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Tessa Thompson: Time’s Up Sees the Oscars ‘As An Opportunity to Start a Cultural Conversation’

The actress and activist says the group looks at every Hollywood event as a place to spark conversations — and that includes this year's Oscars.

Tessa Thompson Thor: Ragnarok premiere

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This year’s Golden Globes Awards served as a coming out party of sorts for Time’s Up, the fledgling group of some of the entertainment industry’s best known names — including Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Natalie Portman, Brie Larson, Ashley Judd, and Tessa Thompson — who have dedicated themselves to fighting sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond. Several long-term activists were invited to walk the red carpet and sit in the audience as invited guests of the group, while a number of stars, writers, directors, producers, and executives were seen wearing all black outfits and “Time’s Up” lapel pins to show their solidarity with the movement.

For Time’s Up, which has continued to be top of mind during industry-wide discussions and has already gathered $20 million in donations for its legal defense fund, it was just the start.

“I’m one of many people that has been leaning in, and trying to do the work, and be of service, in whatever way I can be,” actress and activist Thompson told IndieWire in a recent interview. “And it’s incredible to see it become this global, not just brand, but idea…I think the stage was really set for that, with the action at the Golden Globes, with bringing activists, with amplifying work that’s been done for a very long time, women that have these big, incredible voices.”

When asked if the group is planning something new for this month’s Oscars, Thompson shied away from offering up any specific plans as of yet, but acknowledged that the event — inarguably Hollywood’s biggest — is the exact kind of platform for conversation that the group is eager to tap into.

“I think, of course, [we’re] looking at every event now as an opportunity to start a cultural conversation, because culture always precedes political change,” she said. “Cultural change always precedes political change. So I feel like that’s why the Golden Globes [and] those big stages are important. Of course, the Oscars are a conversation.”

But the work that Time’s Up is hoping to accomplish goes beyond bringing attention to their movement at some of Hollywood’s glitziest events, and conversation-starting activities are only one part of an ambitious plan to reshape how Hollywood operates. “Time’s Up is really about safety and equity in workplaces, and that’s a very multi-layered demand,” Thompson said. “So there’s all sorts of initiatives, just from what our crews look like, that they should represent the world, to what our content looks like. It’s a big sea change.”

The group has also been enthused by the reaction from women in other industries, most notably the farmworkers alliance Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, which penned an open letter to the women of entertainment industry in November, pledging their support and inspiring them to band together to fight harassment together.

For Thompson, reading that open letter “really express[ed] a necessity for all of us to be able to look outside of this space in which we occupy, and to look over at somebody else and go, ‘I see you. I’m dealing with the very same things that you are, in a different way, but I see you and we’re together.'” The actress and activist believes those sort of bonds are just the start of a much more wide-ranging movement.

“Now we live in a time where those folks can tell their stories, and we can really look at the inside of all of our industries, and say, ‘Women are not safe, and we don’t have parity, we don’t have equality,'” she said. “So that’s the work that needs to continue to be done in our business and across industries. I feel really hopeful that there’s that sort of unification, but there’s so much to do.”

She added, “I think that’s sort of galvanizing with all women, all kinds of women, because the one thing that we share, the one sameness that we have, is living inside a patriarchy, truthfully. So I think if we can find ways to work together, to advocate for each other, then it’s incredible, what we can do, to shift that.”

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