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ShowTickets Q&A: Laura Dern on Broadway, ‘Big Little Lies’ and More

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |


Broadway may be in the cards for Emmy winner Laura Dern

Laura Dern currently stars as anti-bullying advocate Renata Klein in the HBO series Big Little Lies. She co-stars with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Zoë Kravitz and Meryl Streep. The powerhouse part has won her Emmy and Golden Globe awards. Dern, a two-time Oscar nominated actress, has been acting professionally she was 11. She has played countless landmark roles in films such as Blue Velvet, Rambling Rose, Citizen Ruth, Enlightened, Wild and many more. Most recently, to help shed light on the absolute ridiculousness of the gender pay gap, she partnered with NUT-rition. Dern executive produced a film which presents the pay parity issue in a very relatable way.

Laura Dern stars as Renata in HBO’s ‘Big Little Lies’ (Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Courtesy HBO)

Laura Dern stars as Renata in HBO’s ‘Big Little Lies’ (Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Courtesy HBO)

I know that you cannot say much about the upcoming season of Big Little Lies, but can you give us a hint of what might happen? 
Laura Dern
: We have all been joking what boring interviews we are, because there is nothing that any of us can say. We are so close to the series coming out. I can say that it’s really exciting to continue with a tribe of women who really love each other deeply, and consider each other family. And we have our new family member addition, the goddess of all time, Meryl Streep.

Also, now that we all know these characters, we have more time to have insight into them. What we are exploring is about voice. It's about the lies that we have been asked to hold – to protect ourselves, our workplace environments, our families. From the most egregious to the most subtle, it is about women learning to use their voice and having each other's support. It's to be able to get to a place that they feel safe enough to do that. 

Would you ever consider coming to Broadway and doing theater?
LD
: It’s quite a commitment, and very interesting that you bring that up. I am the mother of a son who has announced he might like to go to school on the East Coast. I was just on a college tour. There’s that subtle manipulation that I actually might do a play on the East Coast. Because all I want to do go to college with him. For the first time in a long time, I have been thinking about it more and more.

You have been very vocal about the gender pay gap. Have you experienced it firsthand? 
LD
: I was raised by an actress and actor, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. Since my early childhood, I witnessed how my mom was treated compared to my father. I saw how hard my mom struggled as a single mom in the workplace environment as an actress. And I personally suffered because she wasn't allowed to take a child into the workplace. I was away from my mother for months at a time. 

As a female growing up with strong-voiced women, I watched them in their own lives not use their voice, nor think they were entitled. And I have experienced it until very recently, when the community around me began asking for males and females to be treated fairly and equally for the same amount of work. To be very honest, I never experienced pay equality in this industry. Oftentimes the male performer made 60 to 80 percent more than myself or other female leads. That was just the way it was. The reply was, "We gave our budgets to the guy, and now there is nothing left. And if you don't want to take this, we're going to get somebody else because a lot of women need this job."

You recently partnered with NUT-rition, which is helping to empower women to ask to be paid equally. What are they doing? 
LD
: They are helping fund a legal help line. In the work that I've done with Time's Up, I learned so much about having someone to call in place. When we are alone in our isolated experience, dealing with egregious misbehavior all the way to the gender pay gap, in the workplace to go and say, "I'm not being treated fairly," can be terrifying. When you are told you have to report to HR, and feel like you will end up fired, it is terrifying. It is important to have awareness that using our voice is something we not only must do, but also know there is a community to help us do it.

What gave you the courage to speak out?
LD
: I don’t think it is courage. My backbone is the thousands of voices who have come before and surround me now. The instinct is because I was raised by one of the most empathic grandmothers you could ask for. I was raised that you took care of others as you would have them take care of you. The passion is that I have kids. I want them not to have to spend their time fighting for gender pay parity, but to save our planet. There is a lot of other work that we're giving them as their legacy, like preserving the planet and fighting injustice on massive scales.

This issue has been going on too long. It is too big of a fight. So many times the male CEO has been raised by a single mom who held down three jobs to put him through school. The presumption that he will not understand is not the norm anymore. We need to reach out to our male colleagues to ask them to fight for what is right and what they wish their mothers would have had.

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