“Thank you so much to FX and Fox 21 studios for supporting me 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. Where do they put that value? They put it into their work.”

By Ian Horswill


Posted on September 23, 2019

Michelle Williams won an Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her role as Gwen Verdon in the FX series Fosse/Verdon but that will be forgotten in comparison to her Emmy Award acceptance speech.

The speech, which has gone viral, received a standing ovation from her peers in Los Angeles.

“I see this as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted and feels safe enough to voice her needs and respected enough to be heard …. my bosses never presumed to know better than I did about what I needed in order to do my job and honour Gwen Verdon,” Williams said. “Thank you so much to FX and Fox 21 studios for supporting me 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. Where do they put that value? They put it into their work.”

Williams, who won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn in 2011, then made an impassioned plea for pay equity across the entertainment industry, calling for female employees to be paid a fair and equal wage.

“The next time a woman — and especially a woman of colour, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white male counterparts — tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her, because one day she might 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.”

Backstage, Variety reported, Williams said she had always known how difficult it could be to “feel like you were getting ahead”, noting that “no matter how many accolades I’d amassed, I couldn’t make that translate into retirement money”.

She said she was woken up and felt like it illustrated a larger point because if it was difficult for her, a self-admitted “white woman of privilege”, how much more difficult it would be for others, especially in other industries.

Williams said the Emmy for Best Lead Actress might seem like a “fairytale ending for me and my own personal story”, but she admitted “there really won’t be any satisfaction for me until the larger message is heard, and that’s what I wanted to point out tonight”. She reiterated that “52 [cents] on the dollar is what a Hispanic woman will make compared to a male. The numbers aren’t out yet for Native women but they expect them to be worse.”

Game of Thrones cast backstage at Emmy Awards

Game of Thrones won an Emmy for the best television drama series, for the fourth time in its eighth and final season. Peter Dinklage won best supporting actor in a drama for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister for the fourth time. He praised the tolerance and diversity of the television community in his speech, saying “in no other place could I be standing on a stage like this”.

Game of Thrones received a record-breaking 32 nominations and it meant that none of Game of Thrones’ leading female actors won an Emmy award for their roles. This year Emilia Clarke (Lead Actress); Maisie Williams, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner and Gwendoline Christie (Best Supporting Actress) and Carice van Houten (Guest Actress in a Drama), went home empty handed after being nominated.

The big winner on the night was Amazon’s comedy Fleabag, which won six awards, including those for best actress in a comedy, directing and best comedy series. The show, which centres around a dry-witted, grief-riddled and promiscuous British woman in London, earned writer and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge the Outstanding Writing award. Her win for Best Lead Actress was unexpected.

Complete list of Emmy Awards 2019 winners

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
Game of Thrones

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Fleabag

LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Billy Porter — Pose

LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jodie Comer — Killing Eve

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Peter Dinklage — Game of Thrones

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Julia Garner — Ozark

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA SERIES
Ozark — ‘Reparations’, Jason Bateman

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES
Succession — ‘Nobody Is Ever Missing’, Jesse Armstrong

LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Bill Hader — Barry

LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Phoebe Waller-Bridge — Fleabag

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Tony Shalhoub — The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Alex Borstein — The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY SERIES
Fleabag — ‘Episode 1’, Harry Bradbeer

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES
Fleabag — ‘Episode 1’, Phoebe Waller-Bridge

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION MOVIE
Bandersnatch

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
Chernobyl

LEAD ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Jharrel Jerome — When They See Us

LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Michelle Williams — Fosse/Verdon

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Ben Whishaw — A Very English Scandal

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Patricia Arquette — The Act

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A LIMITED SERIES, MOVIE OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Chernobyl — Johan Renck

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A LIMITED SERIES, MOVIE OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Chernobyl — Craig Mazin

OUTSTANDING REALITY COMPETITION SERIES
RuPaul’s Drag Race

OUTSTANDING VARIETY TALK SERIES
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

OUTSTANDING VARIETY SKETCH SERIES
Saturday Night Live

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY SERIES
Saturday Night Live — ‘Host : Adam Sandler’, Don Roy King

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A VARIETY SERIES
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver