Amy Sherman-Palladino, best known for creating the WB mother-daughter hit "Gilmore Girls," shared great insights about women in TV during a panel at the ATX Television Festival in Austin.
"Anything worth doing is a fight. If you don’t have to fight for it, it’s not worth doing," Sherman-Palladino advised. She was speaking about the resistance she faced in casting Melissa McCarthy, who starred as Sookie St. James for all seven seasons of "Gilmore Girls." McCarthy is the star of this weekend’s box-office champion "Spy," but at the time, she was a relative newcomer. Based on Sherman-Palladino’s account, network execs were less concerned with McCarthy’s lack of name recognition than the size of her body.
"To get Melissa, I had to fight," she revealed. "[Melissa] had a different energy and the part was written for a
woman. There was no body type. I need someone funny who can really act. It was
a tricky sell and it took a while…. Everybody came around; it took a few shows."
Sherman-Palladino continued, "She is different, and different is sometimes not the easiest thing to embrace. But that’s true of life. If we want people to embrace more Melissa McCarthys and complicated parts… we have to keep writing the parts, fighting the fights and be willing to be fired and say to Mr. Person With Money, ‘You’re wrong.’"
How embarrassing for the Mr. Money Bagses to have almost turned McCarthy away because they weren’t used to seeing actresses like her on screen. McCarthy’s post-"Gilmore Girls" career has included an Oscar nom for "Bridesmaids, an Emmy win for "Mike and Molly" and commercial hits like "The Heat," "Identity Thief" and now "Spy."
Sherman-Palladino also elaborated on gender discrimination in the business. “The most frustrating thing about the sexism
in Hollywood with writers and directors is that there are certain situations
you get in and you know what’s going to happen,” Sherman-Palladino observed. “When
you get a pilot on the air, you get handed a list of approved directors that
comes from the network and studio. You get approved directors, and any one
of these directors can direct your show. If there’s no women on that list — and
there’s usually not more than one, at least that’s been my experience — it’s
going to be up to you to say, ’I need some chicks!’”
The "Bunheads" creator revealed that she insisted on a female DP for the ABC Family series, though she acknowledged that not everyone has the clout to make such demands, admitting, "If it’s your first gig, it’s not a position you can take."
As for who the responsibility lies with, Sherman-Palladino said, "The guilds need to get involved. I know the DGA says it’s not their fault, but I’ve had some experiences with the DGA that I thought were a little misogynistic. Maybe that’s changing, and with the rise of women like Michelle MacLaren and Lexi Alexander, now it feels like things are starting to change. But I know if you talk to any of those women, they had to fight harder and they had to jump through more hoops to get there.”
Sherman Palladino, who is currently working on a pilot for Amazon, also puts the onus on influential women in Hollywood to change the industry by hiring more women. She argued, “I really believe that for women to get into a position of power, it’s up to them to say, ’I want a female DP, I want more female directors, I want a female producer, I need more chicks on my staff.’"
As for the ACLU’s case against Hollywood’s discriminatory hiring practices, Sherman-Palladino supports the cause, but doesn’t seem entirely optimistic of the outcome of the situation. “I don’t know what the ACLU is going to be able to do. I wish them luck,” she stated. “I’m on their side, but it’s an amorphous thing because in creative situations, there’s a million ways to say, ’I didn’t hire this person for this reason that has nothing to do with their gender,’ but you know it does.”
To quote Sherman-Palladino herself, "Anything worth doing is a fight. If you don’t have to fight for it, it’s not worth doing."