Amazon’s latest drama series, “Good Girls Revolt,” takes place in a 1960s newsroom where a group of young female researchers make the revolutionary request to be allowed to write, since only men were hired in writing positions at the time.
As the cast noted during the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday, forty years later, women are still facing plenty of obstacles in the workplace (the ongoing situation at Fox News, with multiple women claiming to have been sexually harassed by CEO Roger Ailes, being one example brought up during the panel) — the main difference is that now, it’s (slightly) more acceptable to talk about it.
“I think one of the biggest progressions is that there’s now a language for it, a woman can stand up and say ‘I was sexually harassed by my boss,'” said cast member Erin Darke. “These things would happen to these women, you knew that you felt violated or belittled, but you didn’t know how to communicate that to another woman, let alone men.”
The series is based upon Lynn Povich’s book of the same name, a true account of a group of researchers who sued their magazine, Newsweek, for sex discrimination, making them the first women in the media to sue and the first female class action suit.
“It’s about this lawsuit, but it’s really about these women learning to become feminists and what that means for them,” Darke noted. “I still feel like I’m learning that sometimes even as a woman in 2016 — the things you realize later you put up with because you think you should.”
Star Genevieve Angelson admitted that she initially struggled with tackling the realities of what women had to deal with in the workplace at the time, before she acknowledged the simple fact that “you can’t be a feminist before feminism,” and realized, “I don’t have to necessarily make an effort to be the poster girl for this issue, I just have to react the way I’d react in these circumstances.”
The show is set in 1969 and 1970, drawing comparisons to another period drama that often dealt with the professional gender divide. “It’s definitely picking up where ‘Mad Men’ leaves off,” Anna Camp said, pointing out that by the end of that series, Christina Hendricks’ Joan was just starting her own company and embarking on a journey of self-actualization. “I think our show does pick up right on that… what happens to the women who come forward and have to assert their rights?”
Although the series is based on Povich’s real experiences and a real court case, most of the characters are fictionalized to allow the real participants their privacy — except for Joy Bryant’s Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represented the women in their class action lawsuit, and Grace Gummer’s Nora Ephron. Bryant said that she’s been in contact with Congresswoman Norton many times since being cast, telling reporters, “she is absolutely extraordinary, and I felt tremendous responsibility to her to do right by her.”
In terms of the structure of the show, executive producer Dana Calvo said, “we have stories to take us through Season 2, 3 and, god willing, 21.” While the story is tied to the lawsuit and its outcome, “it’s more about how it worked to change and galvanize these women… that’s really the focus on the show, pegged to and inspired by a real event.”
It was also important to the executive producers to make sure that the journalism portrayed in the show was realistic, which was also a concern of Povich’s in allowing her book to be adapted. EPs Lynda Obst and Calvo are both former journalists, and Calvo insisted that the show wouldn’t involve any “shoddy journalism. Every story they go through passes the smell test for me; I hope we’ve imbued the series with that.”