April 16, 2020
Reese Witherspoon joins Jameela to talk about how instagram helped her control her own narrative, struggling with postpartum depression, the red carpet advice Meryl Streep once shared, how “funny doesn’t sag,” and building her own media company.
3 — Reese Witherspoon
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:00:00] Hello. How are you? Do you smell? I smell. How is your personal hygiene going? I can tell you that my hands are very clean and the rest of my body and my hair are not. I’m just covered in a film of dirt and it’s a sad, it’s a sad realization when you’re in your 30s and it’s only then that you learn everything you ever said about wanting to dress up and be clean and look good. Was, you know, for yourself, not for other people. What bullshit. It was all for you guys. And I didn’t know that until now because I have left myself as the unpolished turd. But I do, I do think that I’m managing to start to fathom how long this is gonna go on now. And I’m just trying to find whatever peace I can with this and, and recognize that we have no control, and it’s okay to relinquish that control and try to step away from the news and try and step away from people who are making you feel anxious and just try to use this moment as, as a pause for self reflection. And I don’t mean that in some sort of woo-woo bullshit annoying way. I mean, some people are going to be working on their fucking abs and that’s fine. That’s their choice. But some people like myself, for example, are still in need of this pause where I’m not able to be distracted by life and stress and, and I’m not able to escape by hanging out with my friends and going out to pubs and bars and restaurants. I’m stuck inside my own brain and it’s allowing me a moment for, you know, these painful feelings to surface and rather than push them away, which I’ve often done before because I’ve been busy. I now have a moment to, as unsettling as it can be at times, just investigate those feelings and figure out what it is that I need and could need to and could do differently. And so I wonder if that’s something that you’re also doing. And I hope that this podcast continues to be a part of that journey where either you learn things about other people or learn things about yourselves. For some people who don’t know what this podcast is for and why it’s called “I Weigh” and why I dare to ask a bunch of Hollywood actors what they weigh at the end of this podcast. I started a movement two years ago by accident called “I Weigh” because I was sick of seeing pictures of women with numbers written across their bodies, and those numbers were never how many awards they’d won or how much money that earned. It was always just what they weighed. These are some of the most successful and well-decorated women in the entire history of entertainment, always still just reduced down to simply how little space they took up in this world. Until I found myself in 2018 still, seeing women measured and poked and prodded and objectified in this way made me furious. So I one day tweeted out, “Well, I weigh my relationship, my contributions to society, my activism, my financial independence, my friends, my eating disorder that I’ve overcome”, just a bunch of different things that made me who I am today. “I weigh the sum of all of my motherfucking parts” and it went viral and has continued to go viral for the last two years, where now we have a million followers on Instagram. And it’s turned into a new way of thinking about our bodies as vessels that just harness our minds and our lives and our experiences, because that’s who we are. So that’s why I say it and that’s why this is what we call the podcast. This isn’t specifically a podcast about body image. It’s about shame and mental health and just generally how we heal our insides. Anyway, I am so excited to bring you today’s guest. It is the incomparable Reese Witherspoon. She’s been a hero of mine for decades now, not just as an actor, but also as a producer, storyteller and advocate, and someone who takes absolutely no shit on any red carpet whatsoever. She’s always broken all of the rules and is such a game changer. And she really, really, really walks the walk and is willing to go there and be vulnerable with people. I really didn’t know what to expect from today’s interview because she’s just so fucking famous. But she came and just bared her soul and told me so much about her emotional journey, not only through this industry, but through life as a mother and just as a woman surrounded by so much patriarchy and misogyny. She talk to me about her mental health and medication and also what it’s like to have to actually break those glass ceilings, what that feels like and how exhausting but worthwhile it can be. There’s kind of nowhere that we didn’t go today. And I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. She’s such a fucking legend. So hurray, today’s guest is Reese Witherspoon. Reese Witherspoon, hello.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:05:07] Hi.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:08] So I’m so thrilled to have you on this podcast because I’ve looked up to you forever. I’ve been such a big fan of you, not only as an actor, but now as a businesswoman, as an advocate. You are an Academy Award winning actress. One of Time magazine’s most influential people, one of Forbes’ most influential women. You are a super producer, a hugely successful entrepreneur and activist. And you’re nice. How dare you.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:05:34] You make me sound so good.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:36] You are so good. Thank you for being here. It really means the fucking world.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:05:40] Oh, I’m happy to be here. I have so much respect for the, for all the good you put in the world and all that positive messaging. And I’ve been a fan of yours for so long and I’ve reached out to you, you know, behind the scenes. But I’m glad that we’re kind of getting to connect and share what we love about each other.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:57] Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. So I want to talk to you about so much. You’ve had such a long career. You started in this business as a child. “Man on the Moon” was when you were 14?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:06:06] Yeah, 14.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:08] Yeah, I loved that movie, by the way. I think I watched it about 100 times when I was a kid. You are decades deep into this mad industry, including the birth and reign of the tabloid craze. And while researching you, I found hundreds of videos of paparazzi filming and stalking you and media obsession with your private life in a way that doesn’t quite exist now. Maybe because, is it because we celebrities spilled our own tea on their Instagrams? So we’ve kind of put those people out of business a little bit.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:06:38] That’s definitely one of the first reasons I got on social media. To control, you know, the way that people were perceiving me because it just wasn’t accurate. So controlling the conversation between myself and people who are fans. And then it became about this wonderful community and relationship that I have with people who are pretty like minded. So that’s kind of evolved. But yeah, definitely it was a reaction to being spoken about in a way that wasn’t true.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:07] I think that’s the same for everyone, in particular women, because so much gossip and speculation exists around all of us who are in any kind of power. And so I think it’s great that people have now been able to kind of put a lot of the paparazzi and a lot of the stalking paparazzi out of business. I mean, people are even posting their underwear shots so no one needs to get the pictures upskirt anymore because everyone’s posing in their knickers. It’s fantastic.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:07:31] Yeah, but, you know, there’s actually so much paparazzi at this moment outside my house, outside my other friends’ house. And there’s a bunch of people who live in my neighborhood. And it’s been-. It’s hard to go outside. You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:52] Yeah, I got-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:07:53] It’s hard to take a walk with your dog and not have your kids be, my kid in his mask being photographed. You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:59] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:08:00] It just feels kind of gross.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:02] I got photographed at the supermarket a couple of weeks ago, and I think they were hoping-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:08:06] What were you buying?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:06] I think they were hoping to catch me buying 10,000 toilet rolls and all of the Clorox wipes and all of the food so no one else could buy it. But I was just buying pizza like a fucking student. Yeah. I agree. I agree. I should have just bought loads of dildos. Next time. You know what? For the next.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:08:27] You could have made-. They have those?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:28] Yeah, yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:08:29] There you go.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:32] That is my plan now. From now on, I’m going to exclusively go dildo shopping for the duration of the quarantine.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:08:39] I think it’s a great strategy.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:40] Thank you.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:08:41] It’s great. You just, she wouldn’t-. She went there.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:44] Yeah. So the question I want to ask you, having gone back and read through all of that and seen the kind of career you had and the parts you played and who you’ve acted opposite, how in the fucking hell have you stayed sane? Nevermind having become one of the examples of like study, focus and drive and power and community. How have you done this?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:09:08] Well, I’ve definitely had a lot of not sane moments in my life. I’ve had a lot of like crying on the kitchen floor and my kids putting their stuffed animals on top of me going, “It’s going to be okay, Mom”. I’m just human. I mean, I think. I’ve always really connected to people. I just love audiences. I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. Just a super normal childhood. I had really great grandparents who raised me while my parents worked really hard. I had a really loving mother who just never let me get above my station or feel like, you know, it was always about family and giving back. And my grandparents were just really incredible people who were always involved in the community, always at church, always giving back. So I learned a lot from them. And I don’t know, I guess I think I’ve always just had this idea that, like, we’re all just the same as each other. We’re just all trying to find what our special skills are and my special skills is storytelling. That doesn’t make me a special person. You know, talent doesn’t make you a good person. That’s a whole other-
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:21] No, it definitely doesn’t.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:10:25] No, no. I’ve met-, you and I’ve met probably a lot of the same people. And talent does not make them nice people.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:31] But it is-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:10:32] A big value system in my family was “Are you a good person”?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:35] And did you utilize therapy or support groups over the course of having such a public and such a public and successful such, almost relentlessly successful career.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:10:48] Oh, yes. I’ve had so much therapy, which has been really great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:52] How? When did you start? In therapy.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:10:57] 15 or 16.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:58] You were 15 when you started.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:11:01] 15 or 16. I think I was 16 when I started therapy. I. I definitely have anxiety. I had, my anxiety manifests as depression. So I always, I would get really depressed. And it’s like my brain is like a hamster on a wheel and it won’t come off. And I’ve been managing it my entire life. You know, my grandma struggled from the same stuff. And it’s, so I would see her struggle and that stigma around it really debilitated her. And she was punished within her community and within her. But definitely, you know, her job, she had to, she was fired, you know, from, because she struggled a lot with anxiety and depression. So I feel really fortunate that I am able to get help, that I, at times that I’ve needed I’ve been able to take medicine. And yeah, I mean, it’s just, it’s something I, that I’ve learned coping mechanisms around my entire life.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:01] I’m so relieved that we’re now in a period where we can talk about this stuff openly and we can tell people about medication. I’ve recently started medication for anxiety and it’s so great to no longer feel the fear of stigma when I’m telling other people that sometimes I just can’t cope and that that’s okay. But I love the fact that, and I mean this is no disrespect whatsoever to America. But during, think of the time, in the, to be in Nashville back then and to have parents who recognized that you needed a bit of help is so amazing. It’s so rare to hear that story that someone will willingly put their child into therapy. I think that’s fantastic. You sound like you have great parents.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:12:46] Yeah. Well, my mom is really amazing. And she was a pediatric nurse for thirty five years, and she taught pediatric nursing at the state university. So she would talk about mental health in a way that wasn’t, it wasn’t biased. It wasn’t judgemental. It was just really no nonsense. Like this is a thing. And depression is real. And we go at things. We don’t pretend they’re not happening. So I was really lucky to have a mom like that. And also, it’s helped me with my own kids and with my friends to say, you know, there’s nothing embarrassing or shameful about any of this. I think some of the ideas, particularly in different pieces and parts of America, are very repressed and conservative, but. Yeah. Anything that people can do to destigmatize it. It’s just it’s all very treatable as well.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:46] It’s also no different from one broken leg or a broken arm or a, you know, a UTI. It’s just, it’s just something that isn’t working. It needs to be fucking fixed.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:13:57] Exactly. I mean, if you had a urinary, if you had a urinary tract infection, would you not take any antibiotics?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:02] I would take antibiotics and I would tell everyone.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:14:05] I mean there are people who won’t, but I’m not one of them.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:05] No.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:14:08] I’m somewhere in the middle, Jameela. I’m not going to tell everybody about my UTI but I am going to take the medicine.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:13] Well if you see my Twitter, you know, I have zero filter. What would you say has been your biggest struggle with your mental health over the course? Is it more of an anxiety thing? Would you say? For me, it’s been anxiety.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:14:24] Yeah, anxiety and also around hormones with having a baby. I’ve had three kids. And then after each child, I had a different experience. One kid, I had kind of mild postpartum and then one kid, I had severe postpartum where I had to take pretty heavy medication because I just wasn’t thinking straight at all. And then I had one kid where I had no postpartum at all.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:48] Just fine. Who knows?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:14:51] But I do think hormones are so an understudied and under, not understood, and I kept reaching out to my doctors for answers. There just isn’t enough research about what happens to women’s bodies. And the hormonal shifts that we have just aren’t taken as seriously as I think they should be. So I have deep compassion for women who are, who are going through that and really always trying to help, you know, the people that I’m in touch with. And even my audience on Instagram and everything connected to people over that. Postpartum is very real. And there’s so many resources that we just have to help each other find what they are and keep getting the word out there.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:36] Resources as in like books and literature? Or do you mean actual like treatment?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:15:40] Real treatment and doctors that are available online.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:43] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:15:44] This is, it’s really real. There’s all these online clinics now where you don’t have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to go in and see a doctor and talk about it. And you do have online support and health here in this country, for sure. For sure.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:00] For sure. And also, like cyclically, most of us can feel that there’s some sort of dramatic hormonal shift. I become a hungry monster for a week of every single month.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:16:09] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:10] But also, I think it’s partially down to the stigma that we have of always accusing women of hysteria and looking at hormones as something that is purely emotional, even though it’s really just an emotional impact.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:16:23] Yeah, and we don’t understand the kind of hormonal roller coaster that you go on when you stop nursing. Like no one explained that to me. I was 23 years old when I had my first baby, and no one explained to me that when you wean a baby, your hormones go into the toilet.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:39] Right.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:16:40] And you will suddenly be, I felt more depressed than I ever felt in my entire life. And it was scary.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:47] It’s like a come down. Completely out of control.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:16:50] Completely out of control. I didn’t have the right kind of guidance or help but I managed to, I just like white-knuckled that. And that was, you know, just, I didn’t have my mom around. She was in another state. There wasn’t the kind of communication that we can have now. So I don’t know. Just take women seriously, please. Please take.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:09] I think it’s because-. Yeah, exactly. Please fucking listen to us.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:17:13] Everyone out there, please. You know,, when I hear things like women of color even struggle with this more because they are even, it’s even worse that the amount that they are not believed. I watched, you know, something on “Now This” I think about women calling in with different voices to different talk, advice help lines. And the way they spoke to what they perceived as a woman of color versus a white woman was astounding. The difference.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:41] Yeah, I mean, even right now during this pandemic, we’re hearing more deaths of black women in particular who are being turned away like young black women who are being sent home with symptoms. And some of them have passed away. It’s just a, it’s a nightmare. And also, in particular, when we’re talking about women, I think, I think it’s fair to say that because the medical industry has been so predominantly male. I mean, it’s still predominantly male, but in a way that was just almost there were no women involved. There was no empathy for what women feel and what women go through and what hormonal roller coasters are like. I think had we had more women in medicine from the beginning than there would have been a sort of foundation of empathy and understanding. Men cannot relate, just like we can’t relate to what they call their sort of, nut mist.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:18:28] Well, look-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:29] Sorry. Nut mist is just the, the-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:18:32] I don’t know what that is.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:32] It’s the gorilla.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:18:34] Is that a medical term?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:34] No, it’s the gorillas in the mist sort of haze that men go through if they do not release, Reese.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:18:42] Oh, I’ve never heard this term. This is amazing. I’m learning new things.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:46] Let’s move on immediately. What were you going to say that was far more sensible?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:18:50] I’m going to say there’s a lot of women in healthcare.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:53] Yes.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:18:54] I think they outnumber men. There’s not a lot of women in power.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:57] Yeah. That’s what I mean.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:18:58] Or in control in healthcare, so-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:58] Yes. Within healthcare, within nursing. I mean, more like within, I feel like in our labs we could still have more women and in the, the people who are doing more of the hormonal research, I’m seeing tremendous change across the board. But I still walk into lab-, into laboratories where I see one female senior scientist who’s working on something in a sea of sausage under is just extraordinary to me.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:19:25] That is quite a picture that you paint.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:28] Yes. I’m sorry, Reese.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:19:29] Yes. Sea of sausage. This-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:33] I’m incapable of talking about anything elegantly, but I’m so glad that you speak out about that because I feel like not enough people do and I feel like in particular with mothers there is so much shame around ever struggling to cope with your hormones or not immediately connecting your baby and not instantly being super mother. And I hear stories from my friends who have children of the mommy pressure and the mommy shaming that goes on, so I like the fact that you’re able to just own up to the fact that sometimes it’s just fucking impossible.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:20:06] It really is. And I think, I can’t imagine what it must be like right now at this time to be pregnant or about to deliver. It just the amount of fear around all of it. I have such, it’s like that is one of the things that will keep me up at night. I have a lot of friends who are pregnant.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:25] Same.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:20:25] And just this uncertainty and unknown around this really kind of terrifying moment anyway. A lot of people have fear around birth. And it’s kind of your-. I don’t know this big thing in the universe. I just I want to help some poor people. I want to give them all the love that I can and any kind of resources that I can. And but I have deep compassion, deep.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:51] No, I know. And it’s it definitely shows. And I’m hoping that we will find our way out of this as quickly as possible.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:20:58] I’m having one of those days. I’m just sorry.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:00] No, it’s fine.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:21:02] I’m having like a day, like everything’s so heavy on my heart today. And I yesterday when I spoke to you, it was like, “Oh, ok. Yeah”. I was pretty optimistic. And then today, like, there’s just days where, I’m an empath. You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:16] Yeah. And Bill Withers died.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:21:17] It’s like-. I know Bill Withers died.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:20] Nightmare.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:21:21] And there, it’s just a lovely day. And-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:24] I know. And also like, you know, even when someone’s in their 90s, when they’re that talented, they’re always gone too soon.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:21:32] Yeah. And our great artists, our great creators that just make us feel. It’s just always a terrible loss.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:40] I think it’s fine.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:21:41] But I will say it. This is cute. I was saying to my son, my son is 7 and we were talking about I said, “Oh, I’m worried about someone”. And he’s like, “Oh, empathy”. And I’m said “What is this”? And he does that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:55] He did a Larry David shrug.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:21:58] Yeah. Like he holds his hands up, like he’s weighing a scale. He’s like, “Empathy. You’re holding your feelings in someone else’s feeling in the same place”. I was like, “What’s that”? He goes, “It’s the tool in my tool box”. And I said, “What are the other tools in your tool box”? He said, “Patience”. And he went like this with his hand where he put like a rock on his hand like this. And then he said he covered his ears. He said, “Getting quiet, if I feel overwhelmed”. And then he threw something imaginary in the trash, he said, “Throwing away bad feelings”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:28] What in the name of Dalai Lama shit is this? How is he?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:22:33] It’s the cute-, it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever saw and I thought, “Why don’t grownups have these tools”? He was turning a key and saying “Friendship is is turning a key to opening your heart” or something. And I was like, thank you for your teachers that taught you these tools before we went into isolation. ‘Cause I can say please have patience with me. And he knows exactly what I’m talking about. And I thought, how long has he known this? And, you know, this has also illuminated to me how insanely amazing teachers are..
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:06] Yes. Oh, my God. I think everyone’s really realizing teachers are gonna get so much alcohol, so many gifts at the end of this. Holidays.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:23:17] Totally. I’m buying lots of iPhones and iPads. And like anything I can do, anything to contribute to their own happiness. I’m just blown away.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:26] No, I saw that you’ve been giving free clothes to teachers. I can see that it’s already pouring out of you.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:23:29] Yes just as a pick me up. My mom was a teacher. My grandma was a teacher. And I think, I think about how many of them are staying at home. I read this New York Times article where this woman is taking care of her three kids while she’s home schooling her third graders who need her so badly. You know, and it’s like what?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:51] I know, it’s just a lot.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:23:52] How are they figuring it out?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:53] I think-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:23:54] They’re adapting so quickly. It’s amazing.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:56] I think the most important thing is that actually people get to hear that we, that the other people can’t cope. I think it’s okay if you’re, you, if you don’t feel upbeat and you don’t feel optimistic today, that’s fine. And anyone listening to this, I hope they feel the same way because social media can always, as we know, present such a- such a one sided view of how people are managing through this incredibly stressful and tense situation. I have a tech service with thousands of people who follow me on the Internet where they can just send me personal messages that no one will see. And people are just fraught right now. So please feel free to just feel however the fuck you feel and just be however you are today on this podcast, and everyday
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:24:39] That’s so nice. That’s so great. Thank you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:41] No, it’s fine. I’m not like “Dance, monkey dance”. I want to switch directions slightly. I want to talk to you about. I mean, you are widely and have always been widely regarded as such a beautiful woman. But you, you’ve spoken out about what was I going? No. I’m going to start this again. So I want to switch direction slightly. I would like to talk about image with you for a minute. And I mean, you’ve always been regarded as an incredibly beautiful woman within this industry. You have spoken out before about being discounted from the list of sexy actresses to which you expressed relief, which I thought was really interesting. Because you, you, what did you say? Funny doesn’t sag.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:25:21] Yes, what a relief. Funny doesn’t sag, man.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:21] I’m going to get that on a t-shirt.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:25:24] It just doesn’t.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:30] But I was wondering if you’ve ever felt pressure with your aesthetics, with body, with age.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:25:38] Are you kidding me? I work in Hollywood.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:41] No, I know, I know. You never know though.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:25:44] No, no. I started getting it when I was 16 and I went through a hormonal change on a movie. And I remember the producer pulled me aside. Probably it was like a six month movie too. It was really long. They pulled me aside at the very end. This is really interesting because I was away from my mom. I was with them. It was really remote film in another country. And I had to have a guardian with me. So my mom wasn’t with me. She was working. I was with my guardian. I was making the movie and I’d started the movie when I was 15. I turned 16 on the movie and I’d been away for probably five months, which is a little unorthodox. But that’s how it was.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:23] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:26:23] And the, I remember the producer coming up to me towards the end of the movie and saying, “Hey, Reese, you’re gaining weight. So can you, can you not eat like as much do-? Like we noticed you really enjoying the donuts and stuff. And can you put down the donuts and stop”? And I was like. I’d never had anybody say something like that to me. And I remember feeling really embarrassed and like I wasn’t being professional and we ended the movie and I remember feeling like, “Yeah, I guess my clothes were fitting tighter” and he’s like, “Yeah, it just doesn’t look like how we started the movie”. And I was like, “Oh yeah”. I went home and my mother saw me and she goes, “You went through puberty. You have breasts now”. And I was like, “What”? She goes, “Your whole body changed over the summer”. And I realized what he was saying to me was like, “Stop your body from changing”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:23] Yeah. I can’t believe someone can say that to a child. That’s so insane, that’s so, that’s, that’s the kind of thing that drops damaged right into the middle of you cause you’re wide open at that age. Now, if someone says something to me about my weight, I tell them to fuck off very liberally.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:27:41] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:41] But back then, that was the age at which the world managed to get inside my head. And it’s been-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:27:47] Well my mother was really good. She was like, “What is that man talking about? You grew, you have boobs. You went from nothing to having breasts”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:56] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:27:57] Your whole, your hips filled out. And that’s not, what is that fucking guy talking about?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:03] No you also. You’ve also-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:28:05] She handled that really well.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:06] No, I’m so glad. But you also had multiple children over the course of your career from a very young age. So again, your body’s fluctuating and you were shooting while pregnant and promoting straight after babies.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:28:18] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:18] And so your body was probably constantly changing. I didn’t really track, you always sort of looked roughly the same size to me, but I imagine especially as some of that was the 90s where we had heroin chic as the sort of norm. Imagine that was a fucking mad time to be famous.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:28:34] I never understood that. I never understood it. I never understood that thing where women were really like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:40] Emaciated.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:28:42] Not eating food. And that was almost like a competitor’s thing about who was skinnier.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:47] And yet that was held up to all of the people in the world for such a long time as what is normal. And if you do not meet that standard, if you dare to age or if you dare to gain any weight or you have any kind of flab anywhere near your upper arm, then there is something wrong with you. Whereas this like nought point nought, nought one percent of the main, of mainstream pop culture are able to achieve that aesthetic. I mean, even muscles for a while were considered bad and wrong for a woman’s body. We were supposed to just be waifish and I feel like it. It’s this fucking sample sizes that are the crux of the biggest demand for people to still worry so much about maintaining the same size. It’s not normal for so many different women of so many different ages and so many different heights and racial backgrounds to all have to exist within the same set size. That doesn’t make sense. I’m, I’m South Asian. I have bigger hips than, than other people. Naturally. That is just my, those are my bones. And I carry weight differently to different people from different races. And it’s these sample sizes that we have to get into in order to promote our work or walk onto the red carpet that makes women, have to starve themselves in order to be able to wear the nice clothes. And if you don’t wear the nice clothes, you don’t get the good critique and then you don’t get to go into the magazine. It’s like a whole loop of shit.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:30:06] It’s a cycle. It’s a whole systems on top of systems. And I agree. I think one of the most powerful things was when all the women decided to wear black at the Golden Globes. Because the conversations we had around that and, and I was with hundreds of women during that time about how they feel in those moments when people ask them about what they’re wearing, not about the work that they did.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:32] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:30:32] Because the dresses are beautiful and they’re wonderful. And it’s a celebration of artistry. But it’s not our art. It’s not, I didn’t create that dress. I created a performance. I created opportunities for women to star in a motion picture that’s about women’s connection to nature or that’s what I’m there to talk about. And I feel like there was a great, not only was there some solidarity and finally conversation around some of these systems that have just we were told that’s that’s just what it is. That’s the system. And I have to say, Meryl Streep, this year we were at an awards show and she turned to me – she goes, “I’ve had this dress for 25 years. I’m not getting new dresses”. It’s gorgeous. It works. I love it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:16] We’re gonna talk about it more in just a second. Talk to me about your decision to stop waiting around. I know this began with a shitty script that you thought was beneath you and then you found out that loads of other actresses were up for that same role.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:31:37] Yeah, I read this terrible, terrible, misogynistic script where this kind of buffoonish man had multiple women throwing themselves at him and they were a bunch boob jokes and things. And I thought, “This is such garbage”. And I called my agent and I said, “I’m not doing this. Who would do this”? And she said, “Every actress in Hollywood wants this part”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:56] It’s funny.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:31:57] These two parts.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:57] I wonder if it’s the same role-, it probably isn’t the same role, but I went through a similar thing where I kind of stopped auditioning a couple of years ago after, for a while, after I read this script by. I’m not going to say his name, but it’s a very, very famous actor who… very, very, very famous actor who has written his own script. And the lines were so offensive that I was speechless, rendered speechless after reading them. I think to, some of the lines were “I want you to cover me in your man milk” was one of the lines that my character was supposed to say to him. And at one point, I was supposed to be in a shower washing myself and two men walk in while I’m showering. And this isn’t a porno. This is a mainstream film that maybe has been made now and maybe I’ve outed the actor, but she’s supposed to want to continue showering in front of them and say like, “Oh, do you mind if I finish showering? I’ve had a really dirty day”. And then she says to them that she wants both of, she wants to feel both of their-, I’m sorry to say this to you, Reese Witherspoon, ’cause you seem so pure.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:32:57] I’m not, go ahead.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:57] But both of your cocks to slap together inside my mouth.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:33:01] What?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:01] I want to feel both of your cocks slapping together inside my mouth. Which, which begs the question, how big is my mouth? How small?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:33:08] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:09] Are there cocks? if there’s room to slap together.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:33:13] Woah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:13] I mean so this was the kind of thing I was reading. Post “Time’s up”. This is 2017.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:33:19] Girl, you know how to paint a picture. Oh yeah. By the way, post “Time’s up”. Because let’s just be clear. Nobody waved a magic wand and there was gender equality in our business.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:29] Exactly.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:33:29] Just because some people started talking.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:33] Yes, I know. So you read that shitty script. You went and you spoke to your lovely ally of a husband and he told you, he encouraged you to find your own, your own work, to create your own roles. Is that correct?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:33:47] Yeah. He’s like, “You read so many books. Why don’t you start buying them and turning them into movies”? And I was like, “Alright”. And then I started. And the first two I made were “Wild” and “Gone Girl”. Both based on amazing books. And it started from there. And then it just became, look I’ve had so many ups and downs with my producing career that’s, I’ve only been producing for 10 years now. But-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:12] We’ve only seen ups. On the outside it looks like you are just, just-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:34:16] There’s some downs, sister.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:18] Really?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:34:19] Yeah. Because I decided to self-fund my company. Look, I had the means to self-fund a company, which is extraordinary. But it was also, there’s a reason people tell you not to put your own money into things.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:34] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:34:34] So there were times where I didn’t know how it’s going to make payroll. I didn’t know how to create more revenue. I’m lucky to have business partners who came in and rewrote my business plan so that I had a digital side of my business as well. But I refused to do it the way that had been done for hundreds of years in Hollywood. Where, you know, you’re dedicated to one studio and they decide whether or not they’re gonna make your pictures. Well, that does work out for women. It just doesn’t. Or people of color or people. OR who represent any underrepresented group. Corporate mandates are prohibitive, and maybe even if they shifts slightly, it’s not enough to revolutionize what is getting made. And so, it’s just important to me that I didn’t go about things the same way that always been done in order to produce a different result. Because the, Hollywood wasn’t made for there to be this system of equal storytelling and representation and think about all the stories that have been lost. That is what I-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:44] We don’t need those because we’ve got loads of great reruns. You see? We’ve got loads of great remakes that we just slap a woman on. So it’s fine. Don’t need new stories.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:35:53] I think about the, I mean, I think how much do I not know because of the gates and the barriers that have been up for so, so long. So if it looks like a bunch of women and people of color and people who represent LGBTQ characters on film are busting their ass and producing, producing and producing. It’s because there’s hundreds of years of deficit.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:17] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:36:17] We’re missing.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:19] And we need to know more. And one thing that I love is that in recognizing that you yourself were so limited new roles as a young, straight, slim, beautiful white woman that things must have been so much harder for those more marginalized. And that’s what has galvanized you to create not only roles for yourself, but for women and for people from all other walks of life. I’m grateful for your sense of self-awareness because not everyone has that. A lot of it-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:36:44] Well, thank you for saying that. But I benefit from hearing different life perspectives and we all do. And I don’t want a world in which I only hear stories about people who look like me. That just isn’t mind expanding. It’s not curious enough and it’s not good enough.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:01] What’s your journey been like in kind of becoming a more, more informed person in particular? Like post “Time’s up”. You know, I imagine, I wonder because I think, you know, we’re in this moment of such, it’s such, such delicacy and people are told off for not knowing all of the answers and not having all of the correct updated information as to how to speak about binary or how to speak about race tensions and disability and all these different things. LGBTQ issues. What has your journey been like in expanding your horizons and your experience? Has it been a steep learning curve? Do you make mistakes?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:37:40] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:40] Are you someone who’s?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:37:41] Sure.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:41] Okay. How do you tend to educate yourself? Is it reading?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:37:47] I read a lot. But I also asked friends and I asked for people’s patience with me as I try to figure it out. And I would rather make a mistake than never try.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:58] Same.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:37:59] And I think I try to be very thoughtful and cautious with my words because words can be painful and powerful. I try to process before I say anything. I am a 24 hour processor, so I really think about things. I think about how they are received more than how they make me feel.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:20] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:38:21] Sometimes. So I think it’s just that combination of having really wonderful friends who and I don’t expect them to be the end all, know all of everything either, you know, but you take time to just say-. I mean, collaborating with Kerry Washington on “Little Fires” is the greatest example because we were tackling thing, topics of class, race, sexuality and we-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:50] In such nuanced ways, by the way, your portrayal. I’ve just, I’ve just finished episode five and I’m loving it, and I’m dying for what happens next. But I, I think your display of hilarious, sort of clumsy and sort of devastating white fragility is really, really well-executed. And it’s done in such a nuanced way where you can see that not only does your character not have a malicious intention with her clumsiness or with your children’s clumsiness, but also there’s a sense of thinking you and pardon me if I get this wrong, but feeling like you’re quite evolved. Like that feeling of like “Oh, I don’t see color” and all those other really dangerous statements and accusing someone of bringing race into something when they have rightfully pointed out a difference in privilege. I think that that’s-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:39:39] I think you got it. But I think you got it. You nailed it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:42] I like the fact that you’re able to show you know, because this is the struggle that people are having currently. They are struggling with owning up to their own white privilege, owning up to that. I think maybe that comes partially from a fear of acknowledging that they may have had a leg up and people not understanding that. That sometimes privilege can just be an absence of discrimination. Sometimes privilege can be just as simple as that.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:40:07] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:08] And what would-?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:40:09] Or, or you know, I’ve, I’ve had people say to me, “Well, I’m not a rich white person”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:16] Yes. Exactly.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:40:17] But I. But what they’re not acknowledging is the hundred, hundreds and thousands of years of freedom.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:23] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:40:24] Or a lack of oppression or opportunity.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:28] Yep.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:40:29] But there’s these conversations are super nuanced. And I think you have to have them with sentient people. I think you have to have them with empathetic people, back to empathy. But they are a necessity. Like, I’m not interested in having a media company that doesn’t acknowledge what’s really going on in this world and what’s really happening, if you are a thoughtful person, is unconscionable what’s happening, you know, in so many ways, revolving race and class and wealth disparity, discrimination, harassment. I. I. I. I’m just a person that holds that place in my life for people that I just deeply think about these things and I do what I can do, which is tell stories and create opportunity. Give, I give the microphone to other people. So hopefully, you know, that is, that’s my way of saying. “I’m here to listen, not talk” sometimes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:36] I was going to say, what is your advice for people out there who are privileged either because they are able-bodied or because they are wealthy or because they are just simply white or cis or straight who feel afraid to venture into learning, because sometimes when you try and you get it wrong, you are punished more so than the people who don’t try. What would be your advice to those people in entering this journey of progress and understanding?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:42:06] I think about Brené Brown, a lot in the vulnerability talks that she gives or about daring greatly. Isn’t it better to try than to never put yourself out there in a way? I mean, fear also is the absence of love and expansion and curiosities. So I’m always, I think of creativity as infinite.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:29] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:42:29] And love is infinite. And fear is very small.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:32] And it’s helpful to check your ego at the door, I found. Because I’m entering, I’m inserting myself into so many spaces where I’m ill-equipped currently to speak on fluently, but I’m just in it trying and trying to figure out how to be of service and be helpful. And I do fuck up sometimes, but-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:42:48] And by the way, fuck up.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:50] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:42:51] You know, fuck up and then say sorry.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:51] Yes.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:42:54] But I definitely say sorry when I mess up.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:56] Yes, you do. I remember watching-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:42:58] I’m accountable for it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:58] Yeah, I watched a video of you once having to make an apology on “Good Morning, America” for some sort of incident that we don’t need to get into now. But you, you apologized and shamed yourself in a way that was so fucking refreshing to me. You were like-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:43:13] But I did something really stupid.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:15] No. I know. I loved I loved your apology. It was just like “I. I shouldn’t have done that. Everything I did was wrong. I am. I am accountable. I take full responsibility. No one should ever do this. I’m really embarrassed. And I’ll never do it again”.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:43:27] It was so embarrassing and dumb.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:30] Well, you, you survived. You’re fine. You survived and you’re thriving.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:43:33] You know what? Turns out I breathe air. I bleed the same way. I make dumb decisions, I make great decisions. I’m just a human being.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:44] Sassy Southern.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:43:48] Sassy.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:49] Yeah. I mean-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:43:50] I was always really feisty. My mom called me feisty. Sometimes it was well directed, sometimes not.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:58] I think it’s, I think it’s overall stood you in good stead in a business where really being feisty is the only way to survive with some sort of semblance of sanity. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. By the way, in your recent Vanity Fair cover that… was it The New York Times in 2011, dared to post your Oscar win. Call you a washed up no longer, they were saying that you were no longer a movie star because you hadn’t worked in a while.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:44:25] No. It was the New Yorker.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:26] New Yorker. Fair enough. I apologize to the New York Times. I can’t fucking believe that. You were already an Academy Award winner by then, weren’t you?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:44:35] Yeah, well yeah. But I mean, I had made a bunch, a string of really like nonsensical misdirected movies.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:40] Still, at 36. You can’t call someone who’s been so successful for so long “washed up”. That’s fucking insane that that happened. What did it feel like when that ridiculous article came out? Did you read it at the time?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:44:55] Well, the story behind that is I was reading, like just a profile about a director that I really liked. He was an actor director and he’s like, “Oh, I love that guy. I think he’s so creative”. And I’m reading and I’m reading and reading. And I’m like somewhere around, you know, New Yorker articles. It was like page six of twelve. This list of celebrities have completely, were famous and just have completely obliterated their reputation by making terrible movies and they’re just washed up. And it was like me, Sandy Bullock was in it. And I think maybe Tom Hanks was in there.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:30] Jesus.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:45:31] It was like, it was like a whole people, I was like.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:33] Halle Berry.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:45:33] Yeah. But I was like, yeah, I was like, oh, but it really I mean, it hurt my feelings because, again, I’m just a human being. And I read stuff, whatever. I troll around for some bad news about myself. I can find it. I’m really good it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:47] Well for whatever it’s worth. I feel like some of the performances you’ve turned in the years since that stupid fucking list have been some of your best and some of your most interesting and thought provoking.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:45:57] Well thank you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:58] But it is. It is. It is really nice to watch you and Meryl and Laura Dern and all of these different women and Jennifer Aniston and Kerry Washington all now be able to prove that your shelf life no longer exists somewhere in your early 30s. It doesn’t end someone in your early 30s before it used to be a miracle to find work over a certain age.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:46:18] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:18] And now it feels like the most interesting roles are for women your age and older. These are the stories being told now.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:46:28] Yeah. I remember being 35 and going to a financial advisor, and I’ve always been scared of money my whole life because of things that have happened in my past and my family’s past. Terrified it. It just give me terrible agita. And I go, I went to a financial planner when I was 35. And he said, “Well, you need to start saving now because you’re, you’re not going to make any money in your 40s”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:49] Fucking hell.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:46:50] “At all. Your career will be over. I just know”. He’s like “I know. I represent a lot of actresses. Start saving now for retirement because you will have 20 to 30 years where you won’t work.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:00] Have you emailed him recently?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:47:03] No, I fired him.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:06] I’m glad you fired him. But you should send, I don’t know if you watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm” but spite email. You should definitely be like, “Hey, just wanted to thank you for that sound advice about how poor I was going to be in my 40s”.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:47:19] But I have to say, when people say dumb stuff to me, it actually it doesn’t bring me down. It actually lights a fire under me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:27] Great.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:47:27] And I get like, “Oh, I’m going to prove them wrong”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:31] Oh, I love that. I love that. But also, I’m petty enough to need to say something to their face. I don’t believe in being the bigger man. I believe in being the smallest man. I don’t. I don’t rise above. I don’t turn the other cheek. I don’t do any of that. I am down just to just to, have a go at someone. Anyway, we’re gonna go to another quick break. So, OK, you’ve achieved so much across the board of so many different areas inside and outside of your own industry, you even have your own fucking clothing line. It’s just, it’s infuriating how much you’ve achieved, but also I love it. What do you think is something that you haven’t mastered yet? And what are the next stories that you want to tell?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:48:20] I mean, getting, starting companies and being entrepreneurial. I’m learning so much about being a businesswoman. Something I completely did not understand before. And now I have board meetings. I have multiple employees. I have, you know, just responsibilities, fiduciary responsibilities to investors. So that has changed my life. And it’s actually an amazing thing that I’ve learned a new vernacular and a new skill set. I wouldn’t say I’m the best at it, but I wouldn’t say I’m the worst. I’m learning. So that’s been actually a great thing in my late 30s and early 40s to learn that I am capable of something and that I had skills that apply to business that I didn’t know were skills. Like team building and, you know, respectful conversation and running meetings and groups of people. I’m actually really good at it. And I didn’t know that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:20] No. And you would have good reason not to before, because we were always told just to be lucky to even have one lane.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:49:28] Well, also. Yes. Stay in your lane. Stay in your lane. I’ll never forget there was this nighttime comedian who went on making fun of myself, Jessica Alba, Gwyneth. And at the time, Blake Lively had a company that she’d started and he like completely made fun of all of our companies and was like, “Aren’t these girls stupid for trying to be business women”? And didn’t mention George Clooney and his tequila company, didn’t mention Robert DeNiro and all his hotels and sushi restaurants, didn’t mention all the many men who have gone out of being an actor and tried entrepreneurial things.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:03] No one’s made fun of Mark Wahlberg’s Wahlburgers.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:50:07] No. But why are women? It was funny. Like, why is it funny?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:14] What’s what’s it been like going into boardrooms before? Before you’d had all of the success of “Gone Girl” and “Morning Show” and “Big Little Lies” and now “Little Fires Everywhere”? I mean, you’ve now proven that you guys can make it and that you guys are in demand and you have different shows at different networks. You weren’t tied to any one company. You are becoming your own kind of mini superpower, I guess, and you are in development so many other great talents within that. What was it like when all of this started? When you said you wanted to be a producer? When you said you wanted to buy books? What were those attitudes that you would? What were the faces like that you would walk into at those predominantly male boardrooms?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:50:53] I’ll tell you, I got it wasn’t, it wasn’t good.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:57] Discouraging.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:50:57] When I first started. Oh, yeah. I mean, I have very specific stories that would take a long time to tell you that around. I would bring a book to a studio and then they tried to take me off of it. And then they would say, “You can’t come to any of the meetings. You can’t read any the scripts, we’re hiring the director, and we’re cutting you out of it”. And I’d have to call and beg and beg and bag to get to see the dailies or. And then by the time I made three hits after “Wild”, “Gone Girl” and “Big Little Lies”, people start taking me seriously. But it took me three hits, three movies that were either critically well received and commercially well received or both for people to actually go, “Oh, she knows what she’s doing and we’re actually going to listen”. And even beyond that, I still have times where I feel this big in a corporate meeting, because even though I have millions of dollars invested by different people in my media company, it’s not as big as some men’s companies. It’s not. And sometimes it feels like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:04] When will it be enough?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:52:06] When is it going to be enough? And when, when do women who have been put in this marginalized place, when do we get to emerge as the leaders that we are?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:20] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:52:22] Because I think there’s missed calculations, I’m sorry I get upset.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:25] No, no, I understand. I feel you.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:52:28] It’s not about me. It’s like, it’s like I feel, like I know everyone who is trying to do the same things as me. And whether you’re in Hollywood or you’re in banking or you’re in advertising or you’re in health care and someone doesn’t take you seriously, even though you have 30 years of experience. And you think, good God, when are things going to change? But they are. And I have to, I’m an optimist. So I, I look at the little cracks in the ceilings. I look at the.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:56] Well big fuck of cracks. I mean, bunch of Emmys, bunch of Golden Globes. You’re doing fine. But I know what you mean.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:53:03] No it’s good, but it’s like I know all the men who have been doing the same thing as me, who make ten times what I make. And it’s all relative, right? And sometimes I’ll call those men who are my acting counterparts and say, “Hey, what did you make on your very comparable deal? And I’ll tell them I make a third of what you make. And don’t cry for me, Argentina. It’s a lot of money. But why? Explain to me why”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:29] I love that you ask men about how much money they earn. I ask men and women how much money they earn all the time. And I feel like it’s been made-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:53:35] They don’t have to tell me. But what, what?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:38] Do they get uncomfortable about telling you?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:53:41] Some of them won’t tell me, but the ones who do, I’m infinitely grateful because they’re part of the change. And I will say, I want to say about “Time’s up” and about creating companies that put women at the center. We’re not trying to create monocultures.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:55] Exactly. It’s just equality.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:53:56] Monocultures. Yeah. Equality. And we’re just fighting for 50 50. OK. And an accurate representation of what the world looks like. I’m not trying to get rid of all guys. I love men. I have two sons. I have a wonderful husband. I have a great brother. Like their, their voices are important, too. They’re just not the only important voices in the conversation. And I had men in Hollywood who would never come front and center about “Times up”, but some of the most important men in our business gave me such great counsel, gave money, gave their time, made important phone calls that made a huge difference. And no one will ever know what they did because they don’t want to take credit for it. But there are wonderful men in my business.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:45] And it’s also great to be able to admit that it’s frustrating, you know, because I think because of what, how we are written about and how we are projected, even if we are trying to be as real as we can in our social media, it looks like we are always just constantly winning and succeeding. And there are moments of such intense frustration and anyone else out there who is starting their own business, even if they’ve only got three employees or if they are going out on a venture or starting a brand new career at 30 or 40, even after their children have grown up. Please know that we are with you and feel a lot of those same things, even though for sure we come from a place of, of amazing privilege. It is, it is an emotional journey that you should never feel bad about yourself or there’s nothing weak about it. You are not doing anything wrong. Even for people with all of this helpful shit and all of this privilege and all of this awareness, as in people being aware of us, it’s still so fucking hard. And I think it’s great when women as successful as yourself who have older kids and all of the the good shit, all of the great business, all of the awards, all of the accolades that you can still admit that sometimes it still just feels like you’re still climbing that hill.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:55:56] Well, the awards don’t make you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:58] I know.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:55:59] Happy, you know? And money doesn’t make you happy. How you treat other people and what you do with like to whom much is given, much is expected, I really hold that in my heart every day. What do you do with it?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:13] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:56:13] You know? I say that to my kids all the time. Because I was always taught that as a little kid and we were talking yesterday about someone who we hold in high regard who had an aberration. I don’t think that person, I’m not done with that person.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:28] No, never. That person is just growing and learning. And also the times are changing. And we have to understand that things are updating. I think that’s something that you, we won’t go into too far, but that’s something that I loved about you covering the nuanced and completely different side of “Me too” than any other rhetoric that we’d really seen in “The Morning Show”. You covered the point of view of the man and also and the nuances of his situation and the accusations against him and also how it feels to be friends with and love someone who’s done a terrible thing at a time where we didn’t know how terrible that thing was. When that thing was more hyper-normalized and accepted.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:57:04] Yeah, and how we can be, we can hold many different ideas like there is gray in a lot of this, right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:11] I agree.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:57:11] There are people who have done horrible things that are just not forgivable. And then there are people who have acted in a way that they thought was appropriate because hundreds of years of conditioning and are willing to have conversations and be contrite. And that’s a whole different thing.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:28] Yeah, well, that’s the difference with “Cancel Culture” is they haven’t done irrevocable harm. They’re willing to learn and to shut the door on them only does us a disservice because there’s a potential allies, a potential member of our army that we are turning our backs on. They are ammunition. They form a wall with us. We need them. We don’t really have the luxury yet of turning down people who want to change and want to help us just because they made a mistake before.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:57:51] “Cancel Culture” drives me bonkers because it’s like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:53] It was a great idea. It’s just been, as with everything that’s a great idea, horrendously misused.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:58:01] Yeah. Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:02] We just haven’t, we haven’t used it, we’ve gone, we’ve got cancel-itis. We’re in a craze of like Whac-A-Mole with everyone right now. So where would you say that Hollywood needs to step up? As someone who is a veteran, who’s seeing it from all the different angles, especially now that you are so entrenched in the inner business and the hiring and the firing of it. Where else does it need to step up?
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:58:24] There’s multiple different answers to that, because I do think we need to have more of a proliferation of more media companies like my own. They’re hard, they’re hard to get funded. It’s hard to have the right structure there. So helping people any way I can to do what I’ve done with “Hello Sunshine” is really important to me. High up executives that represent different ideas. That’s really important. These, these major media conglomerates have boards. It’s important that the audiences know that they can say “I really don’t see myself represented here. And perhaps that’s because there’s nobody on that green light committee that-“.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:07] And it filters down.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:59:09] It filters down. So it’s comes from the top. And it also comes from hiring. So there’s not a lot of opportunity created for different people who grew up different ways can’t start, you know, socioeconomically like not able to to take a lower than minimum wage job to get their foot in the door in Hollywood. We got to address that too.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:28] And we still need to get some more perverts out. There are still some fucking pervs and they’re rolling around and we need to-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [00:59:37] Hopefully the justice system will deal with that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:38] Yeah, exactly. I don’t mean us physically. I don’t mean you and me as vigilantes go running around arresting people with the citizen’s arrests. I just mean we still need to, we still need to drain some more swamp. Thank you so much for being so candid with me today. Thank you for doing this on a bad day and for telling us so much about your story and the reasoning and lessons behind them. I really appreciate you. Before you go, can I just ask you. Reese Witherspoon, what do you weigh?
REESE WITHERSPOON [01:00:14] I love this question that you ask. I think it’s so lovely because we are all an accumulation of the things we’ve experienced. So I weigh 30 years as an actor and a creator and entertainer. I weigh finding my purpose in life to tell stories and help other women tell their stories. I am proud mother of three incredibly thoughtful, conscientious children. I weigh my contribution that I plan to give back to the world and those are the things that I feel really, really good about. Oh, and I weigh, I weigh as funny as I am on any really great day.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:07] Yeah.
REESE WITHERSPOON [01:01:12] You know, it’s my that is my greatest value to myself is I feel like I’m funny and I feel like it’s a gift from God that like I can say something funny and I don’t know where the heck it came from, but I can make a person laugh or smile. And I feel like that is such a superpower right now. Anybody out there, your smile, your laugh, your ability to make people laugh. Please spread it all around like confetti.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:34] Yeah, and also like for all the shit that even I have spoken about, the fact that this industry sometimes can take itself too seriously as to its value. In moments like this you remember that, yes, of course, we are still not pediatric brain surgeons, but there is such value in entertainment, whatever form of art it comes in. This is the moment where I have been saved in the last couple of weeks through my anxiety and throughout my life by great comedians, great stories, great TV shows and songs and nostalgia. Thanks to artists such as yourself. So thanks. Stay safe. Stay clean. I’m not doing a, I’m not-.
REESE WITHERSPOON [01:02:16] Stay home.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:19] Yeah, stay home, and all of the love in the world. Thank you, Reese Witherspoon.
REESE WITHERSPOON [01:02:22] Thank you, Jameela.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:23] A quick thank you to the people who make this podcast possible. Kimmie Lucas, my producer, and Sophia Jennings, who is also one of the producers on the podcast. A big thank you to my boyfriend, James Blake, who I forced to make the theme tune for this. And I love it very much. And I’d like to thank myself.
November 27, 2023
This week, Jameela is joined by writer, broadcaster and feminist organizer Clementine Ford to discuss the historical roots of marriage as a tool of patriarchal control, the illusions surrounding modern matrimony and the modern marketing machinery that sustains its myth.
November 20, 2023
Jameela is joined by beauty culture critic Jessica DeFino in a candid conversation about where her current research and journalism is taking her, after years of covering a multi-billion dollar beauty industry for major women’s magazines & beauty apps in the US.
November 13, 2023
This week, Jameela is joined by director, producer and sexual educator A’magine Goddard to discuss her award-winning new documentary ‘At Your Cervix’ that breaks the silence about the continuous violation of bodily autonomy for educational purposes.