Michelle Williams Says Her Fight for Pay Equality Is Closer to Her ‘Than Any Work I’ve Done’

Michelle Williams has portrayed many characters throughout her life, but out of all her accomplishments, she’s proudest of her work to close the gender pay gap.

In the latest installment of The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable series, the TV Drama Actress Roundtable, stars Patricia Arquette, Christine Baranski, Emilia Clarke, Danai Gurira, Niecy Nash and Williams opened up about some of the struggles they’d experienced throughout their careers.

Williams, who became a face of the pay disparity movement after news broke that her All the Money in the World costar Mark Wahlberg had made 1,000 times more than her on reshoots for the film, opened up during the discussion about her recent trip to Capitol Hill last month, where she delivered a speech for Equal Pay Day. (Wahlberg later donated his $1.5 million to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in Williams’ name.)

“It all happened very quickly,” the Fosse/Verdon star, 38, shared, adding that the experience came about through her friendship with #MeToo Founder Tarana Burke, whom she took as her date to the 2018 Golden Globes Awards.

“When we went to the Golden Globes and we took these activists as our dates, we all became friendly, we all just sort of stayed in touch. And one of them reached out to me and she said, ‘Hey, are you available in three days to come down and do this thing,’ and I said, ‘For you, yes. I’ll get rid of everything else I was supposed to do and I’ll come,’” Williams said, adding that at the time she had no idea what she was in for — or how big of a platform she was being handed.

Opening up about the importance of continuing to speak out, Williams shared that her “extreme” experience with pay disparity helped shine a light on the issue.

“Something that was interesting that was said to me there was that they were so grateful for me coming to tell this story because it’s hard to see, when you’re talking about $10 versus $14, people have a hard time hearing the difference but when you use an example as extreme as mine, it brings the entire case to come home to rest,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “The larger example can speak to the other examples.”

Williams went on to share how “moved” she’d been to help “move the needle for other women.”

“It’s been, I would say, as far as anything that’s happened in my life publicly, it’s the most exciting and most important thing that I’ve ever been involved in. And I’m so moved personally and professionally to have found my place in the conversation and my voice through the conversation and to feel like I’ve grown up inside the conversation,” she said. “It’s the thing that I’ll feel the closest to more than any work I’ve ever done.”

As issues of gender equality and sexual misconduct have become more openly discussed, Williams added that she’s noticed a change at work.

“I don’t know if everybody feels like this, but I just feel like the dynamic on sets has changed,” she shared. “They don’t hug you anymore. You get a morning handshake.”

Additionally, Williams said she feels like “more space has opened up” during the “actual creative process.”

“I feel like I’m heard in a different way — not even heard in a different way, but that the space has opened up for me to be able to be heard,” she added.

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