Reese Witherspoon has had a successful career over several decades in Hollywood. In her 20s, she was teen rom-com royalty with films like Pleasantville and Legally Blonde. But as she entered her 30s, she recognised quickly how few meaty roles there were for women.
After knocking on the doors of the rich network of producers and directors she knew closely, it became apparent to Witherspoon that Hollywood’s culture hadn’t yet shifted to a point where female protagonists, or even complex female characters, were standard.
This knowledge was the catalyst for Witherspoon’s response. Soon after, she spearheaded the launch of a female production company which would predominantly adapt books into screenplay; creating richer parts for female actors while helping female authors get their stories sold.
In an interview with npr today, Witherspoon conveyed her tenacity in getting such a project off the ground.
“I know what to do,” she said. “I know every producer in Hollywood. I know how to get a movie from book to script to screen, and I know how to market it.”
After adapting box office hits like Gone Girl, Wild and Big Little Lies over recent years, Witherspoon’s latest television foray– through her company Hello Sunshine– is set to be as big a hit.
The Morning Show centres on a morning news show that’s turned upside down when its male anchor is fired over sexual misconduct. The parallels with today’s post #MeToo world, in which several high profile, male media personalities have been caught in the crossfire, was a purposeful masterstroke.
“We thought it would have been remiss if we didn’t address [those issues] in our show,” Witherspoon said. “Sometimes the world is so crazy, TV shows and movies are a great way to try and understand where we’re at.”
Two years ago, Witherspoon, along with several other leading women in Hollywood, came forward to share stories of sexual harassment and assault during their time in the industry. She became instrumental to the subsequent launch of the #TimesUp movement.
Witherspoon notes that prior to either movement (#MeToo or #TimesUp), she’d had little awareness of the magnitude of the crisis. It took thousands of women’s bravery to shape a new path forward.
“I’m enormously grateful to the women who spoke up about their experiences and really opened our hearts and our minds and our eyes to what was happening with such regularity, and the journalists who worked so hard to break these stories, despite whatever corporate interference they were having,” she said.
Sharing her own experience with a group of women all motivated by the same outcome, and using their profile for good, was a pivotal moment for the actor.
“It was very powerful to me to share my story with a like-minded group of women with the Time’s Up movement. We talked about ways that we could really encourage change. How could we raise money for women in other industries so that they would have legal help.”
Time’s Up was launched in January 2018 with a $24 million legal defence fund for women who had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The group has so far connected approximately 3,700 workers across industries with legal or PR resources.