AMC Networks shed light on a new chapter for Hollywood, one filled with diversity and female empowerment in the era of #MeToo, at its second annual summit held in New York City’s Lower East Side.
Studded stars like Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh and Fiona Shaw, in addition to Melissa McBride and Colman Domingo of The Walking Dead glided across the stage in discussions of what “Story Matters,” with discussions led by Sarah Barnett, the President of Entertainment Networks at AMC, on “Who Gets To Tell Stories in Hollywood?” and “How Stories are Told: Voices of Genre.”
Both panels also featured stars, showrunners and producers from the network’s other most popular television programs including Sherman’s Showcase, The Terror: Infamy, Luther, This Close, Brockmire and Into the Badlands.
Diallo Riddle (Sherman’s Showcase) opened his commentary with a sweet, welcoming thank you to the network for putting no limitations on his creativity. “They, [AMC and IFC], were like what do you want to do? And how can we help you do it? And that to me, is so empowering. The fact that yes you will see a lot of black people on the show, but the fact that it’s not overtly about race, but it’s just cool. That to me is just the best,” said Riddle.
Riddle and actress Tawny Newsome (Sherman’s Showcase, Brockmire) shared several laughs regarding Newsome’s character originally being written as and for a white woman.
“Not only does [Tawny] come through and slay every role that we gave her, but she also would come to us and say ‘hey, what if this role a woman?’ And we’d be like ‘that’s f***ing great!'” said Riddle. “In one case, we had intended on going with a particular white actress and she was a white singer, and she’s like ‘hey, what if I played her?’ And I thought it was so cool and subversive to have a black woman play a white woman in a world where so much gets white washed.”
Newsome fed the compliments right back to Riddle, noting that it was the first time she’s really been approached and told “pick some roles you want.” She continued by saying she’s felt boxed in and has read scripts searching for the singular black lady character to dictate her next acting opportunity, so this was a refreshing change for the actress.
Killing Eve star Sandra Oh shared a similar experience in her casting as Eve. “I feel like Eve was clearly, at least, a white woman,” said Oh. “It shocked me. I felt very ashamed of myself for not being able to see it because I was like I don’t get it. I’m scrolling through it and I’m like ‘I’m sorry? Who am I playing?’ And they’re like ‘Eve!’ And I’m like ‘oh? Okay!'”
In regards to a recent conversation sparked in Hollywood suggesting “It’s a hard time for white dudes now,” Newsome responded saying “I am not the one standing in your way. It’s the seven other white dudes in this show.”
Through a recent lens adapted by Hollywood in an era of the #MeToo movement, British actress Ruth Wilson (Luther) chimed in noting that she has found more female-driven narratives in television than in any other medium.
“The female writing on TV has been extraordinary or it’s definitely better than film and way ahead. I think in the last sort of five or six years,” said Wilson. “Certainly in America, it really started here, and I think it’s starting to filter through to UK and elsewhere, and in different mediums now as well with film included. But TV was really where you surely saw these female protagonists sort of take charge and leading and being three-dimensional.”
In a seamless transition to the second panel, “How Stories Are Told: Voices of Genre,” conversations surrounding race and female strength continued to resonate and hit very close to home as an emotional Melissa McBride shared a personal and beautifully vulnerable connection to her character Carol on The Walking Dead. McBride began to tear up after an audience member inquired about her character’s rise from a domestically abused wife to a strong woman pioneering hope and resilience in a dystopian universe.
McBride explained that she has known women that haven’t survived abusive relationships, and added that she is grateful for her character’s arc as an example to women everywhere that, as The Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple put it, “everybody can become a hero.”
“I would love to see a day where this doesn’t happen,” added McBride. She added she was highly against the writers killing off Carol “because I thought it would be a great story of the person who came from abuse to become the hero.”
Concluding the first two panels, President of Entertainment Networks at AMC Sarah Barnett excitedly announced that Killing Eve has indeed been renewed for a third season, and beamed with immense pride that AMC has and will continue to strive for diversity and representation for television both in-front and behind the camera.