The actresses on the EW Women Who Kick Ass panel at Comic-Con start off soft and come on strong when moderator Sarah Vilkomerson asks them if they've ever experienced sexism on the job. Have they ever. It was like turning on a faucet as the women compared notes on surviving in what is still very much a man's world. They admit that while they can act tough on-screen--and train hard to be able to embody what's on the written page--navigating the treacherous entertainment industry requires an equally valuable set of skills.
Dealing with sexism in Hollywood:
Michelle Rodriguez ("Fast & Furious"): I was doing a weird movie about dogs that attack people, shooting in South Africa, and the director says 'Michelle, you're in the front seat of the car, the boys run in and take off, you fly the car off the cliff.' The actor said, 'A girl is not going to drive the car.' I said, 'What are you stupid, want to race me, homie? Obviously you are retarded.' Yeah, that was the most sexist thing anyone said to me on set.
Katee Sackhoff ("Battlestar Gallactica"): On one movie fight scene, an actor a lot bigger than me--I had called him out on something a couple weeks before, and he didn't like that, he was drinking on set. In the fight scene, he physically hurt me, pulled my arms out of their sockets, I had tears down my spine afterwards. I was crying, I walked off set, came back and had to finish scene, do it over. I said, 'take it easier, I'm still a girl, I'm a lot smaller than you.' He said, 'I've seen your work, I thought you could take it.'
MR: Dude, I'm so glad I wasn't here. I would have flipped out.
KS: They either think you're tough, or people go the opposite, 'you're a girl, no way.' I cried like a baby.
Tatiana Maslany ("Orphan Black"): One director said, 'Don't think too much.' I had ideas I wanted to bounce off. 'She's smiling, she's sweet.' They'd never say that to a male actor who's working a long time, so condescending. 'I don't want to have intellectual discourse.' He wants what he wants. I was treated by the crew in a specific way, as a young girl on set, because I look like 12. They said inappropriate things when I was tied to a bed. Crew members were hitting on me, that was inappropriate when I was 18 years old.
Danai Gurira ("The Walking Dead"): It's so tricky. It's a difficult space women have to occupy. Do you call it out, how do you handle it? There are so many subversive ways that sexism manifests, how do you state that it happened, was it really that? How do we handle it, when they don't really include you, is another thing. We have men making decisions, women are there, but they're not trying to get her input or involvement, and just tell her what to do in the end. How do you inject yourself, you have to come across as a chick in their face a little. How do you do that with class, without them saying, 'she's crazy.' It's a constant negotiation.
On a film, the male lead was worshipped by the director, but I was playing the title role. The juxtaposition would get intense. We had to have a talk. I just can't hang with that, it has to be dealt with, to see it through in a civil way. I have to do it, we all have to as women, have to see it through, we can't leave it.
KS: This business in our world is hard on women. I'm the same size as when I moved here at 17. I was told I was fat, 'you need to go on diet.' You have to be headstrong. I grew up with a strong mom, I didn't put up with that shit. 'This is who I am, if you don't like it I will move back and sell real estate with my dad.' You only have one body. Treat it right.
I was lucky enough to have the strongest mom I ever met in my entire life. She never did anything spectacular, but she taught school for 35 amazing years, and raised a daughter to be headstrong and never take any shit. You don't have to go out and change the world on a massive scale. But you can change one person with a smile. That's being a superhero.
MR: I follow my joy. I feel happy playing someone I respect. If not, my stomach churns, if the character is not there, my stomach doesn't feel right. Until I fix that I'm not going to go on set and play that character. I need to believe, and like, be attracted to who I'm playing. My gut has to feel right... Vin [Diesel] is not scared of strong women, which is a rare thing in Hollywood.
KS: He pushes you: 'do this to make you look stronger, put your body this way.'