Emmy winner Michelle Williams talks pay equity and playing Gwen Verdon

Michelle Williams, 71st Emmy Awards
Michelle Williams wins lead actress in a limited series or movie for her performance as Gwen Verdon in FX’s “Fosse/Verdon” at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Michelle Williams, winner of the Emmy Award for lead actress in a limited series or movie for her portrayal of Gwen Verdon in FX’s “Fosse/Verdon,” elaborated on her onstage plea for pay equity in the entertainment industry in the press room backstage.

“It felt like no matter how many accolades I amassed, I couldn’t make that translate into retirement money or something that really felt like longtime security,” said the actress, a four-time Oscar nominee for roles in such films as “Brokeback Mountain” and “Manchester by the Sea.”


“If it was this difficult for me, a white woman [in a] privileged industry, how difficult is it for women of color across all industries?” said Williams. “While tonight is a fairy-tale ending for me, there really won’t be any satisfaction for me until the larger message is heard.”

She also spoke about the meticulous process of aging Gwen Verdon throughout the show, praising her hair and makeup team, Jackie Risotto and Nicole Bridgeford. She added that her favorite part of the role was playing Verdon at 64 years old. (The show was nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy for prosthetic makeup.)

“The journey to aging Gwen was so delicate and so difficult … how do you make someone at once older and still luminous and affecting to be younger? It’s a huge challenge,” said the 39-year-old actress. “We were honest with each other but we were kind with each other and because of that, I really share this with them. I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.”