This is The Year of the Over-40 Actress
Sandra Oh hosted the 2019 Golden Globes, and even took a break during her hosting gig to accept a history-making award of her own, Best Actress in a Drama TV Series. In AMC’s Killing Eve, the 47-year-old actress portrays an intelligence agent who goes chasing an international assassin. Her character isn't a mom, she isn't a damsel in distress, and her love interests aren't the main focus of the show — in fact, she ends up choosing her career over maintaining stability with her husband. Oh's Eve is ambitious, sometimes unlikeable, and complicated — and she's also over 40.
While the industry still has a long way to go, the evidence of a cultural shift of sorts could be seen at this year’s ceremony. Oh was the first Asian host of the Globes (and first woman of Asian descent to win multiple Golden Globes), signaling not only an increased awareness of the need for more diversity in the industry, but also a change in the amount of meaty roles available for women over 40.
At the BAFTA LA Tea Party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Globe-winning actresses Glenn Close, Patricia Arquette, and Olivia Colman opened up to InStyle about what it meant to them to win — and also discussed the shift they’ve seen in roles available to women of a certain age.
“I think it is changing,” Close, who won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Motion Picture for The Wife, and is nominated for the Oscar in the same category, said. “I think the advantage is of all the places where these wonderful stories are being told now. It's a whole different landscape, and there's so much content. I think also we're getting to a point where women are taking control and developing, and starting production companies, and nurturing stories that will give them good roles themselves and other good roles for women.”
Patricia Arquette echoed those sentiments. The Escape at Dannemora star, who took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie, said she is “so excited” to see the shift. “I mean, I never thought I would get a part like this in middle age,” she added. “I'm 50 years old. I got to play a woman without a typical body type in Hollywood, who's a sexual person — unapologetically sexual — complicated, and wants love.”
Though television isn’t the focus on Oscars night, we'll see complex characters and diverse body types brought to the fore in films like Can You Ever Forgive Me, for which Melissa McCarthy is nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category. It’s a story that centers a down-and-out over-40 female writer; a crabby, sarcastic lesbian and her best friendship with a gay man — the kind of complicated relationship that is rarely depicted onscreen — and allows McCarthy to flex more than her comedic chops.
Olivia Colman, the British powerhouse who won the Golden Globe for Best Actress, Comedy or Musical for The Favourite — and is nominated against McCarthy at the Oscars for Best Actress. Since her career began, Colman has landed roles in Murder on the Orient Express, British TV series like Flowers and Twenty Twelve. The Favourite is her most recent film, and she's set to portray Queen Elizabeth on Netflix's series The Queen. Colman quipped that the increase in the amount of roles for women over 40 in Hollywood may convince her to move across the pond.
“I need to move to America don’t I?” she joked. Taking a serious turn, she added, “But I’ve been lucky. In the UK I’ve always found work and I feel very fortunate. I don’t know why. There is more being written for older women. The older you get the more you have to say, the more that’s happened.”
She continued, “Most people in charge of the remote control are women; they want to hear those stories. Hope may that continue.”