TORONTO — “Grace and Frankie” star Jane Fonda is well familiar with the on-set routine of her Netflix series, and so she noticed when things changed at the recent start of its fifth season.
“We had a meeting of all the cast and crew to talk about what to do if you feel that you’re being harassed,” the two-time Oscar-winning actress said in a recent phone interview to promote her film “Book Club.”
“Our cast and crew on ‘Grace and Frankie’ were diverse from the very beginning. There’s a lot of women, people of colour, people with disabilities. It’s really nice to be able to see that.
“And I feel more and more that producers and directors are thinking much more intentionally and regularly about the need for diversity and who they’re hiring. So I think it’s having an impact.”
The “it” she’s referring to is the sweeping movement to end harassment and increase diversity in Hollywood and beyond, driven largely by the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns that took off after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke last October.
Unions and academies have drafted new codes of conduct, while contract negotiations now consider morality clauses, pay parity and inclusion riders.
But is it leading to change on film, TV and theatre productions?
Many, like Fonda, say they see a difference, however slight.
“Before you start a project, there’s a little spiel now where that subject matter is being introduced and it’s debated,” Quebec director Robert Lepage said in a recent interview for the stage production “Frame by Frame.”
“So you don’t start rehearsals in the same frame of mind as we used to.”
On the first day of rehearsals for “Coriolanus” at this year’s Stratford Festival, a union representative read various declarations, added Lepage, who is directing the production.
“Of course … this is a recent phenomenon, so we don’t know how that will translate in a more concrete way and if we’ll notice that much of a difference in a year or two years from now,” Lepage said.
“But for sure, there is an awareness that wasn’t there before, and there are actual actions taken.”
Three-time Oscar-nominated actress Saoirse Ronan says she’s noticed “a lot of discussions happening.”
“I think that’s something that everyone is well aware of and anyone who doesn’t seem to be following that, it’s blatantly obvious now,” Ronan said in a phone interview for her new film “On Chesil Beach.”
“Because everyone is so on the same page and really wants to make a difference.”
Four-time Oscar-nominated actor Ethan Hawke says he “definitely see things changing,” noting: “Everybody is ashamed of behaviour that isn’t in line with this movement.”
“There’s a definite shift in consciousness that has happened and there’s certain behaviour that was acceptable 10 years ago that’s just not acceptable, and that’s wonderful,” Hawke said in a phone interview for his new film “First Reformed.”
Cynthia Dale, star of the original “Street Legal” series and the upcoming reboot on CBC-TV, says the issue is discussed everywhere in the industry now.
“It’s talked about like it’s the weather,” said Dale, also a Stratford Festival acting veteran.
“It’s right there in front of everyone’s face now — thankfully, fantastically. We’re not dragging people kicking and screaming anymore to talk about it.”
Of course, there’s still work to be done.
“In the meetings that I’ve had in L.A., and I talk to agents now in terms of the culture in the office, there is change happening but it’s still unbalanced,” Montreal-born filmmaker Barry Avrich said in a recent interview for his documentary “The Reckoning: Hollywood’s Worst Kept Secret.”
“I think we’re going to have to see a significant increase of women in leadership positions and diversity on both sides of the camera in order for real change to happen,” added the doc’s Toronto producer, Melissa Hood.
Still, Hood is encouraged by “the fact that women are being believed and that they can’t be as easily dismissed anymore. I think there’s been a line drawn in the sand.”
“I don’t see women backing down,” Hood said.
“I see more men understanding their role, when men are in leadership positions. I see a conversation happening and I think this is a huge, huge, huge move forward.”
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press