Jury Coordination and Notes

SAG-AFTRA – Power Of Portrayal – Inspiring Performances Driving Social Change

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is the only research based non-profit working with the entertainment and media community to improve gender diversity in children’s media including more positive role models, equality of opportunity and diverse representation on screen.

On November 6, 2017 at the newly built SAG/AFTRA – Robin Williams Center in New York City, an inspiring group of six strong, diverse women from the film, television and sports world spoke about their personal careers and life journeys, looking for the strong women parts and opportunities.

Led by Madeline Di Nonno, CEO, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the panelists included: Gabrielle Carteris, President, SAG-AFTRA; Swin Cash, Athlete/Sports Analyst; Megan Boone, Actor; Alysia Reiner, Actor and Activist; Maggie Siff – Actor and Producer. The women first spoke of choice and pivotal moments in their careers and in life, then about having a voice and power. Here are some highlights and take aways reported by each of the women.

Gabrielle Carteris, widely known for her role as Andrea, a studious newspaper editor in Beverly Hills, 90210 says that role was a transformational opportunity that changed her life.  It gave her great courage.  She still receives comments about this role, which had an incredible impact on her life and reflected society. As the president of Sag-AFTRA, she never imagined herself in this position, yet felt prepared having worked with Ken Howard, the prior President.  She believes being of service is the highest calling and also believes in paying it forward and using power for the good. This was a pivotal moment for her – exciting and frightening at the same time.

Swin Cash got recognition from playing basketball and, in the eighth grade got a modeling opportunity.  She focused on academics, majored in drama and theater and continued to play in sports. She was the first girl and first African American to be in the WNBA when it was started twenty plus years ago. She reached out to Robin Roberts as a mentor, when Robin was at ESPN, to help her make choices with her career. Currently she is the female lead on We Need to Talk a CBS Sports Network first-ever, nationally televised all female, weekly sports show. She rose from humble beginnings, inspired by her grandmother who owned her own home and encouraged her to create wealth. Service is an important part of her life as founder of both Swin Cash Enterprises LLC and Cash Building Blocks, LP, an urban development company that renovates and offers affordable homes for low-income families.  An Olympic medal winner in 2004, she feels her service to help women and underprivileged kids is essential.

Maggie Siff, grew up in an acting, academic and artistic family, went to Bronx High School of Science and then to Bryn Mawr College.  She got her MFA at NYU and started her career in theater.  Her first big break, in her 30s, was the role of Rachel on Madmen, never imagining a role in film and television. She didn’t think she belonged there. She auditioned many times for this iconic role, which she thought read like an amazing film script or play. In its 1958 setting, Rachel was an unusual character for that time, as the female head of a department store.  She connected to this character, claiming it was very familiar. The other point she made is that the writer’s room on this program had more female and diverse writers which made a great difference in character portrayal. Currently, she plays a powerful in-house performance coach and therapist to the head of a hedge fund company on Billionaire.  She claims women appreciate her in this professional role, committed to both her job and family. She uses Tony Robbins as her inspiration to step into her “biggest self.”

Alysia Reiner struggled in her 20s and 30s with her acting career and wondered if she should stay or go. It took a long time to get a part and her advice is to live your life and find your joy, while you are in that struggle. Early on, she did a one-woman show portraying Virginia Woolf at the Edenborough Festival.  She went through a period of grief and loss when her father died of cancer in ten days and was inspired to do a grief counseling film as a way of coping.  As an activist, she believes in art as science and has a deep respect for all women in all fields that create change and make a difference. She loves working on an all women crew for the freedom it provides. Orange is the New Black, the show she currently works on, has a 90% male crew, which gives it quite a different feel.  She is a strong advocate to be in service, and works for the women’s prison association in Tulsa, Oklahoma to aid incarcerated women.

Megan Boone studied theater and struggled socially as a young woman. She was bullied while a student at Florida State Theater.  She studied with Jane Alexander and Ed Sherin, and in an impulse exercise with them, she decided to stick with acting. Her struggles led to an audition on Blacklist for the role of Liz Keene. She knew this was her part.  Megan is working on a sustainable business degree, as she is concerned with our natural environment.  As an advocate for policy change, inspired by Corey Booker and Kristen Gillebrand, she works for solutions in the public/private sector.

The panel stressed the importance of service in these most difficult times we live in and how we need to continue the fight for gender, race and the natural world.

By Terry Solowey

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