Article taken from New York Times.
Congratulations on winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress! I’ve been watching your work for years, and it feels as if your moment is finally upon us. Does it feel that way for you too? It’s great to be recognized. It’s a nice pat on the back when you’ve been putting in the work. But I also know that the next thing is never promised.
In your Globes acceptance speech, you vowed that everything you produce will include at least 50 percent women. What has the response been like? It’s been huge, which is great, because there is no way that I can meet the challenge without other people helping. A lot of times we hear, in all industries, “I would hire women if there were more experienced women.” It’s laughable, because how can you become experienced if you don’t get the opportunity to show your skills? When I decided to say, out loud, that I wanted to be a director, I got all these people who wanted to help me. No one who’s successful got there by themselves.
Have you seen the kinds of roles available to black people, and especially black women, evolve over your career? I have had moments playing roles that were not written for a black woman. My agents may have read a script and submitted me for that role and that studio and those producers said: “Huh. Never considered that.” But asking that question of the industry on a whole? No, I’m not seeing those changes. Getting something like “If Beale Street Could Talk” is not something that happens often. So many producers turn away from producing something by a black author. But Barry Jenkins’s talent makes it a less daunting journey to go on, because someone at that level is going to hit a home run. And that goes across the board: Each time we — as women or black people — shine, then we all shine. The door just opens a little bit more. The window cracks a little bit wider.
What stories are you eager to tell as a director? In school, I was not a history enthusiast, perhaps because a lot of the things that were being taught were inaccurate. I absolutely love Dr. King, and I am very much aware of the history of slavery in our country, but those aren’t the only stories that the black experience consists of. It’s stories that are being told and retold and retold. I would like to see or be a part of bringing stories about the Harlem Renaissance, for example. We want our stories to reflect our true history or reflect true life right now, as we see it, as we live it.
What else do you think needs to shift? I’m thinking about the Celluloid Ceiling report from San Diego State University, which examined the rates of employment of women in film. Industry observers predicted increases in representation, but they are slower to come than anticipated. I don’t know that there is one clear answer. The studios do have a lot of power to employ more. What I do know is that if we had the money ourselves, if we had that inheritance, then yeah, I think that this wouldn’t be the conversation.
I kind of wish we could just get Oprah to take care of all of it. And by the way, she is. She’s fighting the good fight, daily. She’s, like, the mother of America, which is a tremendous responsibility, and not only does she handle it, but she does it so well. We all want our walk to be more like Oprah’s. She does so much, and she does a lot silently.
I’ve also noticed that you have a very mild social-media presence. It is a conscious choice because it’s just so much noise. It’s a little overwhelming. For example, the other day was National Bubble Bath Day, and I was like, “Who decides these national days?” If you’ve got to cut through National Bubble Bath Day to see that there aren’t any women nominated for Directors Guild of America awards, you’re going to miss what’s important.