2020 Honoree

Laura San Giacomo

Actress, Sex, Lies and Videotapes

“…There is no other option. I feel like that responding to need and calling is what gives us that power. Being that landscape and responding to a need is a driving force that looks like power. In those moments, there is nothing else to do, that must be what happens…”

What in your opinion are the qualities of a power woman?

When I was doing a lot of advocacy, and working outside of being an actor, I wasn’t really considering myself a “power woman.” I was looking at “what can I do to help?” I think that’s where it comes from for me. To respond to what is the need. Everything I did when I was doing a lot of advocacy was to create a wake in my forward movement that would help other kids. So, I felt like I have this energy inside me to do this so I must proceed. There is no other option. I feel like that responding to need and calling is what gives us that power. Being that landscape and responding to a need is a driving force that looks like power. In those moments, there is nothing else to do, that must be what happens. That power is generated inside, and extends out. Hopefully, luckily, you’re in a position where you can possibly influence some change.

Do you believe there is any specific role for women to play in the COVID-19 pandemic? And do you believe the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has displayed the natural resilience of women?

Well, I haven’t really thought of the response as gender-specific because I feel like I see men and women both speaking out and making a difference. I know that women are disproportionately affected, especially single moms and especially in the workplace and losing jobs. I feel that women having this reaction that I was just speaking about, which is seeing the landscape clearly and acting out of that is very inherently natural to women. Not only about only being caretakers, it’s about how we see the world. To just say it is about being caretakers is really only one facet of the jewel of the vision of women. It is my hope that as a women I am seeing the landscape clearly, and I am extending care and also finding that drive inside me to then extend out.

With all the difficult issues that we are focused with to balance our efforts on gender equality, is there a specific or global approach for you in that space? Is there anything that you approach where gender equality is concerned in a specific way?

I have always been conscious of it to a certain degree in my life. I am way more conscious of it on a global scale. Certainly the inequities that are visible and measurable. But then there is also the more subtle, and I think we have been seeing examples of this as we have changed our entire milieu of how we live our life. It has become more apparent, all of the different subtleties as well as the major inequities. Lots of people have been writing about and studying this and anecdotally reporting on this. Everything from being interrupted by male colleagues on zoom calls, to presidential debates, to the inequities of women losing their jobs because of covid and the strain on single moms, and the pay gap everywhere. I think that I can see it more globally than I see it in my own, very small world. My world is very small right now and so I’m not seeing and experiencing it as much.

Have you ever personally encountered any block based on gender in your career?

I think the obvious ones of “what do you look like,” “who are you wearing,” and “how do you balance life,” and all of that stuff that is always thrown at women and is never a thought given to men. Nobody ever asks any male actors how they balance life. I don’t think they have ever asked a supreme court nominee who does the laundry in the house and how they balance their work and home life. Nobody cares, it’s not an issue.

The power of the opposite sex is scary, and it’s finally getting highlighted and getting the spotlight for what it should be. Shifting into a conversation we have touched on a little bit in regards to the next question which talks about the studies of female presences in a boardroom or in a production team. Continually, facts have shown that when women are present and collectively are in a group or board room table, the bottom line has increased extensively. What are your thoughts on that?

Well, it makes sense doesn’t it? From all of the different things we’ve talked about. The more diversity there is in the whole mechanism, the more successful they are going to be. There are more facets in the jewel. If you’re really watching your own little microcosm, you can see that at play. Just in your interactions with people, with friends, with whatever little group you have that is part of the basis of your present life, the more diverse the opinions are, the more perspectives that are expressed, then the more we understand a situation. The more relatable it is for people to sit back and are relating and loving what they’re seeing. That’s the goal of anything really. I don’t know that much about business per say, but it is all about relating and making things accessible, making things work, making things relatable, making things available. It’s all about reaching other people, that is what it is to be successful in whatever it is you’re doing. Whether you’re making something or whatever. So it seems like that is what you would strive to do. To have as diverse a team creating, overlooking in all facets of that production. It just makes sense.

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today?

Well certainly, the success in some of the projects I have been in led to more opportunities for me. Like “Sex, Lies, and Video Tapes,” “Pretty Woman,” and they all sort of tumbled onto each other to create more opportunities for me to do other things.

I had several defining moments like that in high school, when I was training to be an actor. There is a moment that comes to mind where I was talking to my mom on the phone and for me the first couple of years were pretty rough in New York. I think that I was crying about not getting a certain job I really loved and wanted, and this was maybe two or three years into being in New York. She said maybe you had enough, maybe this is not the way to go. I was like, “oh no, you’ve completely misinterpreted this. Absolutely not. This is what I am going to do, and I am going to continue to do this and continue to cry. But I will continue to pursue this and love auditioning, and embracing rejection, and enjoy this creative process.” That was a really beautiful moment, because in her wanting to comfort me and perhaps help me through a difficult decision it made it so crystal clear that, no I embrace all of this. Especially looking back on it, we can take all that grit that we used in our mill and see the beauty of it. I am going to take all of this and continue to live and create this life. That was a really important moment for me. It cristilized for me, and also taught me not to tell her about any auditions anymore. It was way harder on her than it was on me. Do not tell your parents about your auditions!

What was one of the best pieces of advice that you’ve ever been given?

I always talk about this when I talk about Pretty Woman, but I’ll never forget it. We were all out on set, Hector, Allesandro and I and I was sort of hurrying since it was really far away from where we were relative to being close to a set. I was kind of scurrying, and running in high heels and he said, “woah woah woah stop. No running. There is no running through the set. You take your time. You compose yourself. You take this time walking to the set to be present.” That was the same kind of advice as when we got as young actors in training at Carnegie Melon. When you step onto that rehearsal stage, you are walking into that space. I was very young and new at shooting movies so I felt all of this pressure to be there right when they said to be there. But he said, “no, no no. Slow down. You always walk to set. You always compose yourself. You take your time. They can wait for you.” Not in a Madonna way like, “they can wait for you.” They’ve just called you, you’re never going to be ready by the time you get there. So take your time. Value yourself, which was the message he was giving me. Value yourself and what you bring. You are not here to be just an obedient person. You are here to bring the value that you have to this set.

My next question is what do you most value in friends?


What traits do you find most uncomfortable in yourself?


What do you consider is the most overrated virtue?


What would be your superpower?

My superpower would be no child going to bed hungry. Really that’s what we all want, isn’t it? It’s like how can we get that done?

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