Six of TV’s most provocative female comedians, including Tracee Ellis Ross, Lena Dunham, Ellie Kemper, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez and Amy Schumer took part in a round table discussion where they spoke candidly about sexism, sex scenes, penis bags and why women need to stop apologizing: “I think people hate women. I don’t think they want to hear a woman talk for too long. A lot of people project their mom yelling at them,” says Schumer.
But it was Ross’ frank discussion about her experiences as a Black woman in Hollywood at The Hollywood Reporter’s gathering of Emmy-contending comedy actresses that seemed to captivate everyone’s attention. When asked about the most sexist thing that’s happened while working in Hollywood, Ross said, “Racism trumps everything. [It all] happens behind the scenes.”
Her declaration garnered a wide variety of responses. “So many shows wouldn’t exist if you and Mara [Brock Akil] hadn’t made “Girlfriends” and pushed it as far as you did.” said Dunham while Jane The Virgin actress reacted with a simple “D—.”
“Being on a show run by a woman with four women leads gives you a template that when you walk out into the world, you don’t see it. It changed my expectations.” Ross continued.
Ross continued by recalling one of her worst auditions ever: “I tested once for a network show to play a lawyer. A Harvard-educated motherf——– lawyer. OK? I wore a skirt suit and heels. Seemed appropriate. Then there were many discussions about my hair. They’d printed up all these pictures of me from 15 f——– years ago and had me in and out of the bathroom trying on clothes. They finally pick a skirt — the shortest I brought. Then got a T-shirt from one of the people in the office. The woman says, ‘Hmmm, your boobs.’ I was like, ‘I didn’t bring a bra for this T-shirt.’ She screams down the hall, ‘Who wears a 34B?’ I put on someone else’s bra, a size too small, and somehow auditioned. I remember wondering, ‘What did I just allow myself to do?’ The other actress [who auditioned] was dressed like she was going to a club and got the role. It was one of those moments where you’re so confused and humiliated. But that’s part of the biz.”
Unfortunately for Blacks in Hollywood, Ross’ experience represents just a fraction of what really goes on behind the scenes. Nonetheless, the roundtable was definitely an eye-opener.