“I’m the executive producer and writer on Underground. I’ve been mistaken for a PA”, notes Misha Green who has written for such testosterone-drenched shows as FX’s Sons of Anarchy and NBC’s Heroes. “When I enter a room to take a meeting, people have actually gone, “Wow, this is not how I imagined you when I read the script.” It’s not blatant discrimination. The people who say it aren’t even aware of the effect of their words. As the former basketball player notes, “It’s insidious. The implication being that you never expected a black woman to write what they find interesting enough to call you in on.” She sounds matter-of-fact. “But that’s everywhere in society.” How does she respond to the subtle put-down? “I go, ‘Well I wrote it.’ You have to be very blunt about it. People get a little surprised when you do. It makes them stop and think for a second.” You can hear the wry smile in her voice. “I think if all people stop and think for a second then things like that would start happening less.”
“It’s a widespread thing, not just in entertainment. I’ve experienced it outside of the industry”, she comments about the subtle put-downs that have become part of her everyday interactions. Just because its pervasive doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Green’s solution and advice to those on the receiving end? “You have to be bold through it. You have to call it out. ‘No, this is not going to happen.’ It’s: Don’t take the bullshit. That way the people who come after us have to take less bullshit than we had to. I think women in Hollywood have been doing that for generations and that’s why we are slowly seeing that things are starting to make a tiny change. Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder) said it best. ‘The people before us broke through the ceiling and now we are stepping through the ceiling.’”
She tries to play it forward. “It’s part of the job, the idea when you get into a position of power you have to help others get to a position of power too. It’s our duty.” One would think that in 2016 stereotypes have broken down, but “the mindset still exists. It’s a universal thing we all encounter. I don’t think it’s surprising. All women who grow up in this world get it every day. It happens and we are accustomed to it happening daily. We have to get accustomed to fighting it on a daily basis. I mean, people still actually say the words, ‘Can a female director do action?’ Why is that a question? Should we start asking all male directors if they can do emotion?” She pauses to let the ridiculousness of the question have even greater impact.
But Green also holds women accountable for their own progress. “If you want to work with companies that are diverse, look at their strengths. Meet with them. Go and talk to them. If you want to work with more women, go to women events.” Her other piece of advice to women is, “Go with what you want to do. Stand on that platform.”
Misha doesn’t pretend she did it alone. “It took a lot of help from a lot of different people to get to where I am. She credits a diversity program for her initial break in becoming a writer for Sons of Anarchy. “But I also had to know what I wanted. I had to be the person that said, ‘This is what I need to be successful.’ You have to have it in your head and push to get that.”
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