” says Reese Witherspoon as she joined Jennifer Aniston, Zendaya, Janelle Monae, Rose Byrne and Helena Bonham Carter on a Zoom call. “I think being an awake, aware, conscious, empathetic, thoughtful human being, if you have even an ounce of any of that, it’s pretty exhausting and morally trying. And it’s been a time to really dig deep and examine what are you doing in your life and in your business and in your work and really look at those things with new eyes.”
“And having the [space] to be alone and not be distracted has been almost divine timing in terms of the order of how everything has unfolded,” interjected Aniston. “I think that’s a blessing of this pandemic because there wasn’t any chance for people to get distracted going back to work or going out to dinners or whatever. We were all pulled together, and it feels extremely unifying and oddly beautiful. And I’ve never read more in my life.”
Bonham Carter chimed in acknowledging that the experiences of every woman is different based on their own situation and agreeing with Aniston that the pause the pandemic ordered upon the world meant it could address one of its biggest issues: systemic racism.
“I’m over here in London, and it’s extraordinary that there is one thing that has unified us all and yet we are all having very different experiences, depending on your privilege, your situation economically and also your health, Bonham Carter said. “I haven’t been directly affected or known anyone who’s been badly affected by COVID, so it’s the luxury of time that we don’t [ordinarily] have. It’s fascinating that we have to rely on the whole world stopping for us to stop.”
“And with the Black Lives [Matter] movement, because it’s happening now, we have the time to properly consider it and see what everyone can do about it. People have said, ‘Do you think it would have happened if COVID hadn’t happened?’ And I feel unfortunately not.”
For me, Monae was the one who stole the Zoom show. “This is an interesting time and an important time for all of us to check our perspective,” Monae says. “For me and my people, for the Black community, this is not an exciting time. This isn’t a time that we get to really reflect. We’re dealing with a lot of trauma. We were dealing with COVID-19, which affects us disproportionately — if America sneezes, the Black community gets pneumonia — and now we’re having to deal with the very colour of our skin making us a target.”
“So, I’m checking my privilege and I’m also mourning with my people. One of the things that I learned about me is that I’m not settling for those who say that they’re allies. I’m not settling for lip service,” she continued.
Witherspoon talked about how she spent her early career “accepting systems”. She acknowledged that she had grown up with the beneficiary of a system that valued people who looked like she did. But that changed once she hit her forties.
“I went through a reckoning probably four or five years ago with the Time’s Up movement, realising that we work and exist inside of systems that are really broken, and trying to get strategic about using my influence and platform to create change,” Witherspoon noted. “Every time I took a job, I’d call whoever was the head of the studio and ask, ‘What does your board look like? Where are your female executives? Where are the people of colour?’ I started to ask more questions about how the money flows through companies, what kind of representation is at my agency, like, ‘Are there people of colour who are agents?’”
These are just a couple of slices from the interview. It’s really interesting read with some very valid points and I recommend you check it out here.