Constance Wu and Felicity Jones know something about breaking barriers. On-screen, Jones transforms into a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg for “On the Basis of Sex.” Before the esteemed justice was appointed to the Supreme Court, she was a pioneer of women’s rights. And in this summer’s breakout hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” Wu led the first studio movie in a quarter century to feature an almost entirely Asian-American cast.
Constance Wu: What was the first thing that really drew you to “On the Basis of Sex”?
Felicity Jones: It was the story. It was about this phenomenal woman who we all knew very well. Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t like the world as it was, so she got very angry and decided to change it. I loved her passion, her determination.
Wu: When I was watching it, I went through this roller coaster of emotions of really identifying with the things said to her by men in her profession. It’s this comfort that the patriarchy has with the fact that they have the power. Her character is just as smart but is not respected. I was very upset during a lot of it because I understood it. I knew it was real, and I knew that not everybody would understand what that feels like.
Jones: The odds were just against her constantly, and she’s in a situation where she’s the outsider. They look at her like, “Shouldn’t you just be at home in the kitchen?” She has to keep fighting back against that, and she does it with absolute dignity. I can see why “Crazy Rich Asians” has been such a phenomenal success. It is full of such life and love and hope. How has that experience been?
Wu: My emotions have run the gamut. There was a lot of anticipation behind it. It’s a lot of pressure. The fact that a studio decided to invest in a story from creators of color who didn’t necessarily have a track record of box office success — not because they aren’t a viable box office success but because there was no data to show that we had that — that gave it an authenticity that Asian-American audiences really responded to because we don’t have representation. Other people who are not Asian-American still respond to it because it’s very much about being seen for who you are.
Jones: It should have happened centuries ago. It does feel that the landscape is getting more interesting now that this patriarchal attitude towards filmmaking is breaking down. With a film like “Crazy Rich Asians,” it’s a fusion of quality and reaching a lot of people. There’s no reason that a film can’t be good but millions of people want to see it.
Wu: It’s also because of criticism these days. The critics are primarily male, so it’s seen from a male point of view. There’s a reason why we have the term “chick flicks.” We don’t have “dude movies.” They are just movies.
Jones: That’s why we need 50/50 in male and female critics. It brings a totally different perspective to a film, and it feels deeply unfair that it’s so one-sided. The male view has always been the view, and that is what is shifting. We all live here together, so it’s going to be shared views. How do you process dealing with fans and the attention that comes from your job?
Wu: It’s changed for me over time. When I first started having more visibility, there was a part of me that didn’t want to own it. When somebody came up to me and was like, “Oh, my God. I love you,” I want to say, “I’m not special. You are just as special. Don’t worship me, because worship culture is a lot of the problem.” We value people differently.
Jones: We put people on pedestals.
Wu: But then the more I’ve gone through this, I’m like, you should just be graceful with people who come up to you. I’ve become better at it, but I was uncomfortable with it at first. What about you?
Jones: That’s so true. I don’t mean to name-drop, but I saw Matt Damon at the screening, and he came out the door. I’ve never met him in my life, and I was like, “Hey! How are you?” And he just looked at me like, “Who the hell are you?” You spend so many years watching this person, and he’s so relatable to you on-screen that I just felt like I knew him. I’ve never met him in my life.
Wu: I love that you did that, because I get scared that they won’t know who I am.
Watch the full interview below: