Women Who Kick Ass panel SDCC2019

The “Women Who Kick Ass” panel is a San Diego Comic-Con staple. Entertainment Weekly has hosted the event in Hall H for several years in a row, and this year brought together five accomplished actresses to share their stories of working in Hollywood and what they’ve learned from their years in the business. 

Moderator Sarah Rodman introduced Shoreh Aghdasloo (The Expanse), Freema Agyeman (New Amsterdam, Doctor Who), Betty Gilpin (The Hunt, GLOW), Jeri Ryan (Star Trek), and Cobie Smulders (The AvengersStumptown) to the stage, where the conversation ranged from their role models to deciding what characters they want to play. Read on to hear more about their discussion.

Role Models Can Come From Everywhere, From Your Family to Those in the Business

Rodman kicked off the panel by asking the group to talk about their role models, which ranged from older sisters (Smulders) to a science-teaching nun (Agyeman) to their moms (Agyeman, Gilpin, and Ryan). Smulders and Gilpin also mentioned role models they had from the industry: for Smulders it was working with director Pam Fryman on How I Met Your Mother, and for Gilpin it was working with Alison Brie on GLOW. One thing that the panelists echoed, however, is that role models come from everywhere, and that there can be role models for different parts of your life.

On the entertainment industry side of the discussion, the group also talked about how things have improved over time. “It’s unbelievable how everything is changing, how women have finally come to the foreground,” Aghdasloo said. She’s been in the business for 43 years, and said, “I remember 30 years ago, people kept asking me, ‘How come we don’t see more strong female roles on the silver screen?’ and I said we need more powerful female artists, politicians in real life…we have thousands of those now and it’s just unbelievable how mothers are pushing their daughters to become somebody.”

Going Beyond “The Strong Female Character” Trope

The group also discussed the desire to play characters that showcase the many different types of strengths that a woman can have. “When I had my daughter, it became a lot more important for me that my roles were a positive representation of what a woman could be,” Ryan said, just a few short hours after she appeared on the Hall H stage for the Star Trek: Picard panel. “Not that they all have to be the same…I want all girls that are growing up now, I want them to see every possibility. I want them to know that everything is a possibility.” 

Gilpin went on to talk about the importance of seeing fully fleshed out, realistic characters. “Everyone is releasing their inner kraken,” she said. “I think for so long female roles were around the journey of brunch, and right now I think that it’s been this illusion and lie that when we’re looking out the window, we’re thinking of things like brunch. I’m thinking of things like throwing a watermelon through a window or driving a van into a river, and I think people are starting to write for that now, and so I think that the thing that can join us all is to release the inner kraken for female characters.”

And while there certainly have been improvements over the last few years, there is still a way to go. “Doors are open in real life, but they’re not open all the way,” Ryan admitted. The panelists were optimistic, however, that the future for women on film and TV will be bright, if no other reason because there is an audience out there craving it.  

“It’s good business sense to see all people represented,” Agymen said. “You’re going to have a larger audience, and you’re going to make more money!”

Header image via Twitter user Corgi Kohmander, who’s also on the ground at this year’s Comic-Con.

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