Celebrities Talk Gender Parity: Interview with Jayne Atkinson

JayneJayne Atkinson kicks off WAM’s new ‘Celebrities talk Gender Parity’ snapshot blog interview series.

WAM Theatre has been delighted to have producer, director, Tony-nominated actress, and Berkshire neighbor Jayne Atkinson on our Advisory Board for the past three years. When her busy schedule allows, Jayne gets in the trenches with us, co-producing and hosting the Claiming Her Place panel discussion at our benefit in 2013, collaborating with us on her production of Motherhood Out Loud in 2014, and directing our 2015 Fresh Takes Reading of Jacqueline Lawton’s Noms de Guerre.

While Jayne has a distinguished theatre career, she is well recognized for her feature film credits including Free Willy, The Village, and Syriana. On television she is known for her guest appearances on the hit series The X-Files, Law and Order, Gossip Girl and White Collar. As a recurring character, she has played Karen Hayes on the award-winning 24, Erin Strauss on Criminal Minds and, most recently, Secretary of State Catherine Durant on the Netfilix original series House of Cards. Jayne runs Jadana Productions, which specializes in entertainment development. Her other areas of expertise include coaching for professionals in the area of public speaking and project presentation, directing and teaching. In her spare time, she promotes women’s causes, travels, participates in fundraisers and coaches acting students.

WAM Theatre: When and how did you first get involved with WAM?

Jayne Atkinson: I accepted Kristen van Ginhoven’s invitation to serve on the WAM Advisory board about three years ago, and was happy to lend my name to and be involved in two fundraisers to raise awareness and funds for WAM. At that time I was working on a project around women veterans, which was very important to me because I learned that they suffer a higher rate of suicide than their male counterparts. The first WAM production I saw was Emilie…, which Kristen directed, and I was just over the moon about it! I could have gone into a professional relationship with Kristen not knowing what kind of a director she was because I believe strongly in WAM’s mission, but that show was just so beautifully done and well crafted it cemented my connection with WAM.

WAM Theatre: What attracted you to us? Why is WAM important to you?

Jayne: I support women and girls around the world, so I love that WAM is international in its philanthropy work and in the stories it seeks to tell. Telling the stories of women and girls around the world is very important to me. I want to do a program in high schools teaching and giving voice to women’s stories. I am so excited that this is Kristen’s passion too. I love that she pays it forward and puts her money where her mouth is.

WAM Theatre: What women’s issues are most important to you right now?

Jayne: Equal pay and more women having a place at the table in all walks of life, those are my priorities. In my industry, the entertainment industry, women are on the forefront of advocating for equal pay. At House of Cards my colleague Robin Wright said, ‘I’m not coming back until I am paid the same as my male co-workers’ and I fully supported her stand. The work we women on the show do, the quality of it and the hours we work, are the same, so we should be paid the same. I want to get a job because I’m the best one for it. I want to support and work with more women in my field. I won’t sell the good of the project short just to have a woman in a leadership role, but I call our industry to task and ask that we to bring more women to the table.  How are you going to know who the great women are if we don’t give them the chance to work? It is the same with ethnic minorities – African-Americans, Asians, etc. – and it’s sad, because there is enough work to go around. I am excited about this new Netflix show my husband, Michel Gill, is working on currently called The Get Down. It is about the Bronx in the 1970’s and the genesis of rap and hip-hop – that’s a story that hasn’t been told and is being told from the perspective of the people who were there, the people who created it. It really is an idea that is catching on – everyone having a place at the table because there is enough room for all.