Michelle Williams's Emmy call for equal pay hailed as 'best speech ever'

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Michelle Williams is known for delivering impressive prepared performances on screen, but she gave one live Sunday at the Emmys, during her candid speech about the importance of equal pay.

While accepting the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, Williams, who is usually quite private, thanked the cast, especially co-star Sam Rockwell, and crew of Fosse/Verdon for working so hard to make the show come together. She thanked the makers of the show for investing in her.

“I see this as an acknowledgment of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feel safe enough to voice them and respected enough that they’ll be heard,” Williams said. “When I asked for more dance classes, I heard, ‘Yes,’ more voice lessons, ‘Yes,’ a different wig, a pair of fake teeth not made out of rubber, ‘Yes.’ And all of these things, they require effort and they cost more money but my bosses never presumed to know better than I did about what I needed in order to do my job and honor Gwen Verdon.”

Williams’s comments were especially poignant, after news broke in 2017 that she had been paid much less than her male co-star, Mark Wahlberg, for reshoots that she’d done on the movie All the Money in the World. In January 2018, USA Today reported that Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million, while Williams received just $1,000, reshooting scenes in which Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey.

The Oscar winner didn’t specifically mention that experience, but she was surely thinking about it.

“I wanted to say thank you so much to FX and to Fox 21 studios for supporting me completely and paying me equally because they understood that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value,” Williams said, as producer Lin-Manuel Miranda and her close friend Busy Philipps cheered her on. “And then where do they put that value? They put it into their work.”

She continued, “And so the next time a woman, and especially a woman of color, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white, male counterpart, tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her. Because one day she may stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it.”

Williams ended her speech with sweet words for her daughter:

“Matilda this is for you, like everything else.”

Her speech was a hit, both at the Microsoft Theater in L.A. where the awards show was held and online.

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