8 Actresses Who Wrote Complex, Female Roles For Themselves

"Quality roles in studio films are just not available in great numbers for women, period," Joe Reid succinctly wrote for the Tribeca Film Festival's blog in May.

Research backs up his claim: while half of all moviegoers are female, 33 percent of all characters and only 11 percent of protagonists in the top 100 domestic grossing films of 2011 were women. A 2012 study commissioned by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media also found that, "females are not only missing from popular media, [but] when they are on screen, they seem to be there merely for decoration -- not to engage in meaningful or prestigious employment.”

This is bad news for all women who go to see and enjoy watching movies. But it's especially frustrating for actresses looking to play interesting and challenging roles. Because so few roles are available, competition for good parts is fierce. And prospects are even bleaker for actresses who are not thin, white women. As Angela Bassett dryly quipped when asked about future projects in 2012, "I'm a black actress, honey -- what can I tell you but I have no idea what's next for me."

That's why a growing number of actresses are taking matters into their own hands, and writing the dynamic roles they want to play themselves -- on TV as well as film. Here are eight actresses who did just that:





5. Emma Thompson



"There are a lot of highly intelligent women who can act [but] there are not too many roles to fill -- that's the problem. [So] I wrote [a role] and then I bloody well played it.," Emma Thompson told Entertainment Weekly in 1995. In between giving Oscar nominated performances -- and receiving the award for her role in "Howard's End" -- Thompson took on the task of creating an interesting role for herself by writing the screenplay for "Sense and Sensibility," an adaption of Jane Austen's novel of the same name. The film received rave reviews and earned Thompson the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as a nomination for Leading Actress.

4. Lake Bell



Lake Bell has been acting since 2002, and is known for her work on series such as "How To Make It In America" and "Children's Hospital," but this summer she's charting new professional territory.

"In A World" -- a film she wrote, directed and starred in -- was released on August 9th to critical acclaim. But while Bell, who plays a woman trying to break into the male-dominated voiceover industry, was responsible for creating her own dynamic character, she'd prefer to be lauded as a talented performer who created an interesting part, aside from her gender. "I think I'm eager for the moment to arise when the story is less 'What does it feel like to be a female director?'" She told Buzzfeed in a recent interview. "I hope the story soon becomes 'I either liked your movie or I didn't, let's talk about your movie.'"

3. Tina Fey



Tina Fey has been credited for paving the way for actors to be taken seriously behind the scenes. Despite her background in performance -- specifically, improv and her unforgettable "SNL" years -- Fey took complete creative control of "30 Rock" as its creator, producer, writer and star. She also created one of the most relatable (and quotable) characters on TV -- the spazzy and wonderful Liz Lemon. And for that, we're all eternally grateful.

2. Mindy Kaling



At the age of 34, Kaling has made a name for herself as a succesful actress, author, and sitcom creator -- all as a woman of color in a pretty white-washed industry. While she started out as a writer for "The Office", Kaling wrote a part for herself on the show as the much beloved Kelly Kapoor. She continued to write for herself on her own show, "The Mindy Project," which premiered in 2012.

But writing her own parts was less a deliberate choice than a necessity for Kaling. "My career has only become what it has out of sheer need, not because I wanted it that way," she told Entertainment Weekly in July. "I knew if I wanted to perform I was going to have to write it myself.”


1. Rashida Jones



“I am generally cast as the dependable, affable, loving, friend-wife-girlfriend,” Rashida Jones told the New York Times in 2012. And while "Parks and Recreation" fans love her for adeptly playing designated best friend Ann Perkins, Jones wanted to challenge herself -- and she didn't let a lack of offers stand in her way. Jones co-wrote "Celeste & Jesse Forever" with her friend Will McCormack, which was lauded for being "a rom-com breakup scenario from a female point of view."

“I felt like this was the only opportunity I had to play this kind of part, a character that’s maybe less than likable,” Jones told the New York Times.


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