Renée Elise Goldsberry, Quinta Brunson, Ego Nwodim, Michelle Buteau, Kristen Wiig, and Maya Rudolph

Don’t Put These Comedic Legends In A Box: Recapping This Year’s Comedy Actress Roundtable

Courtesy of Beau Grealy/The Hollywood Reporter

Ever felt boxed in? Well, you’re in good company. On May 26th The Hollywood Reporter gathered Ego Nwodim (Saturday Night Live), Kristen Wiig (Palm Royale), Maya Rudolph (Loot), Michelle Buteau (Survival of the Thickest), Quinta Brunson (Abbott Elementary) and Renée Elise Goldsberry (Girls5eva) around a table to talk all things comedy (and not!).

To open the comedy actress roundtable, the host, Lacey Rose, asks the group about the funniest or strangest feedback they have received about themselves. While everyone at the table has quickly learned to not read the online comments, Brunson said that before she realized it wasn’t good for her, she read a positive comment that said the fan liked her because she was “too short for comfort” which the actress found amusing. On that note, Goldsberry shares that she had once received an award for best vegetarian although she was a full fledged meat eater.

A big theme and recurring callback throughout the roundtable was transformation. Everytime anyone would say the word “transformative” the group would cheer and drink. It originated in Rose’s question about transformative experiences in their lives. Rudolph explained that for her, it was having her daughter that made her learn to “not give any fucks.” This was transformative for the actress from a profession hinged on an audience's reaction. The freedom to not care what people think is something everyone at the table wanted. Nwodim even said, “can you get me pregnant?”

The star-studded roundtable all could relate to the fact that they have all been boxed into their comedic roles. Even outside of managers and projects, everyone at the table had been expected to be, as Buteau puts it, “a happy clown.” Nwodim describes how sweet of a moment it was when she was doing stand-up at a college and someone in the audience asked her a genuine question of, “How do you get over a break-up?”

This took Nwodim by surprise. She yearns for that human vulnerability and connection which does not come often for the comedian. This deeper human connection is what all these comedians hope to find.

Everyone at the table could agree that they wanted to break out of the box comedy can sometimes put people in. This not only affects what people expect from them, it also affects what projects they get. Often, if you are in comedy, people say drama is super hard to do and if you are in drama you are told that comedy is too hard. Brunson in particular wants to branch out to the opposite end of the spectrum begging the powers at be, “let me make a dinosaur movie!” While some of the others in the roundtable have reached a level of success where they can break out of this box a little more easily, Brunson is still hoping to obtain this freedom from the “shackles” of the genre. This might be a little hard to hear as fans of comedy and these women’s work, but it is always important to hear all sides of the story.

Brunson even touched on the experience of being a Black actress and writer because you are always asked to excavate your trauma. Sometimes seeking to hear minority voices, especially when it is not volunteered, can come at the emotional expense of those you are trying to lift up. They always “want your insides,” Brunson reflects. Nwodim shares a similar experience with a manager of hers who, upon hearing of Nwodim’s mother’s life story, said “we can make a tv show.” But Nwodim would never want to do that to her mom, stating, “it is not for consumption.”

To wrap up the roundtable, Rose asks the group in response to conversation about Goldsberry’s hit show Girls5eva what they would name their girl group. The ever-clever Wiig immediately replies, “maybe Trans4mation” with a sip of her cocktail.

Watch The Full Comedy Actress Roundtable Below!

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