SAN DIEGO – What does it mean to be a lady who kicks ass at Comic-Con? It means sitting through a quiet but thoughtful and meaningful panel before Marvel took the main stage at Hall H on Saturday night.
Sarah Paulson of “American Horror Story,” Nicole Beharie of “Sleepy Hollow,” Maisie Williams and Natalie Dormer of “Game of Thrones,” Katey Sagal of “Sons of Anarchy” and Tatiana Maslany of “Orphan Black” took on questions from fans and the moderator during the now-annual Women Who Kick Ass discussion at SDCC. They talked on topics from makeup and beauty standards to stunt coordination advice to what pisses them off.
Below are some of the highlights from the varied panelists.
Will the plutonic relationship between Nicole Beharie's “Sleepy Hollow” character Abbie and co-lead Ichabod Crane “stick,” try not to take it down the romantic path as shows tend to do?
Beharie: “I certainly hope not. That's one of the things that drew me to the project, that Abbie wasn't defined by a man in any way… and that she was very disheveled. That's how I look, actually. It's nice to set and not have to worry about how you look, and really focus on your intentions, and getting the job done. It's so much pressure off of me.”
There is talk of another character that will be of a “certain interest to her, but we'll see.”
Then there was talk about asses.
Sagal: “Sarah and I were just talking about asses. The size of the ass, body image, what it means to be a woman, to feel self-conscious about the size of one's ass, or lack of ass. Hollywood is anti-ass… just, the whole sexualization of women.”
Dormer: “You said earlier how liberating it is to do a job and not worry about how you look… you're watching us and you don't realize how much makeup and how much lighting is involved when we look good. We have a lot of help where we are.”
Paulson, laughing: “When we don't look good, that's just what we look like.”
Dormer: “I don't think that it's healthy for young girls to be looking at these beauty magazines and watching TV and these shows and thinking [that's the standard]… there's more European attitude — you look at French film, Spanish film, they're a little more open to quirks and human nature. That we're not all symmetrical, not all the same shape… we need more of that.”
Sagal: “And it's OK to get older.” Ageism has played a factor in casting for far too long in America and “there needs to be a realistic view, and send a realistic message. It seems that in Europe, you can get older.”
Dormer: “The best female roles are in television at the moment. Katniss Everdeen — as popular as she is — is an anomaly. She really is.”
More on television and women:
Dormer: “Where television is fantastic — and is way ahead of film — is it doesn”t feel the need to polarize women so much… Male writers — and I say this with all love and respect — often want to make a woman either the angel or the whore, make her the witch, or put her on the pedestal. When people ask me about Margaery [on 'Game of Thrones'], I say they”re not mutually exclusive. You don”t have to be practical and politically savvy and not be a good person. You can be a good human being and just be shrewd.”
You don't need to curtsy.
Baharie: “A lot of different men will come on as day players or guest parts, and I recognize that there”s a certain strength that I have now, or a certain command that I have being one of the leads on the show that I hadn”t had before… Just owning that space and not being expected, as a woman, to shrink, or curtsy, or any of those sort of things.”
Arya on “Game of Thrones” may be a badass, but she's also just a kid.
Williams: “She”s a 12-year-old girl living in this world and we all like to brush that aside, that she actually just put a sword through someone”s throat. And like, hey, that”s such a kick-ass moment, but you can”t live your life like that and be OK in the head forever. That”s not the way it works.”
On playing a transgender clone on “Orphan Black”
Maslany: Performing as Tony was a “privilege,” a “huge responsibility” and one of her biggest challenges. “As soon as I have fears or doubts, it”s like that”s where you have to go as an actor. Because then all the surprising stuff comes out of there, and you don”t know what you”re capable of.”
Playing an old woman is the scariest thing.
Paulson: “It's really hard to play an 80-year-old woman. Maybe you're not that age yet, and you're very conscious of not doing it for caricature, and I had the luxury of the 12 previous episodes [of “American Horror Story: Coven”] prior to shooting the finale where I had to get to that degree behind me. It was the scariest thing I'd ever done, and I remember Ryan Murphy being very concerned about the old lady makeup what it was going to look like… I looked exactly like my grandmother, it was bizarre… I thought if I ruin this now, if do some hokey schlocky old age acting class bullsh*t, I'm gonna be completely mad at myself. I had these birdseed boobs they gave me…”
What are birdseed boobs?
Paulson: “They're just sacks of birdseed that feel like big old tits that have fallen down. It was really amazing. I was like, This is awesome. This is coming for me if I'm lucky. One day I'll have a sack of birdseed.
“It was challenging… I didn't have to worry about being attractive to other people who was captured and came out and killed everyone who got in her way.”
Have you ever had a scene where you wanted to play somebody else's role in it?
Sagal: “I'd like to be a guy sometime. Ride a bike… I say that, even though I'm terrified to ride a bike. I just like that image of revving up that bike with a bunch of bikers, just sounds awesome.”
Williams: “I'd just love to do more stunts. A lot of times have doubles that do things for us… I'd love to do more work with the horses. I know Richard Madden got to actually gallop, so I'd like to actually gallop.”
Dormer to Williams: “I just wanna be you.”
Can you give some good advice about being a working actor?
Sagal: “Make choices on your life, and the work will follow. I listen to that more now probably because I feel more secure and I continue to work for a certain amount of time. As a young person trying to get something going, I feel like I slighted my life in the name of ambition or my paranoia that I wouldn't get another gig… we're our own advocates as an actor. Not that I haven't had a full life, but I feel like I missed out on some stuff when I was younger because I was so focused… It such a blessing to have a family. at a certain point, I just kinda got the beat there. I brought them to the set with me, and I was able to do both things, because I couldn't figure out that dilemma. How am I gonna have children, and stop to [work]? As young actors, you just have to do that anyway. It all works out.”
Paulson: That [advice] I'm gonna take. I”m so afraid it”s gonna go away at any given moment, that you think you can”t stop. Stop to do what? Have a life? Have a baby? Meet someone? I mean, what?
What superhero or villain would you want to be, regardless of gender?
Williams: “Spider-Man… I like that he's kind of agile and unsuspecting.”
Maslany: Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “That Brooklyn accent…”
Beharie: “I'd like to lift up a car. I'd probably want to be the Hulk.”
Sagal: “I don't if this is a superhero, but I'd like to be Caesar in Planet of the Apes.”
Paulson? Goes for Wolverine.