"I don’t think I would just do that tomorrow, but I don’t also think in terms of ultimates like that."

By Isabel Jones
Mar 08, 2019 @ 5:45 pm

On the eve of International Women’s Day, Sophia Bush and a panel of inspiring businesswomen that included her Detroit Blows co-founder Nia Batts, senior vice president of whiskies at Diageo North America, Sophie Kelly, and Axios CTO Jess Szmajda, motivated a captive crowd gathered to view the Signs of Progress exhibition at the New-York Historical Society hosted by Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker.

Jose Silva

After 15 years in the entertainment industry, it’s no surprise that Bush can hold her own before an audience. But it's not a curated performance when the One Tree Hill alum takes the stage — it's a passionate call to action.

“We’ve been sold this story that there’s not all that much room for many women,” she tells the crowd. “We’re all talking to each other and we’ve woken up to the lie that we got sold — like, Ohh you want us to compete but we’re not buying that anymore. All we’re doing is collaborating and we’re coming for your house.”

“I know what it feels like to be oppressed,” she continues. “It can be suffocating ... and I know that people I love with every fiber of my being have it even worse. When I advocate for myself, I know I’m advocating for women; when I advocate for other women, I know that that rising tide will also lift my ship."

As a social activist-cum-actress, Bush is eager to collaborate with progressive brands and “quick to suss out who wants to do something as a marketing ploy and who actually has plans to truly support women as a core initiative.” Johnnie Walker launched its Jane Walker bottle last March, which gives the iconic Scotch whisky brand’s titular mascot a gender swap. Along with the packaging alteration, Jane supports women’s causes including She Should Run and Monumental Women. “I was so struck by, first of all, taking this cultural figure — everyone knows Johnnie Walker, you see the label, you know what that is — and to take a cultural kind of icon like that and make him female, but not only make him female as a celebratory thing, but use the proceeds and profits from that female iteration of an icon and support women’s groups that are changing the landscape of this country for women … I was like, oh, these are my people. Excellent.”

Jose Silva

Dovetailing with her social and political activism, Bush has been vocal about her own experiences in toxic and abusive working environments.

Last June, she spoke out about One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn's impropriety, and in December she opened up about the “barrage of abusive behavior” she experienced on the set of Chicago P.D., likening it to “standing butt naked, bruised and bleeding in the middle of Times Square, screaming at the top of my lungs and not a single person stopped to ask if they could help me.”

Having experienced those traumas, things need to work a little differently now before she immerses herself in a project.

“It's incredibly complex, the ecosystem of creating content, especially when you’re talking large scale — you’re making movies, you’re doing television shows. I think, regardless of industry, it seems to be a real truth that so many women are cultured to make excuses for bad behavior — to be nice, to not be difficult, whatever the ‘bad’ term is we’re told we’re not allowed to be,” she told InStyle.

“For me, I’ve had to learn to not make excuses for bad behavior, in any arena, and to be OK with my judgment when I determine that someone is a bad actor — when I don’t trust someone or someone seems to not have great intentions. And that’s OK. You don’t have to like everyone, not everyone has to like you. And for me, it’s about, 'What’s the material? Who’s making it? Who’s producing it? Who’s directing it? Who wrote it? Who are we hiring as a showrunner? Who are we staffing as writers?' … It’s a massive question, but I’m finally able to have a seat at that table where those questions are being answered." 

"It doesn’t just start there," she went on. "Young people in any industry aren’t in the rooms where the decisions are being made. I’m very, very grateful, and again, I’ve busted my ass to get in that room, and now that I’m in it I’m asking all of those questions and I’m making sure that everyone I’m working with is asking all of those questions too. And I don’t assume that means I’m never going to run into a difficult person again, but I’m trying to make the likelihood of that decrease and the likelihood of just having a joyous working experience increase. I’ve had that, and it’s glorious, and when it isn’t it really isn’t." 

RELATED: Sophia Bush on the Golden Globes Blackout: "Women at Awards Shows Have a Platform"

As for having it all, Bush is happy not to confine herself to a title or career.

“I don’t think it’s a problem to be a multi-hyphenate,” she tells us, “men have always been allowed to do that, and women are constantly put in boxes and they say, ‘What are you?’ It’s really sort of surreal to me that we’re meant to still pick. I love storytelling, I love my job. I am an actor and I’m proud to be an actor. I believe that entertainers are responsible for so many cultural shifts because we can embody and humanize ideas and put them on people and remind people that everyone’s just a person."

However, she adds, "I don’t think I could be a storyteller if I wasn’t so deeply engaged in my community as an activist. I understand the importance of those stories in shifting how people look at each other. I’m an actor, I’m an activist, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m an investor, I’m a philanthropist — there’s a lot of hats that I wear that I’m proud to wear, and I bust my ass to be able to wear them all. So I’m like give me the really long business card, you know?”

Jose Silva

Could that lengthy business card one day include the words “Madame President”? Bush isn’t ruling it out. Sophia campaigned “hard” for Texas Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke in 2018, and was active in recruiting voters ahead of the midterms, but don’t expect her to announce a 2020 run.

“It’s honestly so sweet the number of people online who are like ‘Please run for president,'” she says. “I don’t think I would just do that tomorrow, but I don’t also think in terms of ultimates like that. I don’t think I would have to throw my hat in the ring to run for president. I think maybe eventually I’ll run for local office. That feels cool. That feels like a great idea, eventually. But right now there’s things I’m developing and scripts, and movies, and stories I want to tell and that’s what I want to do for me, and I’m not ready to give up on any of that to commit to doing one thing fulltime … Maybe when I have grandkids I’ll be like ‘I’m running for governor!’”

In lieu of a major political run, she’ll take some sleep, and maybe a bowl of Pho.

“It doesn’t come naturally to me to sit still,” she says. “We’ve kind of glamorized this ‘never stop; never rest’ idea, but that’s not how anyone performs well or has good ideas, so I think it’s very much OK to say ‘Oh, I just can’t do that’ and take care of yourself. [Last night] I ordered Pho to my hotel room on Postmates. I ate noodles in my bed and I was asleep by 8:30 — it was an actual dream.”

Here, here.

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