When Pitch Perfect star Anna Camp and the rest of the cast of Amazon’s new drama series Good Girls Revolt began shooting the show’s pilot in the summer of 2015, Hillary Clinton had already announced that she would, once again, be running for president of the United States. When the show was picked up for a full season and went into production the following April, Clinton was in the throes of campaigning, not to mention dodging campaign attacks—unsurprisingly, many of which were sexist.
The series is based on Lynn Povich’s 2012 book The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, about the events leading up to the landmark 1970 all-female class action lawsuit accusing the venerable Newsweek magazine of gender discrimination in hiring and promotion.
(Full disclosure: The Daily Beast and Newsweek at one point shared an editorial staff, including current political reporter Eleanor Clift, who worked at Newsweek at the time of the lawsuit.)
Resetting the events at the fictional News of the Week magazine, the series features Camp as one of the publication’s talented female journalists fighting for equal pay, equal rights, and an end to sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
With just the mere promise of a Hillary Clinton presidential nomination as the pilot was filming, the cast marveled at how profound the timing of the series was. “But, my god, did Donald Trump make our show more relevant!” Camp says.
The morning that Camp and I meet at a SoHo hotel room, the number of accusers alleging that the presidential candidate sexually assaulted them, each with their own stories about why they were too afraid to stand up for themselves and come forward, is approaching a dozen.
“It’s fortunate but also so unfortunate,” she says about the timing, given her show’s eerily similar content. “I want to tweet at him: ‘You need to watch our show!’ We need to get Melania to watch.”
She’s also, however, quick to point out the differences between the culture at a workplace in 1969, when the series takes place, and the so-called locker room culture that Trump blames for his behavior today.
“There was no term yet for sexual harassment or sexual discrimination,” she says. “These ladies we’re portraying had to find these words and define it so that we could fight against it.” Back to Trump: “But this is 2016, OK? So Donald Trump knew that was sexual harassment and assault. There is no excuse for him.”
Back then it wasn’t just locker room talk. It wasn’t even just newsroom talk. It was everywhere, and it was accepted by everyone, including women like Camp’s Good Girls Revolt character, Jane. “I know we’ve come far,” she says. “But we obviously haven’t come far enough.”
Camp is one of those actresses who you’ve seen in everything. Well, in good things.
Her specialty is joining a TV show or film ensemble and inhabiting a part that should be unmemorable, or one-note, or a stereotype, and startling with a carefully drawn, surprising performance that lingers with you: the randy televangelist’s wife in True Blood; the family-minded protégé in The Good Wife; one of Don Draper’s more memorable dalliances in Mad Men; a conniving high society lunatic in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; a misguided traditional housewife in The Help; and, most famously, a tightly wound a capella purist with a penchant for upchucking in the Pitch Perfect films.
That’s a lot of TV and movie sets and, especially in the wake of the Good Girls Revolt shoot, a lot of time to reflect on how she has and hasn’t stood up for herself in the workplace.
Camp recently married her Pitch Perfect co-star Skylar Astin, but playing Jane sharply reminded her of all the times when she was single doing a scene with an actor, “and you’d get that energy of, ‘Oh god, is he going to ask me out…’” she says. “When that question would inevitably come up and I wasn’t attracted, I would have to walk this delicate balance and do a dance not to offend him. Because we had to work together the next day so I’d need to keep him happy, but also I needed to stand up for myself at the same time.”
Good Girls Revolt centers on Patti (Genevieve Angelson), Cindy (Erin Darke), and Jane (Camp), who are all invaluable researchers at News of the Week in 1969, each working alongside a male reporter counterpart. As Patti delineates in the first episode, “They’re reporters. We’re researchers. We report, investigate, and write files for reporters. They do a pass on them, put their names on them, and then the stories go to the press.”
In other words, despite doing all the work, the women are not allowed to receive bylines in print.
Inspired by Nora Ephron (played by Grace Gummer), who quits after News of the Week won’t publish a brilliant piece of writing upon learning it was written by her, a woman, Patti and Cindy join a woman’s group that eventually births the class action lawsuit against Newsweek—er, in this case News of the Week—led by now-Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (played by Joy Bryant).
But for buttoned-up, plays-by-the-rules Jane, the job, as good as she is at it, is just a pit stop on the path to what she feels she’s meant to be: a rich housewife. However, as her plans start to unravel and her steely nature starts to show some much-needed tarnish, she starts to see the value of her career, not to mention her own worth in her profession.
Camp says she got offered the role after producers watched her as Aubrey in Pitch Perfect, another character who stands back while everyone else has all the fun, slowly revealing the toll the pressure to always keep it together can take on a person.
“It’s not an easy kind of role to play,” she says. “She’s holding onto her ideals so staunchly, but you still want her to be endearing and likable, and have people understand and root for her, too.”
Camp grew up in South Carolina, eventually attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts before moving to New York City to pursue acting, landing, among other breaks, the fully nude counterpart to a fully nude Daniel Radcliffe in the 2008 Broadway production of Equus.
“I knew a lot of people who didn’t really say what was on their mind growing up,” she says of being raised in the South. “Now I play characters who are popular and quote-unquote the ‘perfect girl,’ or whatever. But I didn’t have many friends. I was a theater nerd and would always be looking in on these popular girls getting along and having such wonderful camaraderie, and wondering what was wrong with me.”
It’s like the saying that it takes someone very smart to play someone very stupid, she says. Being on the outside gave her the distance to craft these characters—“the pretty popular girl”—that she’s become known for. She lets out a hearty laugh: “I hope that when people meet me they’re like, ‘Oh my god, you’re not at all like these stuck-up bitches that you play!’”
Truth be told, her favorite scenes in Good Girls Revolt came near the end of the season, when Jane finally sheds her armor, which paradoxically was what she needed to do in order to join this revolution.
As for the actress you’ve seen in everything, she hopes that arc will help break her out of the “uptight blonde” box she seems to have been put into. “I’m dying to break out and do something crazy,” she says. “Natalie Portman shaving her head in V for Vendetta. I know it’s in me.”
For now, she confirmed just last week that she’s officially returning for Pitch Perfect 3. She has scant details to offer but does reveal that Mike White, who created the gem of an HBO series Enlightened, was hired to take a pass on the script, with the goal of making it a little smarter and edgier than its predecessors.
“The girls who were watching the first one are older now,” she says. “So we need to grow with them, like the Harry Potter series did. We’re not that but we’re definitely trying to elevate and make it a little more sardonic and cool and more adult.”
In the meantime, she’s aware that her Pitch Perfect fanbase might potentially follow her to Amazon when Good Girls Revolt premieres this Friday—even if, say, Donald Trump doesn’t.
“I didn’t seek this show out because it has such a great message, but I hope that they follow me and watch the story and learn that they can stand up for themselves—and stand up for themselves in the moment,” she says, gazing over at the Good Girls Revolt poster that happens to be watching over both of us and taking a beat to reflect.
“I know that when someone harasses me or says something that makes me uncomfortable I don’t say something about it right away,” she continues. “I go home. I think about it. I mull it over. I’m like, ‘Why am I so uncomfortable? I should’ve said this, this, and this.’ But to do it in the moment and know that you have a voice. If that show can spark that inspiration, then I think we’re doing a wonderful job.”