Watching women talking about their experiences in the entertainment industry and the shows they are on is something regular TV Ate My Wardrobe readers know is my happy place. This time of year is especially stacked when it comes to these types of panels with Emmy roundtables and Comic-Con. In Hall H on Saturday Entertainment Weekly’s Women Who Kick Ass Panel took place featuring Katey Sagal, Sarah Paulson, Tatiana Maslany, Nicole Beharie, Maisie Williams and Natalie Dormer. Like the recent TimesTalks session it features women from a variety of shows from network and cable with a range of complicated and fascinating characters.
With two women from Game of Thrones on the panel the way women are portrayed on this show was addressed and what kind of power they wield in an environment that is so brutal with Maisie Williams emphasizing just how young her character is and that at 12-years old Arya has seen and done far more than any person of this age ever should. Natalie Dormer is asked about Margaery’s manipulation skills and whether her acts of charity are just a facade “When people ask me about Margaery, I say they’re not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to be practical and politically savvy and not be a good person. You can be a good human being and just be shrewd. I think all these women play similar characters.”
It is a topic we covered in a recent extensive GoT chat and Dormer sums up the different types of power these female characters have “Whether it’s psychological, physical, sexual, dragons. I think we’d all go for the dragons if we were given the choice. But that’s the secret of the writing, that’s why it’s such a compelling show—because it shows how different people are given different weapons, physically and metaphorically, and how they use them.” I think I would go direwolf over dragon personally.
Nicole Beharie as one of the leads of Sleepy Hollow is in a relatively new position in terms of her acting career and she talks about how this has changed how she presents herself “Just owning that space and not being expected, as a woman, to shrink, or curtsy, or any of those sort of things.”
Rising to a challenge and finding pleasure in something that is scary is something Katey Sagal describes as “awesome” and because they work in TV they don’t have a whole lot of time to question what they are doing thanks to the quick turnaround time. Maisie Williams has given herself extra work as Arya is left-handed in the books and despite being right-handed she wanted to remain true to the character on the page, which can prove difficult with some of the choreography. Natalie Dormer is yet to wield a sword on GoT but she did take up fencing after drama school (where she studied with Sleepy Hollow’s Tom Mison).
Prior to Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany had never played an adult, always portraying someone 10 years her junior and now she is playing multiple roles with different insecurities and inner power. The most clones Maslany plays in one day is three and the dance party scene took two days to film. Sarah Paulson will be playing a two-headed woman on the next season of American Horror Story and she looks set to pick Maslany’s brain for multiple part acting tips.
You can currently watch the full panel here:
On the same day over at Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ another female centric discussion took place; “A Conversation with Badass Women” featuring Yvonne Strahovski, Retta, Missy Peregrym, Jennifer Morrison, Ming-Na Wen and Sophie Turner. It’s a slightly more raucous and chaotic panel that flows more organically than the usual moderator/audience Q&As and instead focuses solely on audience questions.
Some similar ground is covered as Jennifer Morrison also talks about female characters being more than just one thing in that they can be kickass and vulnerable in equal measures; television has the advantage over film in terms of how much time they can spend on character development so it would be disappointing if TV didn’t do this.
This panel covers far broader subjects than the shows they are all on with questions including role models (Sophie Turner has high praise for Lena Headey) and part of this sees Ming-Na and Retta going into detail about their family background and why they dropped their surnames (Ming-Na uses hers again, but didn’t when she was on E.R.). Seeing how people react on a very personal level to WOC getting roles on big shows is one reason why conversations like this are so rewarding as the panelists get to share their own experiences as well as seeing how it can profoundly impact an audience.
During the TimesTalks panel one of the subjects that came up was how to say no to things that make these actresses feel uncomfortable and this is covered in various ways during this discussion with Yvonne Strahovski mentioning unnecessary underwear scenes – I was beyond thrilled that her character in 24 not only had no scenes like this, but she also dressed in an appropriate and realistic way for job – and Retta talking about the “sassy” trope as well as cliche ghetto or nurse parts.
It’s a fun conversation that is hilarious as well as touching and you can watch it below. For more from Nerd HQ’s Comic-Con conversations (including Orphan Black, Walking Dead, Stephen Amell and Nathan Fillion) head here.