Why Women Should Write Their Own Roles

Michelle Rodriguez made us swoon this week by using the Fast and Furious 6 (6!) press junket to speak out about the problem of good female roles (via Jezebel): 

It’s so hard to find really good writers. It’s a fairly new, last-twenty-year thing to have strong, independent, free-spirited women on film. Eighty percent of the writers are guys, most of them are married in Beverly Hills and they’re married to some woman who obviously annoys them or they wouldn’t write the way they write.

Actress-comedian, and now writer, Suzanne Smith had the same feelings when she tried to navigate Hollywood, so she recently did what more women are doing all the time — she created her own damn material. She wrote for us about how she got started.

“Nobody knew what to do with me besides me.” –Roseanne Barr

As an actor, I have always known this, but only at 36 years old did I finally have the courage to take action and start my own web series. Prior to this project, I was a working actress, with roles in Sex and the City, Law and Order, and Double Whammy, an independent film with Denis Leary. I always loved being part of a team and working with talented actors, directors and crew. Early in 2003, I had a near-death experience, which changed everything, including the way I looked at sharing my talent and the purpose of my life. In all actuality, I thought about leaving acting completely and focusing more on other interests, including writing, making collage art, and running a story time for children. But the acting bug had never completely left me, and in 2008, I got back into acting class with Wynn Handman, which inspired me to merge my writing and acting interests. Suddenly, I was creating my own characters, and it felt right.

I had always loved Woody Allen, Larry David, Christopher Guest and John Cassavetes. This new approach gave me full creative control, and I started creating parts for myself that were fuller female representations. I loved the roles that others had scripted, but let’s face it, the really meaty parts for women are few and far between. I remember Wynn saying to me in my early 20s, “You are not an ingénue.” I interpreted this to mean that my natural character was too strong for many of the existing female roles. I had always been a character actress, but apparently it confused people that I was “attractive.” I had auditioned for many big parts, but there were very few that I felt connected to. Plus, some of the feedback on my appearance was confusing. I was told I was “too thin,” “too fat,” “not fat enough” because I had a “pretty face.” Then I was told that there weren’t a lot of roles for me at my age. After my brush with death, I realized that life is too short to fit myself into someone else’s box.

When a friend suggested a couple of years ago that I play a quirky psychic with strong opinions, I took to the idea. Earlier this year, I launched Saige Winters: My Psychic Life, which I now cast, produce, write, co-direct occasionally and act in. Creatively, I have never been happier (though I do like the collaborative process and am open to playing excellent roles). I love having the freedom to tap my artistic and comedic sides without having to fit into someone else’s agenda. There are so many different types of women walking this earth, each of us unique and strong in her own way. This experience, which includes the positive feedback I’ve received, affirms for me the need for us all to live our true north—and write our own roles.


Comments

  1. Sheryl says:

    Thank you, Suzanne for inspiring me to continue writing my own role in life! I can’t wait for the second season of Saige Winters.

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