Panels Women Who Kick Ass
Credit: SAM HODGSON for EW

Girl Power had its spotlight moment today in Hall H during Entertainment Weekly’s Women Who Kick Ass panel moderated by Sara Vilkomerson. Michelle Rodriguez (Machete Kills), Maggie Q (Nikita), Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), and Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) assembled to discuss being female action heroes, what it’s like to work in an industry run by men and the hazards of the job.

On their own female action heroes:

Maggie Q looked up to stars like Lynda Carter: “The ’70s women, if you think about it, they’re the ones who did it first.” Danai Gurira said she was inspired by Susan Dey in L.A. Law. “For me, it was April O’Neal. I wanted to be her,” Tatiana Maslany said with a laugh. Michelle Rodriguez loved Linda Hamilton, and Katee Sackhoff went sci-fi with her pick. “I grew up wanting to be in Predator, and then I found Alien and realized I could just be Sigourney Weaver.”

The ladies said they never dreamed they’d one day become true action heroes. Rodriguez wanted to be a boxer, Gurira wanted to be a District Attorney, and Sackhoff said she wanted to be a pony. “Michelle would’ve punched me in the face. And I would’ve gone home crying because the girl who wanted to be a boxer punched me in the face.” Maslany said she always wanted to be a boy, because that is what she associated with strength.

On living in a man’s world:

“Men are dumb. They think we fight in heels and dresses,” Maggie Q said. Rodriguez and Gurira said they were lucky their roles mostly allowed them to dress in casual clothes and comfortable boots. “I just did a scene naked with a gun and I was like … this is not normal,” Sackhoff said, thereby winning the prize for most insane costume. Or lack of one.

A fan asked when we would get to see a fight between Rodriguez and Maggie Q, but Michelle countered with this: “Men rule the world because we’re always bickering and fighting with each other and we should be working together to balance out all that destructive male energy.”

“They can’t imagine 15 women in a movie together who all kick ass and aren’t fighting with each other,” Sackhoff said.

“Or fighting over a guy,” Rodriguez added.

The girls agreed that it is an upward climb to defy stereotypes and expectations about females playing powerful roles. They have all experienced sexism on set, from unwanted flirting to unnecessary roughness. One of Rodriguez’s costars challenged the script that called for her to drive a car off a cliff.

“He was like, ‘A girl’s not gonna drive the car.’ I’m like, what, are you stupid? I’m looking at this cat like, do you want to race me, homie?”

Maslany recalled being shut out of the creative process and being told just to smile and look pretty.

“It’s a difficult space that women occupy, do you call it out?” Guira mused. “Do you define it? Sometimes you have to come across as the chick who is in their face a little, without coming off as crazy. But we have to see it through, we can’t always just leave it because then the next girl has to deal with it.”

On bringing their jobs home:

“I’m convinced that if I were on a plane and they were like, ‘The pilots just had heart attacks,’ I’d be like — I got this,” Sackhoff said. “You just keep it level, it’s not that hard. I was a pilot for seven years.”

“I’ve always had a fighter in me,” Gurira said, explaining that sometimes she lets her character become a part of her every day. “I’ll be like, Michonne gotta go home — gotta go back to Danai using words and not thinking about other ways to deal with the situation.”

Maslany has also been influenced by her many characters. “Sarah especially. She’s from the streets, she’s a hustler, and she’s very grounded. It gives me a confidence to walk through the world differently.”

On doing your duty as a women:

Rodriguez repeatedly brought up the fact that there isn’t enough content for women, by women. She encouraged the female audience in Hall H to create projects that show women in a realistic and favorable light.

“The conversation becomes, ‘Can we really sell that?'” Gurira said. “When stuff is out there, support it, because they’re looking at the numbers.”

The women said they are committed to breaking down the social and racial barriers that still exist in entertainment, and that they would like to see things continue to represent women globally. And not just action heroes — the everyday heroes who make small changes and touch the lives nearest them.

“For me, the strength comes in revealing flaws, weakness, and vulnerability,” Maslany said. “Every single one of us in this room could be that woman.”