If we all had Olivia Munn's view on sexism the world might be a different place
If you think 2015 is your year, think again. There is no question that 2015 belongs to Olivia Munn.
She is starring opposite Johnny Depp in Mortdecai, the R-rated action comedy that opens in theaters on Jan. 23, has a production deal at CBS in which she will develop and executive-produce television projects for the studio, and a seemingly serious relationship with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that she talked openly about on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Munn favors openness and is completely uncensored about her life, her goals and her desultory beginnings. Like many of us, 34 marks the age when you begin to move past "hot young thing" and start to develop into "woman of achievement and substance" who needs to be taken seriously by both men and women. That's pretty much where Munn is in her life right now, and it's quite a hurdle since initially she was exclusively lauded for her beauty and not her talent.
"Other actors get an opportunity...," she says; "if my first job was on Mad Men everybody would be like, 'she’s an actor' but my first opportunity was on G4... which causes issues with perception."
Munn is highly aware of her start as a Geek Goddess with a predominantly young male fan base, yet she doesn't apologize for it despite the fact she says it "got even weirder when my career became more mainstream."
She is, of course, referring to the criticism and subsequent controversy that followed her throughout the beginning of her career such as accusations that she was hired on The Daily Show for her looks alone, her Playboy cover and her public fight with director Brett Ratner who painted her in a very negative light, but later apologized.
"The hardcore fans that have been there from the beginning call themselves the OMFG, the Olivia Munn Fan Group," she says. "They've been really supportive and whenever someone is mean to me publicly they're the first ones on it."
Changing such an indelible perception to go from dressing as Princess Leia at Comic Con to starring in Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom must be incredibly difficult in a male-dominated, unfriendly business.
"It's not lost on me how hard it is to get anywhere [in this business] let alone be able to go from one part of the industry to the other. That's why I feel like I have to work so hard and try to be as smart as I can about my choices, because there isn't a grace period for me."
Munn's unwillingness to stay in the role of someone who is valued for sex appeal solely and not creativity and talent is why her success seems imminent. Perhaps she is misguided thinking that The Daily Show was her "big breakthrough" which "helped give me everything I've had after that" since it indeed was so highly criticized.
In truth, it may have been her role as Sloan Sabbith in HBO's Newsroom that has defined her as the neo-feminist icon who is strong, feminine and embraced by so many, much like Munn herself.
Munn is a big fan of, and is inspired by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, which means that CBS giving her the opportunity to follow in their enormous footsteps is closer to her role as Sloan than it is to almost anything else she has done to date.
"And there isn't an acting component to it, so it's not for me to create something for me to star in which was a big thing because I just want to be able to create different shows."
CBS is spending a bundle and has given Munn Carte blanche while hiring her staff.
"I'm getting people together right now and I have a lot of ideas but once I get my team we’ll decide together."
Capitalizing on the trending hashtag #askhermore, hoping that journalists ask women questions that pertain to more than their looks or fashion, I wanted to know about the inevitable sexism she experiences in Hollywood. She seemed initially offended by my question.
"Have you experienced sexism in your life? It's everywhere. No matter what business you're in people are racist and sexist... but I really believe in teaching people how to treat you. If someone is being sexist or racist I make that their problem and not mine and you just keep moving forward and then eventually it shifts."
That answer didn't sit right with her. Munn's obliging patience for answering questions on topics that didn't challenge her was over. She had more to say on sexism and sought me out after the junket to expand on her initial thought.
"I think your question was a good one and it occurs to me that it works both ways. Women use sexism as an excuse when things don't go their way. I've heard several actresses over the years complain that they don't get roles because they are 'too pretty' when the truth is, they just may be a s***** actor."
"Who is an example of the opposite, talent before beauty?" I asked.
"Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Kate Beckinsale... they don't need to use excuses. They have both."
"So, it seems that the solution is, as you suggested, getting behind the camera and becoming the decision maker?"
"Yes, that's true," she said. But then her dry sense of humor kicked in: "When I'm behind the camera I can get so fat and nobody can say anything because my brain will still be intact."