It’s hard to believe Alison Brie would have trouble owning her success. After all, she was on two seminal shows (Mad Men and Community) during the same time period, has had a stellar film career with roles in Sleeping With Other People, The Lego Movie and The Post, and now stars on the hit Netflix series Glow which just got renewed for a third season. However, she points out, that all women, no matter what industry they are in tend to apologize for their success.
Ladders sat down with the actress recently at an event celebrating the re-launch of American Express Gold Card to discuss her career and women in Hollywood.
On embracing your success
Brie recently worked with Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg on last year’s Oscar-nominated The Post. She described the job as surreal but also realized she deserved to be there.
“It was totally surreal and amazing but at the same time, we all need to remind ourselves that we do deserve that. You are at that place because you worked hard to get there. Luck obviously has something to do with it, but so does determination. Certainly, the challenge of that job was to be cool, stay in character, etc., The first take of every scene was ‘Oh my God, Oh my God, it’s Meryl Streep,’ and then by the second take it was like remember you’re playing a character. It’s your mom. And at a certain point you go, ‘I deserve to be here’ and I think that speaks to women in all industries.
“Much more so than men, we’ve been made to feel like we always have to apologize for our success, even amongst other women and really about anything. ‘You look beautiful!’ ‘Oh do I? I don’t know.’ We downplay our success and I think we shouldn’t! We should really take ownership in those things. There are moments when we don’t have success so you need to embrace your power when you have it.”
On fighting for her job
The showrunners for Glow, a series about women’s wrestling in the 1980s, famously did not want Brie for the lead role of Ruth. This made Brie want it even more.
“When I read the role it hit me gutturally. I really responded to the material and it kind of was the perfect process for me and me becoming this character. Ruth’s whole struggle is feeling underestimated and feeling that she has to prove to people that she is capable of more. And that was my process when I read the role.
“As an actress, I had more that I wanted to showcase. I was really looking to do something different that felt unexpected for me. So when I heard that they didn’t think I was right for the role that’s how I knew this was the right role to pursue. It made me feel like that is exactly what I’m looking for. And the longer the audition process went on the more I literally morphed into Ruth at every new audition.
“Her desperation was coming through me and that gumption that I’ve always had especially when it comes to my acting career. And just that wanton desire to prove yourself. My showrunners said when they first mentioned you for the part we couldn’t see it all and by the end, we couldn’t unsee you.”
On the state of women in Hollywood
“I think it is a good time to be a woman in Hollywood because never before have we had such a strong community and felt such a closeness and a banding together as a sex to change the industry in a lot of ways. It does feel like we are on the brink of a lot of change I hope. Certainly more than ever people are writing great roles for women. Glow is such a testament to that and the work that Jenji Cohen [the Emmy-nominated creator of Glow, Weeds, and Orange is the New Black] has always been about showcasing all different types of women. To look at our cast and the cast of Orange is the New Black, and just the volume of women is incredible.
“It’s also a good time for women because people are grasping the value of female executives, and female creators, and women at the top. Women’s stories aren’t only for women, they are for everyone and I think you are starting to see the trickle of that in the industry.”
On learning from the best
Brie talked about working with the legendary Streep.
“I was just trying to pillage her secrets and it was so difficult because there is an effortlessness to the way that she works. You can only imagine it is from years of practice. Certainly her presence on set and in character. She never did the same take twice. She always seemed to be so in the moment. She was very unafraid in trying different things.
“Sometimes as an actor you want to plan out how you do everything and with her, there was not the slightest bit of that. You looked into her eyes and you feel like she was living right then in that moment.”