Battle of the Sexes Star On Why She Doesn't Work with Sexists

Natalie Morales in Battle of the Sexes I photo: Twentieth Century Fox 

Natalie Morales in Battle of the Sexes I photo: Twentieth Century Fox 

She can't play tennis (or so Battle of the Sexes star Natalie Morales told Vanity Fair), but the woman can act... and write... and direct. NBD. She also lies to Uber drivers when they ask what she does for a living and very recently penned a must-read blog post for Amy Poehler's Smart Girls where she came out as queer.  

On screen, she's a force. In Battle of the Sexes, which wide releases tomorrow and stars Emma Stone as Billie Jean King, Morales plays Rosie Casals, King’s doubles partner. In the '70s Casals was a member of “The Original 9,” the female tennis players who took a stand for wage equality.

Ooh, yeah. Wait. Right. That's a fight we're still fighting today. How does Natalie feel about that?

Read through to find out.

How do you feel as a woman in Hollywood?

This is a question I get a lot and I’m never sure how to answer because I don’t know what it’s like to be a man in Hollywood. I feel great. I love my industry. I love what I do and I love the people I meet.

Do you think your job would be easier if you were a man?

Definitely, but I think most jobs would be. For starters, I’d get paid more. So that makes it easier off the bat. Secondly, as in most jobs, people would take me more seriously. Especially as a director and writer. I’m sure there are a lot more reasons it’d be easier, but those are the big ones.

Battle of the Sexes is a timely movie. Women are living in the aftermath of demanding equality. What was it like being a part of telling that story?  

It’s kind of terrible that it’s timely, isn’t it? But it somehow is. It somehow feels like we’ve been fighting for our rights for so long and some people have convinced themselves that we’ve won, but we haven’t. Not by a long shot. Sure, women in America have some things easier than in other countries, but we’re still so behind. It was wonderful to be a part of that story. To show people that weren’t around when this happened (like myself) that this fight is not new, it’s hard, and it’s worth it. 

And why do you think it’s important to tell now?

I think it will be important to tell for all of time. It’s important now because Billie Jean King accomplished something by fighting back. It gives us courage and tells us someone came before us. We can do it too. It will be important in the future, when hopefully rights are truly equal across the board, to tell the story of why then needed to fight for it. 

Do you feel like you’re in a “battle” day-to-day in Hollywood?

No. Not day-to-day. I don’t chose to look at my life or my work that way. I hustle, I work hard, and I work with people who hustle and work hard. But we’re nice. We’re good. We don’t battle, we go “Hey, listen, we know what we’re doing, we know what we have to offer, you’d be dumb not to work with us” and then usually people see what they’re missing. I’m being somewhat funny and that’s hard to tell in a text context, but maybe just imagine that in my voice? Also, yes, there have definitely been some battles. I have had to fight for what I deserve and I have had to fight for people to take me seriously but I would say that it’s either getting easier or I’m getting better at it. 

"I hustle, I work hard, and I work with people who hustle and work hard." 

How do you reconcile the liberal face of Hollywood against the sexism that exists?

I don’t. I don’t know how. The most I can say is that I don’t work with the sexists. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford not to. I can turn down a role if I don’t like it. I will work hard to give women jobs so that they can turn down roles if they don’t like them too. 

Where are important areas where Hollywood can make progress?

Equal pay, equal hire, be less afraid of women, understand that women-led movies and TV MAKE MONEY. Be more intersectional with your support of women, cast out of the “ordinary,” give chances to female filmmakers who are small and starting out, and encourage women to tell their own stories. 

Do you think there are better roles available to women now in part because women are writing better roles for women?

100% absolutely.

Do you think wage parity will become a reality in Hollywood?

I am an optimistic person, despite my snarky tone. So I’m going to say yes. 

What needs to change to get there? 

If we keep fighting for it, and if the men keep helping us. 

Do you think your gender has ever held you back? Do you have any specific anecdotes of gender bias?

Yes. I have had people tell me to my face, and mean it, that women are not as funny as men. And so they don’t hire women. This is a real thing. I have had people tell me to sit in the back of the 12 passenger van when I’m already in the front seat (I get car sick) because my male peer might like to sit in the front. I am 100% sure I have been paid less than most of my male co-stars for the same or more work. I have been thought of as a silly actress when I present work that I’m trying to direct or write. 

"I am 100% sure I have been paid less than most of my male co-stars for the same or more work."

How do you think women in Hollywood should be working together?

I think we should be reaching out past our own tightly knit social groups to find other women with different opinions and stories and lives and work together to tell those stories too. 

What have you seen in your industry that excites you?

Opportunity for women, and successful women extending a hand to younger, less experienced women.

Arianna Schioldager is Editor-in-Chief at Create & Cultivate. You can follow her @ariannawrotethis.