EW‘s popular Women Who Kick Ass panel returned to Hall H on Saturday with moderator Nicole Sperling welcoming Sons of Anarchy‘s Katey Sagal, American Horror Story‘s Sarah Paulson, Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, Sleepy Hollow‘s Nicole Beharie, and Game of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams and Natalie Dormer. Topics ranged from their most kickass moments, to what pisses them off about Hollywood, to what superhero they’d choose to be.
• The most interesting answers came when the women talked about the rewards of pushing past the points that scare them. It’s something Maslany, who said playing transgender clone Tony was a privilege, is always doing. “As soon as I have fears or doubts, it’s like that’s where you have to go as an actor,” Maslany said. “Because then all the surprising stuff comes out of there, and you don’t know what you’re capable of.” Paulson was scared she’d ruin what’s been the role she’s loved most in her career, Lana Winters, by aging with bad makeup and doing caricature acting of an 80-year-old in the finale. But she didn’t: “I looked exactly like my grandmother in the most terrifying way,” she said. Also, she went on and on about the “bird seed boobs” they gave her.
Sagal admitted she’s a little bit afraid every season, every episode of Sons of Anarchy: “It’s just awesome to feel that way, and to feel challenged.” Having to portray being raped by white supremacists or putting a gun to a baby’s head are some examples she gave, but the most terrifying things to her are still the small moments—hitting emotional marks that sometimes seem like they come out of nowhere. “I had to do a scene yesterday that literally, in a page and a half, I had to go from A to Z, and I was like, ‘I don’t f–king know where this is.’ And you’re on the day, and it’s television, and you have to get there quick. There’s no, ‘Come back tomorrow and try again.'”
Sagal said she knew she wanted to play Gemma Teller when she read that she’d get to “take a syringe to Drea de Matteo [who plays Wendy], and it was the most conniving and calm way that I threatened her life… plus I get to wear all that leather.” For Paulson, it was the moment where her character had to simulate masturbation while trying to convert herself to be heterosexual. “That was a challenging thing to do, [and] for my father and mother to watch,” she joked. For Beharie, it was she read her character being asked if she’d been emancipated. “I figured, ‘I think I should go for this, and show ’em just how emancipated I am.'”
• Beharie said being the female lead on the show has given her a position she’s never known before: “A lot of different men will come on as day players or guest parts, and I recognize that there’s a certain strength that I have now, or a certain command that I have being one of the leads on the show that I hadn’t had before…. Just owning that space and not being expected, as a woman, to shrink, or curtsy, or any of those sort of things.”
• Dormer spoke eloquently and passionately about the best roles for women now being on TV: “Where television is fantastic and is way ahead of film is it doesn’t feel the need to polarize women so much… Male writers, and I say this with all love and respect, often want to make a woman either the angel or the whore—make her the witch, or put her on the pedestal. When people ask me about Margaery, I say they’re not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to be practical and politically savvy and not be a good person. You can be a good human being and just be shrewd. I think all these women play similar characters.”
• Dormer should always be the one to explain Game of Thrones to new fans: “Game of Thrones shows you all the different ways you can wield power: Whether it’s psychological, physical, sexual, dragons,” Dormer said. “I think we’d all go for the dragons if we were given the choice. But that’s the secret of the writing, that’s why it’s such a compelling show—because it shows how different people are given different weapons, physically and metaphorically, and how they use them.”
• Paulson, making her Comic-Con debut, seemed to soak up the experience. She’s playing a woman with two heads in AHS‘s next incarnation and said she wants to pick Maslany’s brain. She’s also going to take the advice Sagal said she wished she’d listened to when she was younger: Make career choices about your life; don’t be too afraid to take time out and let a family pass you by. “I’m so afraid it’s gonna go away at any given moment, that you think you can’t stop,” Paulson told Sagal. “Stop to do what: Have a life? Have a baby? Meet someone? I mean, what?”
• Williams revealed the Game of Thrones fight choreographers will forget that she insists on playing Arya left-handed, as in the book, even though she’s right-handed in real life. She will make them re-choreograph scenes. She also really wants to do more of her own horse riding. “I know Richard Madden got to actually gallop,” she said. And by the way, “all hell broke loose” when she got her nose pierced.
More fun bits:
• Dormer did one of those “Which Game of Thrones character are you?” quizzes and got Arya, which made her happy. Williams hasn’t taken it, but hopes she’ll get Cersei. (Although Dormer thinks Williams is a total Tyrion.) Also, the sweetest moment of the panel was when Dormer said if she had to choose another character to be on GOT, it would be Arya. Williams’ flattered giggle was the best.
• Beharie would choose to be John Noble’s character on Sleepy Hollow and hopes that Abbie and Ichabod don’t turn romantic. (Sorry, shippers.) The fact that Abbie wasn’t defined by a man was one of the things that drew her to the role. There is talk of a new character coming on the show as a potential love interest for Abbie, but Beharie thinks he’ll have to “work really hard to get her attention,” if it happens.
• Dormer went to drama school with Sleepy Hollow‘s Tom Mison. She took up real fencing because stage-fencing wasn’t cutting it.
• Williams wanted to make the point that people often forget Arya is a tween. “She’s a 12-year-old girl living in this world, and we all like to brush that aside, that she actually just put a sword through someone’s throat. And like, hey, that’s such a kickass moment, but you can’t live your life like that and be okay in the head forever. That’s not the way it works.”
• Asked by an audience member what superhero they’d choose to be, the answers were:
Williams: Spider-Man, for the agility and subtlety
Maslany: Raphael the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for the accent
Beharie: The Hulk, so it’d be on if people pushed the wrong button
Sagal: Caesar from the Planet of the Apes reboot
Paulson: Wolverine (“I look like that in the morning”)
Dormer: Batman, for the psychology
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