W MAGAZINE – If you want to find the furiously beating heart of culture today, the world of television is the place to begin your search. That’s where cinematic genres continue to be reinvented and reborn, mirroring changes in society: Romantic comedies are set in high schools; supernatural horror takes campy twists; character-driven dramas put previously marginalized groups front and center. And now, plenty of those series’s previously unsung stars are finding themselves front and center in the industry, too. Billy Porter, for example, is no longer just turning heads on Pose, but also on the red carpet; even amidst the hordes of other A-list celebrities, at this year’s Met Gala, Porter—who just became the first-ever openly gay black man nominated for the Emmy’s Lead Actor in a Drama—was impossible to miss.) Aside from Pose, which has made history with scripted TV’s largest cast of transgender actors, representation has been improving elsewhere, too: Between Alison Brie in GLOW, Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll, Connie Britton in Dirty John, and Michelle Williams in Fosse/Vernon, there’s been less need than ever to throw around the phrase “strong female character” when it comes the roles women have to choose from to appear on-screen. From Maude Apatow of Euphoria to Penn Badgely of You, here are 14 stars powering the hits we can’t stop watching.
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon
The working title of our show was not Fosse/Verdon—it was just Fosse, but then the producers got smart. They realized that Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse were romantic and creative partners who remained entangled until the end of his life. It was the right time, in 2019, to make a show about a partnership. It was also the first time that I’ve had pay parity with a male costar and equal space to voice my thoughts. I’d never experienced anything like it. Since I felt completely supported, I could jump higher and take more risks.
You started acting as a child. Did you find that people treated you—and continue to treat you—in a diminishing way?
Absolutely. When you’re physically small, when men hug you, they pick you up off the floor. That doesn’t happen anymore.
What’s your favorite Fosse musical?
Cabaret. When I performed the song “Maybe This Time” [on Broadway, in 2014], it never didn’t get to me. I’m sad that I’ll never sing it again. Musicals are deep in me: When I did a tap dance for Fosse/Verdon, I realized it returned me to this very primal love, before anything negative was associated with acting, work, or identity. I felt like I was a little girl. It was a genuine moment of joy.
Williams wears a Louis Vuitton turtleneck, skirt, belt, and boots.