Michelle Williams calls for equal pay while accepting Emmy for ‘Fosse/Verdon’

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Michelle Williams stars in “Fosse/Verdon.”

Michelle Williams thanked FX network and issued a plea for equal pay Sunday night while accepting the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for “Fosse/Verdon.”

“I see this as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted and feels safe enough to voice her needs and respected enough to be heard. … My bosses never presumed to know better than I did about what I needed in order to do my job and honor Gwen Verdon,” Williams said. “Thank you so much to FX and Fox 21 studios for supporting me and paying me equally, because they understood that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value. Where do they put that value? They put it into their work.”

Best known for building an acclaimed film career that has garnered her four Oscar nominations, Williams earned her first Emmy win with her first nomination, playing Verdon, a four-time Tony-winning dancer, actor and choreographer.

“The next time a woman — and especially a woman of color, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white male counterparts — tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her, because one day she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it,” she continued in her speech.

Variety notes that Williams’ speech followed last week’s #NotWorthLess movement, which saw women writers, producers and assistants across social media sharing stories of pay inequality in the entertainment business. Screenwriter Adele Lim sparked the movement after she left the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel in protest of being paid less than her male co-writer.

In early 2018, Williams found herself in the middle of a national news story about the pay disparity between her and Mark Wahlberg on reshoots for their Ridley Scott-directed drama “All the Money in the World.” Wahlberg reportedly made $1.5 million for the reshoots, while Williams worked for the Screen Actors Guild minimum of $80 per day. Ultimately, Wahlberg opted to donate his salary from the reshoots to Time’s Up.

Backstage at Sunday’s Emmy Awards, Williams said that her experience on “All the Money in the World” woke her up to Hollywood’s problem of pay disparity.

“I think that I’d always known how difficult it  was … to feel like you were ever getting ahead,” she said. “It felt like no matter how many accolades I’d amassed, I still couldn’t make that translate into like your retirement money or something that really felt like longtime security.

“The discrepancy on ‘All the Money in the World’ was so huge that it really illustrated a larger point, not just for myself obviously … but if it was this difficult for me, a white woman in a privileged industry, how difficult is it for women of color across all industries.”

She noted that now she has been awakened to the magnitude of the pay gap, she said she won’t be satisfied with more equal pay just for herself.

“While tonight is a kind of like fairytale ending for me and for my own personal story, there really won’t be any satisfaction for me until the larger message is heard. And that’s what I wanted to point out tonight,” she said. “When you look at the numbers, 52 (cents) on the dollar is what a Hispanic woman will make compared to a white male. … The numbers aren’t out yet for Native women, but they expect them to be worse.”

Co-starring Sam Rockwell as influential choreographer and director Bob Fosse, the dance biopic “Fosse/Verdon” offered an inside look at the romantic and creative partnership between Fosse and Verdon, whose role in helping Fosse developing his now-iconic style has often been overlooked.

Williams won the Emmy over fellow Hollywood heavy-hitters Amy Adams for “Sharp Objects,” Patricia Arquette for “Escape at Dannemora,” Joey King for “The Act,” and Aunjanue Ellis and Niecy Nash, both for “When They See Us.”

For more Emmy winners, go to www.emmys.com/awards/nominees-winners/2019.

-BAM

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