“That Was Really F**king Hard” Tracee Ellis-Ross Tackles Directing And Wants Folks To Stay Out Of Her Uterus And Her Paycheck

June 10, 2018  |  

tracee ellis-ross tackles directing

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As much of a rollercoaster as the past few months have been for Rainbow Johnson, the anesthesiologist Tracee Ellis-Ross has played on ABC’s Black-ish for the past four seasons, Ross might argue that her personal life has taken some dips and dives lately as well. Fans of the show have witnessed “Bow” balance motherhood, career and marriage and although Ellis-Ross’s life looks a little different offset, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been just as challenging. In a feature for Vanity Fair, Ellis-Ross took some time to discuss having her paycheck become everyone’s business to push the #TimesUp agenda, the endless comparisons she faces with her character who is mother to five and herself who is childfree and getting behind the camera for Black-ish.

Ross shares that when it comes to recently directing an episode for Black-ish she was actually terrified as cast and crew looked to her for guidance after a location had to be changed:

“I was like, ‘O.K., I’m fucking terrified.’ Like, that shit was hard. That was really fucking hard.”

Thankfully Ross was able to turn to a group chat of celebrity friends including Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, and Rashida Jones (Can you imagine?) to restore her sanity. Washington offered some helpful advice that she gained from her days on set at Scandal:

“I told her I feel like some of the best acting I’ve done on Scandal was pretending I knew what I was doing when I was directing.”

Having a good set of girlfriends to remind her she’s a boss when it comes to taking risks her career is one thing, but having your salary become a trending topic on social media is completely different. Earlier this year, rumors ran rampant that she had threatened to cut back appearances on Black-ish over a pay disparity with co-star Anthony Anderson.  With the Time’s Up movement demanding equal pay and opportunities for women in Hollywood at the time, it seemed that Ellis-Ross’s situation gave the movement even more momentum. But the 45-year-old reveals having everyone discussing how much money she was (or wasn’t) making was actually pretty uncomfortable:

“That was really f**king awkward, I don’t know how that information got out. But I understand the interest because there is a larger, deeper, more important conversation going on that is not about me, but is about people being paid appropriately for their contribution and the work that they do, not because of their gender, race, or anything. And it is a valid, real, important, past-due conversation that should no longer be a conversation, that should just be handled . . . across all industries.”

The pay issue has since been resolved, but that doesn’t mean folks haven’t found another area of the actress’s life in which to pry. Although Ellis-Ross recently hosted her first TED Talk on the subject of female fury, served as a guest host on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and served us fly girl realness in the middle of a desert in a sequin jumpsuit for Drake’s “Nice For What” video, people still can’t help but question when Ellis-Ross will step into the role of motherhood. She shuts down the nosiness with one simple answer: Get up out of her uterus.  She also reminds everyone that motherhood isn’t necessarily goals for every woman and that’s OK:

“Last year, I was [fictionally] pregnant all season. That brought on a lot of comments and questions and pontifications from people with no invitation. I literally have said to people, for real, no joke, ‘Why don’t you just get out of my womb? Like, get out of my uterus? What are you doing in there? And why are you asking those questions? And what makes you think you can ask that?’ Part of what patriarchy has created for women is this siloed-off experience, with one answer for what a good life looks like.”

When it comes to motherhood, however, she shares she has the best example in mother Diana Ross who like “Bow” is mother to five children and balanced PTA meetings and performances like a boss while raising her and her four siblings:

“I saw a woman who just was making a path and doing it on her own.”

“She didn’t have hundreds of people doing everything for her—my mom always packed her own bags and cooked our food. She was doing it all and never had the response to me . . . where she was like, ‘Not now, I don’t have time.’ It was very capable, incredibly capable and present at the same time.”

No matter whether she’s in front of the camera or behind it, you can rest assured that Tracee Ellis-Ross knows and will speak her own mind, a trait she says comes easily because she gets it from her mother:

“My mother is a woman who completely possessed her own agency and embodied a sense of her own power, unapologetically.”

“I think that lends itself to directing. I don’t have a fear in making a choice or expressing my opinion even if no one else likes it—or not even expressing it, but owning it for myself.”

You can check out the full-length feature here.

 

 

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