Tony Goldwyn, who played a morally compromised president on the recently ended ABC series “Scandal,” was at Brandeis University over the weekend to receive the Alumni Achievement Award for his work as an actor, director, producer, and activist.
As part of alumni weekend events, Goldwyn, from the class of 1982, sat down Saturday for a discussion about activism in Hollywood with Anita Hill, who teaches at Brandeis and was recently named the head of the entertainment industry’s Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.
“Some people think it’s about the hashtag and it’s about social media; I think that those are just platforms. I think the real goal of the MeToo movement is to build empathy and community and they’re doing an excellent job at that,” Hill said.
“I didn’t have a hashtag,” she said when comparing her experience in 1991 — when she accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of harassment — with today’s Me Too and Time’s Up movements.
On “Scandal,” Goldwyn played a married man who had a long and tumultuous affair with Kerry Washington ’s character, Olivia Pope. And, without giving anything away to those in the audience who were not caught up, Goldwyn said that he was proud of how the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, handled the issue of sexual harassment during the final season.
A longtime activist, Goldwyn recently joined the board of the Innocence Project, which aims to reform the criminal justice system.
“I view my job as to tell the story in a way that is dramatic and interesting and frames the problems in a way that gets people’s emotions to rise and to activate other people. I think that Hollywood serves a valuable function there,” he said.
Goldwyn briefly acknowledged his experience with being the victim of sexual harassment when he was younger. He went public with his story back in October.
After the discussion, Goldwyn and Hill said they were surprised and encouraged that the #MeToo movement and others have not lost steam.
“I think that would be the surprise for me, that it has become so intergenerational. That it’s not just one age group that’s participating, and I think that gives it new life and new legacy,” Hill said. “Activism is good for the goals of activism, but at a university in particular, it’s also good for teaching and learning experiences.
“I’m overly optimistic because it keeps me alive, it keeps me going. And I’d rather be disappointed things don’t turn out as exceptional as I thought they would be than be disappointed because I didn’t really invest enough energy and time into it,” Hill said.Maddie Kilgannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.