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Watch THR’s Drama Actress Roundtable with Nicole Kidman, Sofia Vergara

Watch THR’s Drama Actress Roundtable with Nicole Kidman, Sofia Vergara

On a Sunday afternoon in late April, seven of this year’s Emmy frontrunners convened at The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica. There were four Oscars and another 18 Emmy nominations between them, but the web of shared experience went far beyond hardware.

Earlier in their collective careers, at least a few of them starred opposite each other onscreen (Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Aniston among them); one actress (in this case, Naomi Watts) played the mother of another (Brie Larson); and still another actress (Jodie Foster) had graciously stepped in when a second (Kidman) had to bow out of a role. Griselda‘s Sofia Vergara and Aniston share an acting coach, Anna Sawai and Larson share a history in music, and Watts and Kidman share a friendship that dates back 40 years.

It all contributed to an hour of easy, intimate conversation, which covered everything from mentorship to menopause. Their time together was bookended by the advice that they either dole out at this stage of their lives — “I fancy myself as some kind of mother figure,” notes Foster — or that they wish they’d received when they were first starting out.

Foster (True Detective: Night Country), Aniston (The Morning Show) and Sawai (Shogun) all wish they knew that “no” was something they could have said earlier in their career. By contrast, it’s a word Larson (Lessons in Chemistry) says she’s always been comfortable with, even if it her comfort can make others uncomfortable.

“My team used to joke that I was saying no before I was allowed to say no,” says the 34-year-old, who started in the business as a teen. “I was like, ‘I’m not doing that.’ Or, ‘That’s inappropriate.’” Foster, 61, praises that kind of confidence and clarity, noting: “That’s what is good about this new generation. They’re very comfortable saying no, setting boundaries and going, ‘I don’t like that, and I want to do this.’ I didn’t know that was possible.”

Meanwhile, Kidman suggests that “no” is still a response that she wrestles with. “Part of what we do is dive into things that are deeply uncomfortable. And I’ve had to teach myself to not always go, ‘I can’t do that,’” says the Expats producer-star. “My initial reaction can be that instead of, ‘OK, ease into it.’ Because I need to be coaxed sometimes. I’m still finding that compass.”

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For Watts (Feud), she wishes she would have been encouraged to simply accept and be herself, and stop comparing herself to others. “I lived very much under the radar for about 10 years, auditioning,” she says, “and I was always finding myself in a waiting room with 10, 12 people, going, ‘Oh God, she looks sexy, I should be sexier. I wore the wrong outfit.’ Or, ‘She looks intelligent, let me put some glasses on.’” 

Watch the full discussion above.

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