emmys 2019

Michelle Williams Tells Industry to Treat Actresses of Color Like Michelle Williams in Emmys Speech

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

If it seemed like Michelle Williams was gushing about working on Fosse/Verdon while accepting her Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series, she was. She was also setting up a larger argument, one which basically boils down to: Studios, treat every actress the way FX treats Michelle Williams. “I see this as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels safe enough to voice them, and respected enough that they’ll be heard,” she said. “When I asked for my dance classes, I heard ‘yes.’ When I asked for more voice lessons, I heard ‘yes.’ A different wig, a pair of teeth not made out of rubber, ‘yes.’ All these things, they require effort and they cost more money, but my bosses never presumed to know better than I did about what I needed to do my job and to honor Gwen Verdon.” Said Williams, “Thank you, FX and to Fox 21 Studios, for supporting me completely and paying me equally.”

With that in mind, Williams pointed to the discrepancy between how the Michelle Williams of Hollywood are treated, both on set and in their paycheck, compared to performers of color, specifically black actresses. “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 counterpart, 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, not in spite of it.”

Williams elaborated on the ideas in her Emmys speech in the press room later that night, noting how the scandal around the discrepancy between her and Mark Wahlberg’s pay on All the Money in the World reshoots heightened her awareness of the pay gap. “It’s felt like no matter how many accolades I amassed, I still couldn’t make that translate into retirement money or something that really felt like long-term security,” Williams said. “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?” Williams pointed to statistics about how little women of color, including Hispanic women, make comparatively, and added that statistics aren’t out yet, but Native women likely make proportionally even less. “While tonight is a kind of fairy-tale ending for me and for my own personal story,” Williams added, “there really won’t be any satisfaction for me until the larger message is heard, and that’s what I really wanted to point out tonight.”

Michelle Williams Supports Women of Color in Emmys Speech