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Erin Darke on Her New Amazon Show, Good Girls Revolt

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Pilot season can be a stressful experience for any actor, but for Erin Darke, 2015’s pilot season was particularly depressing. “I was reading these scripts and just being like, ‘Oh my god, what if I have to sign a seven-year contract with this show?” the Kill Your Darlings actress recalls. “It was that feeling of, 'theoretically, I want these jobs, but I don’t actually want any of these jobs.'” Then, two months after pilot season had wrapped, another script landed in her hands: Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt, a show based on Lynn Povich’s book The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. It was love at first read. “[I was] convinced that I was never going to get it because I loved it too much,” Darke says.

The structure of news magazines in the 1960s was much different than it is today: Male employees were the writers and reporters; they were paired with women, who worked as research assistants and fact checkers, often without getting credit for their work. Povich was one of 46 women working at Newsweek who, in 1970, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that management at the magazine had “systematically discriminated” against its female employees “in both hiring and promotion,” and that the women were “forced to assume a subsidiary role” just because they were female. (In the book, Povich writes that her boss, Harry Waters, explained that when he applied at the magazine, his editor told him, "The best part of the job is that you get to screw the researcher," which, Waters said, “reflected the position of women at the newsmagazines, both literally and figuratively. It reinforced in young women that that’s their position—it’s underneath. That’s as far as they can get.”)

“These women were so highly educated and so intelligent and were actually being used for that intelligence, just not in an equal way,” Darke says. Good Girls Revolt fictionalizes this fight, swapping in News of the Week magazine for Newsweek and featuring female employees in various situations in life fighting for credit and equality.

Darke was called in to audition for Cindy Reston—who, unlike a number of the characters on the show, is a married woman whose life is very neatly planned out. “In some ways, she’s already made all of the decisions to go down that path,” Darke says. “In the pilot, Cindy definitely starts a journey of realizing that this life that she signed herself up for is perhaps not exactly what she wants. For her to change her mind about that and decide she wants something else is not an easy thing.”

Darke loved the idea of being able to play a woman making those tough decisions, and fell in love with the character, who dreams of writing a novel and whose husband has allowed her to work as a caption writer at News of the Week for a couple of years before they start a family. Then, after her initial audition for Cindy, Darke was called back in to read for Jane, one of the magazine’s unmarried research assistants. “When they brought me back in for Jane, I was a little bit like, ‘Well, I still really love the show, and I’m still super excited about it,’” Darke says. But when Pitch Perfect actress Anna Camp was ultimately cast as Jane, Darke landed the role of Cindy—and she was overjoyed.

“I was so happy because I had fallen in love with the character of Cindy,” Darke says. “She’s so different from me, but I think maybe in her I can see this alternate universe version of me where, if I had been raised in a different time by different people, that could be the person I ended up being. Imagine growing up without ever having anyone tell you that you can pursue your dream, and then, as an adult, making that discovery on your own and trying to deal with that. I have so much compassion and love for her in that journey that she’s on because it’s a journey that I didn't have to go on.”

Good Girls Revolt filmed its pilot episode in New York City in August 2015. If the pilot had been filmed for network TV, executives would have decided whether or not to pick it up, but Amazon’s system works differently. In November, the company released Revolt online along with a few other pilots, and asked its users to rate, vote, and comment on the show. That feedback factors into the company’s decision about whether or not to order a pilot to series.

“It was a crazy thing to have the pilot out there, knowing that your future and the future of the show depends on people watching it and liking it,” Darke says. “But there was also something great about it, because most network pilots that don’t get picked up disappear. I shot a pilot a few years ago with David Schwimmer that I loved, and it didn't get picked up. I’ve never seen it. I don’t know anyone who actually ever got to see it. It just disappeared into the ether. This thing that you put all this work into—if it doesn't get picked up, it’s gone. So there was something actually really lovely about the Amazon system and knowing that even if our show didn't get picked up, the pilot would still be out there, and this thing that we had worked so hard on would at least get to be seen.” Revolt’s pilot currently has a rating of 4.6 stars out of five, and the full season—which was shot in Los Angeles—will be available on October 28.

After she booked the show and before filming the pilot, Darke did her research. She read Povich’s book and watched CNN’s series The Sixties and The Seventies. But she still found that there were gaps in her knowledge of that time period, which often spurred other research during filming—especially when the show’s fictional magazine covered real-life events. The pilot, for example, opens with the murder of Meredith Hunter during the Rolling Stones’s set at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969, and other episodes deal with aspects of Vietnam and the Black Panther movement.

“One time we talked about the Tet Offensive ... I realized that I actually didn't know that much about it,” she says. “I think in general, this time period has been one of those things for me. I just had this moment of realizing, holy s***, the things that were happening in this country at the time—I have this broad surface knowledge of them, but did not know the details. There are a few episodes that deal with the Black Panthers. I obviously, theoretically, knew who they were, but I’ve been very interested in them since then because I think there’s a correlation between that and Black Lives Matter today.”

And although it's a period show, certain aspects of Good Girls Revolt will feel familiar, particularly to its female viewers. Women still make less than men in the same jobs, are less likely to be given raises even when they ask for them, and account for less than 5 percent of the CEOs at S&P 500 companies. “I keep telling people that I find the show horrifyingly relevant,” Darke says. “I definitely came out of shooting Good Girls Revolt with a renewed sense of the need to fight for feminism. It was both a reminder for me of how far we’ve come, but also that it’s not done.”

Good Girls Revolt hits Amazon on October 28, 2016.

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John P. Johnson, HBO
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10 Wild Facts About Westworld
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

The hit HBO show about an android farm girl finding sentience in a fake version of the old West set in a sci-fi future is back for a second season. So grab your magnifying glass, study up on Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, and get ready for your brain to turn to scrambled eggs. 

The first season saw Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her robotic compatriots strive to escape bondage as the puppet playthings of a bored society that kills and brutalizes them every day, then repairs them each night to repeat the process for paying customers. The Maze. The Man in Black. The mysteries lurking in cold storage and cantinas. Wood described the first season as a prequel, which means the show can really get on the dusty trail now. 

Before you board the train and head back into the park, here are 10 wild facts about the cerebral, sci-fi hit. (Just beware of season one spoilers!)

1. IT’S NOT THE FIRST TV ADAPTATION OF THE MOVIE.

Though Westworld, the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton, was a hit, its 1976 sequel Futureworld was a flop. Still, the name and concept had enough cachet for CBS to move forward with a television concept in 1980. Beyond Westworld featured Delos head of security John Moore (Jim McMullan) battling against the villainous mad scientist Simon Quaid (James Wainwright), who wants to use the park’s robots to, what else, take over the whole world. It would be a little like if the HBO show focused largely on Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs, which just might be the spinoff the world is waiting for.

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER HAS A CAMEO.

Ed Harris and Eddie Rouse in 'Westworld'
JOHN P. JOHNSON, HBO

The HBO series pays homage to the original film in a variety of ways, including echoing elements from the score to create that dread-inducing soundscape. It also tipped its ten-gallon hat to Yul Brynner’s relentless gunslinger from the original film by including him in the storage basement with the rest of the creaky old models.

3. QUENTIN TARANTINO, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, AND MANY OTHERS COULD HAVE REBOOTED IT.

Speaking of Brynner’s steely, murderous resolve: His performance as the robo-cowboy was one of the foundations for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn as the Terminator. Nearly 20 years later, in 2002, Schwarzenegger signed on to produce and star in a reboot of the sci-fi film from which he took his early acting cues. Schwarzenegger never took over the role from Brynner because he served as Governor of California instead, and the reboot languished in development hell.

Warner Bros. tried to get Quentin Tarantino on board, but he passed. They also signed The Cell director Tarsem Singh (whose old West would have been unbelievably lush and colorful, no doubt), but it fell through. A few years later, J.J. Abrams—who had met with Crichton about a reboot back in 1996—pitched eventual co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy on doing it as a television series. HBO bought it, and the violent delights finally made it to our screens.

4. IT COSTS $40,000 A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK. (AND THAT’S THE CHEAP PACKAGE.)

Thandie Newton and Angela Sarafyan in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, Logan (Ben Barnes) revealed that he’s spending $40,000 a day to experience Westworld. That’s in line with the 1973 movie, where park visitors spent $1000 a day, which lands near $38,000 once adjusted for inflation. Then again, we’re talking about 2052 dollars, so it might still be pricey, but not exorbitant in 2018 terms. But a clever Redditor spotted that $40,000 is the minimum you’d pay; according to the show’s website, the Gold Package will set you back $200,000 a day.

5. BEN BARNES BROKE HIS FOOT AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE.

Once Upon a Time’s Eion Bailey was originally cast as Logan but had to quit due to a scheduling conflict, so Ben Barnes stepped in … then he broke his foot. The actor hid the injury for fear he’d lose the job, which is why he added a limp as a character detail. “I’m sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice,” Barnes said. “But really I had a very purple foot … So walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me.”

6. THE CO-CREATORS RICKROLLED FANS OBSESSED WITH UNCOVERING SPOILERS.

Eagle-eyed fans (particularly on Reddit) uncovered just about every major spoiler from the first season early on, which is why Nolan and Joy promised a spoiler video for anyone who wanted to know the entire plot of season two ahead of its premiere. They delivered, but instead of show secrets, the 25-minute video only offered a classy rendition of Rick Astley’s internet-infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up,” sung by Evan Rachel Wood with Angela Sarafyan on piano, followed by 20 minutes of a dog. It was a pitch-perfect response to a fanbase desperate for answers.

7. IT FEATURES AN ANCIENT GREEK EASTER EGG.

Amid the alternative rock tunes hammered out on the player piano and hat tips to classic western films, Westworld also referenced something from 5th century BCE Greece. Westworld, which is run by Delos Incorporated, is designed so that guests cannot die. Delos is also the name of the island where ancient Greeks made it illegal for anyone to die (or be born for that matter) on religious grounds. That’s not the only bit of wordplay with Greek either: Sweetwater’s main ruffian, Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), gets his last name from the Greek eschaton, meaning the final event in the divine design of the world. Fitting for a potentially sentient robot helping to bring about humanity’s destruction.

8. JIMMI SIMPSON FIGURED OUT HIS CHARACTER’S TWIST BECAUSE OF HIS EYEBROWS.

Evan Rachel Wood and Jimmi Simpson in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, the show’s many secrets were kept even from the main cast until the time they absolutely needed to know. Jimmi Simpson, who plays timid theme park neophyte William, had a hunch something was funny with his role because of a cosmetic change.

“I was with an amazing makeup artist, Christian, and he was looking at my face too much,” Simpson told Vanity Fair. “He had me in his chair, and he was just looking at my face, and then he said something about my eyebrows. ‘Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?’” Guessing that they were making him look more like The Man in Black, Simpson said something to Joy, and she confirmed his hunch. “She looked kind of surprised I’d worked it out,” he said.

9. THE PLAYER PIANO MAY BE AN ALLUSION TO KURT VONNEGUT.

One of the show’s most iconic elements is its soundtrack of alternative rock songs from the likes of Radiohead, The Cure, and Soundgarden redone in a jaunty, old West style. In addition to adding a creepy sonic flavor to the sadistic vacation, they also may wink toward Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which deals with a dystopia of automation where machines do everything for humans, leading to an entrenched class struggle. The show’s resonant elements are clear, but Westworld also mentions that the world outside the theme park is one where there’s no unemployment and humans have little purpose. Like The Man In Black (Ed Harris), the protagonist of Player Piano also longs for real stakes in the struggle of life.

10. THERE ARE TWO JESSE JAMES CONNECTIONS.

Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright in 'Westworld'
HBO

Anthony Hopkins’s character Dr. Robert Ford is an invention for the new series, and he shares a name with the man who assassinated infamous outlaw Jesse James (a fact you may remember from the aptly named movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). The final episode of the first season flips the allusion when Ford is shot in the back of the head, which is exactly how the real-life Ford killed James.

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The ‘Scully Effect’ Is Real: Female X-Files Fans More Likely to Go Into STEM
Fox
Fox

FBI agent Dana Scully is more than just a role model for remaining professional when a colleague won't stop talking about his vast governmental conspiracy theories. The skeptical doctor played by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files helped inspire women to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, according to a new report [PDF] from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which we spotted at Fast Company.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role,” the report explains. Previously, anecdotal evidence has pointed to the existence of a “Scully effect,” in which the measured TV scientist—with her detailed note-taking, evidence-based approach, and desire to autopsy everything—inspired women to seek out their own science careers. This report provides the hard data.

The Geena Davis Institute surveyed more than 2000 women in the U.S. above the age of 25, a significant portion of whom were viewers of The X-Files (68 percent) and women who had studied for or were in STEM careers (49 percent). While the survey didn’t ask women whether watching Dana Scully on The X-Files directly influenced their decision to be a scientist, the results hint that seeing a character like her on TV regularly did affect them. Women who watched more of the show were more likely to say they were interested in STEM, more likely to have studied a STEM field in college, and more likely to have worked in a STEM field after college.

While it’s hard to draw a direct line of causation there—women who are interested in science might just be more inclined to watch a sci-fi show like The X-Files than women who grow up to be historians—viewers also tended to say Scully gave them positive impressions of women in science. More than half of respondents who were familiar with Scully’s character said she increased their confidence in succeeding in a male-dominated profession. More than 60 percent of the respondents said she increased their belief in the importance of STEM. And when asked to describe her, they were most likely to say she was “smart” and “intelligent” before any other adjective.

STEM fields are still overwhelmingly male, and governments, nonprofits, schools, activists, and some tech companies have been pushing to make the field more diverse by recruiting and retaining more female talent. While the desire to become a doctor or an engineer isn’t the only thing keeping STEM a boy’s club, women also need more role models in the fields whose success and accomplishments they can look up to. Even if some of those role models are fictional.

Now that The X-Files has returned to Fox, perhaps Dana Scully will have an opportunity to shepherd a whole new generation of women into the sciences.

[h/t Fast Company]

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