Laverne Cox and Kerry Washington know all too well what it’s like to be “the first,” as well as the mix of pride, pressure and responsibility that comes with it. That’s why they’re working to ensure that they’re providing opportunities for underrepresented artists both on-screen and behind the scenes.
“All day Inauguration Day I was wearing my shirt that has [Vice President Kamala Harris’] face as a little girl, and it says, ‘The first, but not the last.’ Because that has to be the message,” Washington says. “The goal can’t be to be the only one in the room.”
Cox agrees: “The question for me has always been, ‘How do we keep the door open? How do we open a window? How do we just let the whole wall come down, so that more people can get in?’ That is the challenge of being a first something.”
Cox, who recently appeared in “Promising Young Woman,” and Washington, who starred in “The Prom,” have been lending their star power as producers to promote sociopolitical causes beyond Hollywood. Cox, who produced “Disclosure,” has been making docs since 2007 (winning a Daytime Emmy for “The T Word” in 2015), with plans to move into scripted content. Conversely, Washington’s Simpson Street banner has produced a litany of scripted work, but “The Fight” is its first documentary.
“This feels like a really important moment for us to be grappling with truth, and I think that’s why a lot of people are gravitating toward documentary filmmaking,” Washington explains. “We’ve had an ecosystem of dishonesty and lack of transparency in our leadership and gaslighting on an institutional, structural level. That has made us all really want to know the truth, speak the truth, teach the truth.”