It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polkadot bikini that a director wanted to see actress Emmy Rossum wear in exchange for a role in his movie. No actual auditions were necessary.
Actress and director on the comedy-drama Shameless, Emmy Rossum, joined her fellow high-profile actresses, including America Ferrera and Pamela Adlon, at the Hollywood Reporter‘s Comedy Actress Roundtable. There, they talked about their experiences in front of and behind the camera. Aside from Rossum’s discussion regarding her public battle to earn the same salary as her male costar and her journey to becoming a director on Shameless, she told one story about an alternative auditioning process that struck her as bizarre and sexist.
The moderator asked Rossum about the role sexual harassment has played in her career. “I’ve never been in a situation where somebody asked me to do something really obviously physical in exchange for [a job], like a pay-to-play kind of situation,” answered Rossum. “But even as recently as a year ago, my agent called me and was like, ‘I’m so embarrassed to make this call, but there’s a big movie and they’re going to offer it to you. They really love your work on the show, but the director wants you to come into his office in a bikini. There’s no audition. That’s all you have to do.’”
Being familiar with the show Shameless, Adlon mentioned that people see Rossum nearly in the nude often. To her, the bid to see Rossum in a bikini was more than a strange request, it was a superfluous one.
Clarifying what Rossum believed the director was attempting to get out of the meeting, she added “He wanted to know if I was fat now. That was basically the question.” She weighed the offer, thinking it might be legitimate. “I actually had this moment like, ‘Well, how good is the part?’” said Rossum, “For a second, I was like, ‘Would I do it? Send me the script. Maybe the character is in a bikini in the movie.’”
Much to her surprise, the character never appeared in a bikini. She was “not in a bikini in the movie, not naked in the movie. ‘We really love your work, but we just want to see how tight your ass is.’ Are you f–ing kidding me? Last time I checked, I’m not a f–ing model,” said Rossum.
The nature of the request lost all traces of being well-founded. It became an insult to her body, implying that its shape had any impact on her ability to portray the character. It slammed her talent as an actress as well.
Now, Rossum worries for a younger generation facing a culture wherein directors can treat them the same way she was treated. “I feel like we’re all vulnerable to it. If somebody with my years in the business would think, ‘Well, I wonder if it’s worth it,’ then what would a girl who doesn’t have my success do? She would do it.”
Adding female directors, writers, and producers to the mix is a part of the solution to this issue. However, there’s a long way to go before directors stop pulling disgusting stunts like this.
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