It was pretty expected that Laura Dern would win at the 2017 Emmys on Sunday night for Big Little Lies in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series Or Movie category. But, that didn't make her win any less exciting — especially since her acceptance speech was super feminist. Laura Dern talked about never getting to work with women, despite the fact that she's been in the industry since she was just 11. That's why Big Little Lies meant so much to her — it was filled to the brim with impressive women and compelling parts. But, while she celebrated her show and her fellow nominees, she also called out the industry for its gender imbalance. "I've been acting since I was 11 and I think I've worked with maybe 12 women," she said at the top of her speech.
Dern is perhaps best known for Jurassic Park, where she shared the screen with one other female character — a child. As she continued in the industry, she was frequently one of the few female characters in her show or movie — but all of that changed with Big Little Lies. The HBO series centered around a group of mothers each with complicated lives and motivations — truly compelling roles filled with starring women like Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Zoe Kravitz, and Shailene Woodley. Dern acknowledged her co-stars and the challenging material in her speech. She called them her "incredible tribe of fierce woman" and gave a shout-out to the mothers of her two of her co-stars for bringing them into existence. "[Thank you to] Nicole and Reese's moms, for not only giving us extraordinary women, but extremely well-read women, because that's how I'm getting parts."
Aside from the women she worked with, Dern was thrilled by the woman she got to play on the show — because her character Renata was so much more than just a rich housewife. She thanked the writers for giving her and her co-stars a chance to play "fierce women and mothers finding their voice."
If that number of women Dern says she's worked with (12) is at all close to the truth for her decades long career — it's shameful. It's never good enough to just have a token woman, there needs to be many women in every project in the entertainment industry. Women deserve to be represented on screen, but women also deserve to work with each other. I'm lucky enough to have a job surrounded by women, so I understand why Dern appreciated Big Little Lies' atmosphere so much.
Dern isn't shy about talking about gender in Hollywood. In an interview with Bustle's Rachel Simon, Dern said, "You start as an actor hoping that you will always play radically different and complicated and diverse characters, if you’re lucky, over the course of a career." Of course, Dern did have many different roles, but not always gender diverse ones. Though, she told Bustle she thinks things are changing in a good way. "What a time to get to work. There’s no time to waste ... we girls gotta try it all."
And Dern is certainly living up to that. Following Big Little Lies, she can be seen in everything from Star Wars: The Last Jedi, JT Leroy, Trial by Fire, The Tale, and Hard Power. There is a sort of Dernaissance happening now, and if it continues to put her (and other women) in these complicated, compelling roles, I'm all for it. Here's hoping some day Dern's awards speeches won't be about how few women she's worked with, but how many she has.