‘OITNB’ Star Alysia Reiner on How Hollywood Women Can Create Own Opportunities (Guest Blog)

We Do It Together Blog: “We still have so much work to do,” actress and producer says

Alysia Reiner is a successful actress, best known for playing Natalie “Fig” Figueroa in the Netflix comedy drama series “Orange Is the New Black.” As an actress who plays strong, ball-busting women, Reiner opens up about the challenges women often face in coming to terms with self-image.

“It took me a long time to embrace my strength, and once I did embrace that, I feel like all of these characters have taught me so much,” Reiner said in a video interview for the blog of We Do It Together, a nonprofit film production company dedicated to producing female-driven films, TV and other forms of media. “They’ve informed my personal ability to own my own strength.”

Committed to female-driven stories, Reiner has taken inspiration from mentors like Jenji Kohan and Pamela Adlon, who have shown her it is possible to champion other women. The 2016 indie “Equity,” Reiner’s producing debut, was an opportunity to step into a new role as a change maker.

“I decided I wanted to be a lesbian, I wanted to be married to a black woman,” she said. “And I made that choice because if I’m the boss and I’m the producer and the buck stops here, I wanted to create another role for a woman, another role for someone from the LGBT community, and another role for someone diverse.”

Though encouraged by the expansion of opportunity for women, WDIT advisory board member Reiner is quick to address the industry’s harsh realities.

“Yes, ‘Wonder Woman’ is amazing… but a couple movies made doesn’t change all of the statistics,” she said. “We can’t think, ‘OK, we made it now!’ The statistics are … so appalling and we still have so much work to do… I can’t change the studio system, but I can choose to hire all women.”

Reiner hopes that We Do It Together can shed more light on gender empowerment issues in the industry.

“Anything that we can do to be more of a community, to support one another” is welcome, she said. “I hope that my work does incite change, and that my career continues to have a really firm grounding in activism.”

Watch the video above.

This is part of a blog series by We Do It Together, a nonprofit film production entity created to produce films, documentaries, TV and other forms of media uniquely dedicated to the empowerment of women.

Melissa is a Chicago native (Go Cubs!) and Northwestern graduate who produced, co-wrote, and starred in the 2017 independent feature "All I Want." Her other acting credits include "Grimm," "True Detective," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Masters of Sex." She previously originated a solo adaptation of Lois Lowry's "The Giver," toured with "A Chorus Line," and created/starred in web series "Missed Connections Live," a re-imagining of Craigslist Missed Connections.