Friday Night Lights and White Lotus star Connie Britton made an appearance at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday in Laguna, Niguel, Calif.
In addition to being a successful Hollywood actress, Britton is an investor, philanthropist, activist, and serves on the board for both Dartmouth and University of Southern California.
Aside from the characters she plays, she notes that as a woman, there’s a desire, and maybe an expectation, to be likable.
“I think we as women, see that around us all the time, this sort of expectation that we must be likable,” Britton said, speaking on the main stage. “And we’ve witnessed it in politics, we’ve witnessed it in the workplace.”
In the television and film world, she explained that there’s always been a rule that women characters have to be likable. If they’re not super likable, they’re a villain.
“I never ever once [thought] about being likable, and I never judge my characters from the outside,” Britton said, adding that she plays every character from the standpoint of her fundamental belief that as women, “we are always trying to find our own power, and that’s very authentic for each of us individually.”
If by accident, her characters become likable, that’s great. But, Britton said she’s “always serving the story she’s trying to tell.”
“It’s really important that I show women who will have the complexity that we all have, the drive and determination, flaws, and sense of helplessness some days,” Britton said. “And, then the hope is that we can see ourselves in that way, and say: ‘oh I like her, and I didn’t know that I would like her with all those flaws, and all those problems, and all those questions. And, I didn’t know that I would like her if she wasn’t perfect.’ So, that’s the goal.”
Throughout her life, Britton said, she’s tried to look at things through a different lens—and she’s been intrigued by the things she has the least understanding of. And, especially now, she’s ready to learn about something she’s never understood before. As an actor, taking risks is really important, Britton said.
“With my acting roles, every time I choose a role, I want to make sure that it feels like it’s going to take me outside my comfort zone in some way,” she said. “It’s not really a risk, if there’s not really the possibility of failure.”
Taking a risk is scary, but it’s also the best opportunity to learn and grow, Britton said. She mentioned the writers and actors strike, and how it has triggered an inflection point in Hollywood, while adding that she’s been developing a production company over the past few years. It required a different skill set than that of an actor, but she wanted to be at the helm of the creation process for the stories being told. It’s been challenging, but incredibly rewarding, Britton said.
Throughout the process though, she’s seen firsthand how women face cultural obstacles based on what’s put out in the world through film. Britton said she’s been able to play incredible characters, with a special shoutout to Friday Night Lights, but as a producer she’s seeing the pushback on the portrayal of women that’s deeply embedded in Hollywood. Still, her goal is to always tell stories that are as universal as possible and reflect real women, and even as she’s running her production company, she’ll always be an actor.
“The goal and the dream is that I will be acting in the things that I have created,” Britton said.