Cover story

Women in Hollywood 2018


Lisa Nishimura, Lilly Singh, Kathryn Newton, Karen Gillan & Marielle Heller

Women In Hollywood 2018: Karen Gillan, Kathryn Newton, Lisa Nishimura, Lilly Singh & Marielle Heller

Welcome to our third annual roundup of the women making headway in Hollywood: actresses making a great first impression; nascent directors making movies the industry is really excited about; and trailblazing executives who are shaping what we watch and how we watch it. Sit up and switch on. By LINDSAY KINDELON

Photography Thomas WhitesideStyling Alison Edmond
Cover Stories
Top image: Lisa: Dress Preen by Thornton Bregazzi; sandals Gianvito Rossi. Lilly: Dress Christopher Kane. Kathryn: Dress Versace; sandals Gianvito Rossi. Karen: Dress Dolce & Gabbana. Marielle: Dress Adeam; rings Marielle’s own. This image: Dress Dodo Bar Or


LA native Newton, 21, caught the eye of audiences and casting directors alike last year, with a hat-trick of impressive roles in Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Big Little Lies. Her star continues to rise with the lead in critically acclaimed teen comedy Blockers and upcoming drama Ben is Back with Julia Roberts.

If you could work with one talent, who would it be?

I would have said Meryl Streep, but I get to work with her now on Big Little Lies season two.

What has been your most ‘Hollywood’ moment so far?

One of them was when I went to the London Film Festival for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Frances McDormand had a dinner for us all the night before the premiere. It was in this really small French bistro outside of London with the whole cast, and I thought: ‘This is the coolest thing ever – no one knows where we are, these are some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and we’re having pizza.’

Which one woman has most inspired you?

Reese Witherspoon. She’s made me a better actress. I remember the first table read of Big Little Lies; everyone was a big star and instead of leaving after, she ate lunch with me, and we talked about college and her daughter and Coachella.

How do Julia Roberts (Ben is Back) and Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies) compare as on-screen moms?

They’re both amazing. Before we started filming Ben is Back, Julia had us all come to her house to do rehearsals – yes, so we could rehearse, but also to see her as a mother. I saw her with her kids, and we just sat around and went surfing. By doing that, we got comfortable with each other. Both Reese and Julia in that way brought me up and made me able to do my work.

What piece of advice always stays with you?

Don’t ever doubt that you’re good enough – you are.

Ben is Back is out later this year. Big Little Lies returns in 2019

Dress Tibi; earrings Chloé; glasses Lisa’s own


As Netflix’s Vice President of Original Documentary and Comedy Programming, Nishimura, 47, has not only brought us hit shows like Making a Murderer and Ava DuVernay’s astounding 13th, but also helped secure Netflix’s first feature-film Oscar for doping-scandal documentary Icarus. Her latest true-crime docuseries, The Staircase, chronicles the high-profile murder case of novelist Michael Peterson, who was convicted of killing his wife Kathleen in 2001.

How did you get your start in Hollywood?

I grew up as a child of immigrants from Japan in a very academic family. My foray into the arts was an accident – I intended to go into medicine. I had a period of time before going to medical school where I ended up getting an internship that turned into a job at a record label, and met two folks who, years later, I started a record label with in San Francisco.

Which one woman has most inspired you?

Ava DuVernay – she’s a force. I called her when it was announced that she was going to be on the jury at Cannes and said, ‘I’m so incredibly proud of you,’ and she said, ‘The last time I was at Cannes, I was a publicist on Dreamgirls.’ To me that says so much, because she’s a person that says, ‘Why not?’ and ‘Why not me?’

What has been your most exciting ‘Hollywood’ moment so far?

Going to the Oscars this year. It’s so important for our filmmakers, especially documentarians, to be nominated. And winning can be career-defining. That feeling of pride and excitement for them, because you know what they’ve been through, is really quite something.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

The value of listening and context – it’s not what you say, it’s what the other person hears.

Who has been most been pivotal to your career?

Cindy Holland, who heads up all of Netflix’s Original Series and recruited me ten and a half years ago. To watch her lead has been remarkable. She’s not a person that’s intimidated by the greatness of others; she actually really celebrates that.

What has been your worst career advice?

Not to go to Netflix.

The Staircase launches on Netflix on June 8

Kathryn: Dress Alexander McQueen; sandals Charlotte Olympia. Karen: Dress Adeam; sandals Alexandre Birman. Lilly: Blazer Adeam; pants Adam Lippes; mules Jimmy Choo

“I didn’t think of directing as a FEMALE job; I hadn’t seen any examples. Then I started working in the INDUSTRY and thought: ‘I should just do this.’ It’s one of the BEST decisions I’ve ever made”

Dress Dundas


Scottish-born Gillan, 30, shot to fame playing Doctor Who’s companion Amy Pond in the cult British TV show before landing roles in blockbusters including Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War. This year Gillan made her feature-film directorial debut with The Party’s Just Beginning, which she also wrote and starred in.

Why did you want to direct?

When I was growing up, I had a video camera and I would make horror movies with my parents or friends. I didn’t think of directing as a female job, which is ridiculous, but I hadn’t seen any examples. Then I started working in the industry and thought: ‘I should just do this.’ It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What was it like shooting The Party’s Just Beginning in your hometown of Inverness, Scotland?

I would be directing during the day, in an authoritative position, then coming home and being moaned at by my mother for not bringing my laundry down!

Who has been pivotal to your career?

My mother and father. Without claiming to be, they were such feminists, because they never thought I couldn’t do anything because of my gender. That feels like true gender equality.

What has been your worst career advice?

‘Wait to be invited’ – I don’t think things come to you, you have to go out and get them.

Which woman in Hollywood inspires you most?

Tilda Swinton. She could be doing giant movies, but instead she’s finding interesting filmmakers and giving them a platform by attaching her name to the project. I think that’s a great use of her stardom.

We hear that you’ve volunteered to direct an all-female Avengers

I didn’t nominate myself in any real way, but whether I directed it or not, it would be amazing for Marvel to make a movie like that.

The Party’s Just Beginning is out later this year

Pajama shirt (part of set) Olivia Von Halle


Since uploading her first video to YouTube eight years ago under username IISuperwomanII, Indian-Canadian Singh, 29, has won over 13 million subscribers and recently launched her own production company. This year the comic actress moves into scripted TV, starring in HBO’s dystopian drama Fahrenheit 451.

What kind of freedoms does your job allow you to have?

As an Indian woman, my career allowed me to do something that most women in my family don’t get to do, which is move away from home. Now my mom doesn’t even care if I get married!

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

Don’t take it personally. I read my YouTube video comments a lot and I’m always tempted to respond to the negative ones, but I’ve gotten better.

What do you think YouTube offers to people that Hollywood can’t?

On YouTube, there are way less gatekeepers. Anyone can make content. Also, people like to see very real people in the digital world; they want to see someone who’s like them.

Which Hollywood talents are you most excited by?

Tiffany Haddish. After watching her at the Oscars and in Girls Trip, I thought: ‘You are the part of Hollywood that I didn’t know was missing.’

How did you get Michelle Obama to appear in your #GirlLove series?

I said I wanted to do this thing that encourages women to compliment other women, and she was like, ‘Great!’ She was so cool and down to earth, and we sang Beyoncé together. It was lovely.

If you could work with one director or actor, who would it be?

The Rock. He was my idol growing up.

Which one woman has been pivotal to your career?

Selena Gomez. I’ve always looked at how she has grown up with her audience and done it so gracefully. I struggle with that. I have a very family friendly YouTube channel, but I also grew up – I can’t make videos about school anymore. One of the lessons she’s taught me is the way she’s very unapologetically herself.

What do you want your IMDB bio to say in 20 years’ time?

‘Has done many projects with The Rock.’

Watch Fahrenheit 451 on HBO now

Marielle: Dress Prada; ring Monica Vinader. Lisa: Dress Michael Lo Sordo; ring Lisa’s own

“The DIVERSITY of stories that are starting to get told is long overdue and THRILLING. The fact that the public is demanding that is BEAUTIFUL”

Marielle Heller
Top and skirt Prada; ring (right hand) Monica Vinader; rings (left hand) Marielle’s own


Californian-born Heller, 38, made her directing debut with 2015’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl. The writer, director and actress is heading to the top of the big leagues this fall with Can You Ever Forgive Me? starring Melissa McCarthy as real-life forger Lee Israel, and the forthcoming Mister Rogers biopic You Are My Friend with Tom Hanks.

What challenges have you faced in Hollywood? I had huge challenges trying to get people to accept that a movie about teenage female sexuality The Diary of a Teenage Girl was something anybody would want to see. One of my biggest challenges is being a working mother. I’m advocating for French hours on my next film: instead of a 12.5 hour workday with an hour lunch, it’s a ten-hour straight workday. If you can get home at the end of the day, see your child and put them to bed, it makes a huge difference.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career? To trust your instincts. I think when you’re a woman, there’s this fear that there’s a secret language or handshake that you don’t know that you need to know to be a director. I had a realization that the skills I’d been working on my whole life, as an actor and writer, were actually leading me to be a good director.

Why was Melissa McCarthy the right woman to play literary forger Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Melissa is dedicated to giving a voice to women who would otherwise be voiceless. Lee Israel is the type of woman you would pass on the street and not pay attention to, but she’s got more going on behind the scenes than we would ever know.

What are the best and worst parts of Hollywood? The worst is comparing yourself to other people. There is a feeling that if somebody else has succeeded, they’ve taken a spot that somehow you’re not going to get. The best is having a lot of friends who are directors, both men and women, and feeling we’re there to support each other through tough times.

What has been your most Hollywood moment so far? I got to meet Prince when my husband actor and comedian Jorma Taccone was a writer for Saturday Night Live. He had an after party that started at 4am and when he came in it felt like a royal person had arrived.

What is the most exciting thing happening right now in the industry? The diversity of voices and the stories that are starting to get told is just so long overdue and thrilling. And the fact that the public is demanding that shift is beautiful to see.

Can You Ever Forgive Me Is out 19 Oct (US); 1 Feb 2019 (UK)__. You Are My Friend is out Oct 18, 2019


With what, how and who we watch on our screens evolving at such a fascinating pace, our industry-insider cover stars reveal what they’re excited about in Hollywood right now

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