March 07, 2018 at 10:00 AM EST

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In front of the camera, director Ava DuVernay assembled a diverse trio of women to play the three celestial guides of A Wrinkle in Time; on screen, they help a young girl, played by Storm Reid, traverse the cosmos — itself a historic sight for a fantasy-lover like DuVernay. “I loved The NeverEnding Story,” she says. “I wanted to fly on the dog. But there was no girl with glasses flying on the dog… all the films where kids would fly, I would never see a girl like me. And Storm was present for me and for all the women and girls before me who never got a chance to do that.”

Behind the camera on A Wrinkle in Time, the director also strove to fill her team with the same representation of population that she’s consistently urged Hollywood to make the norm. Audiences will never see it — but DuVernay’s off-screen assembly will have left its mark, insofar as the impact it’s already made on a seasoned star-turned-producer like Reese Witherspoon and a bright newcomer like Reid.

“I don’t think you think about the consciousness with which movies are made, but for me, it was profound,” Witherspoon told EW during a recent roundtable with the cast. “Ava set the tone for everybody behind the scenes. It’s not just about what you see on the camera that’s so inclusive…it’s behind the scenes, too. I’ve done a lot of movies, and I’ve never seen a crew like that where everybody is represented. It looked like the world we live in.”

Oprah Winfrey, who costars with Witherspoon (and Mindy Kaling), asked the actress, “Has it changed the way you look at putting movies together?”

“One hundred percent,” Witherspoon replied, citing filmmakers like DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, and Ryan Murphy as guiding lights as she strives to implement similar representative parity on her upcoming productions (of which there are many, and growing). “It’s not just the art you make, it’s how you make the art that brings consciousness to the audience,” Witherspoon continued, incidentally mirroring a sentiment that Witherspoon’s character, the inquisitive Mrs. Whatsit, actually posits to Meg (Reid) and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) when she first meets them in the film. “We can’t take any credit for our talents,” she says. “It’s how we use them that counts.”

Reid, to her credit, is picking up on the lesson early. She’s a promising up-and-comer in Hollywood, but she’s worked on enough sets to recognize the rarified air that defined the New Zealand (and change) set of Wrinkle. “This was the first set I’ve been on with so many women,” says the 14-year-old. “I felt like everybody was represented on that set — it looked, like Miss Ava said, like the United Nations there. I hope that I’ll get to experience that again and I hope that Hollywood can normalize that, but I’m just not sure if I will have the privilege to experience that on the next set I go onto, which is unfortunate, but it may be true.” The momentum grows, however, and between the immediate conversations — like Frances McDormand’s internet-shaking plea for filmmakers to consider inclusion riders — and longer-term vows from Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company and other growing power players, perhaps that future is not so far ahead in time.

A Wrinkle in Time arrives in theaters this Friday.

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