April 19, 2016
Alison Pill is reading a book. Allah, Liberty and Love is about integrity, courage, and the “willingness to speak up when everyone wants you to shut up,” a sentiment that might summarize Pill’s character, Maggie Jordan, on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom (HBO).
Seemingly untouched by the rainstorm hitting New York City during our interview, the 26-year-old actress' mannerisms and appearance so closely resemble her character’s that it’s hard for me not to shout, “Choose Jim!” Her comments about the news, women, criticisms of The Newsroom, and marriage sound so “Maggie” that they could have been scripted by Sorkin himself.
After an interesting conversation about the evolving (perhaps devolving) American media—and whole networks devoted to certain political parties—Pill makes a point to praise Sorkin for his portrayal of bipartisan broadcast news. She also adds that the backlash to the show might actually be something good: “At least they’re talking about us, right?”
But the most interesting part of our conversation revolves around women. The subject seems to arouse in Pill the determination and angst that so readily reminds me of her character. She’s incredibly passionate about the accuracy of the show’s (and her) portrayal of women in the media, representing a breed of actress television audiences haven’t seen in quite some time.
The show has received some criticism for its portrayal of women in the media. What is your reaction to that?
ALISON PILL: I do understand a lot of complaints on the show. But I also admire how Aaron Sorkin writes these flawed women. At multiple points, MacKenzie tells Will what to do. She’s his executive producer! His broadcast would be nothing without her. One thing I [hear] is that, between women, there should be more talk of sexism. But I also get why Aaron didn’t write that in. He has got bigger fish to fry.
Speaking of flawed characters: Don vs. Jim. Who would you choose?
AP: The whole show has been set up in such a way that Don and Maggie are not a perfect couple. They may be a good couple for now, and they’re supportive and help each other out a lot, but they’re not a real soul mate couple. The soul mate couple is introduced in the first few minutes of the pilot. Jim and Maggie are meant for each other.
You’ve been in two Woody Allen films, Midnight in Paris and To Rome, With Love. What was the takeaway on working with Woody?
AP: I love Woody Allen. And the thing that I love and respect about him, and that is inspiring, is that he really doesn’t give a shit what people think of him. Why would he? His simple response to people taking in his movies is just, ‘If you like it, you can tell me. If you don’t, then you don’t need to talk.’
How would you compare the experience of working with Woody Allen to the experience of working with Aaron Sorkin?
AP: Aaron Sorkin lines are written to be spoken as they’re written. The commas are there as breath points, the periods are there as full stops. He writes very musically. With Woody, if you get the gist of it, if you get the point across and if you can be funny while you do it, that’s all he cares about.
You’re engaged to fellow actor Jay Baruchel. Congratulations! When is the wedding?
AP: We postponed it! We had set the date before I got the TV show, and he was going to spend the year writing three scripts. He also got a couple of movies. It’s awesome, but we haven’t been in the same city in months. Literally a few days ago we were like, ‘You know what? Let’s just wait.’ We just postponed it and we’ll figure it out. That’s the thing, it could be 20 years from now and it would be fine!
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF MELISSA MOSELEY