Maggie Gyllenhall may be playing a prostitute opposite James Franco on HBO's upcoming series "The Deuce," but that doesn't make her any less a feminist. The outspoken actress dished on how the surprising role (she was photographed wearing a curly blond wig and a midriff-baring top with short shorts in the first pictures to emerge from the set) aligns with her idea of feminism while chatting with Wonderwall.com about Jameson's "First Shot" competition, for which the Oscar nominee selected and starred in three short films written and directed by up-and-coming filmmakers. Keep reading to see what else she said about how roles for women in Hollywood improve with age, why being a woman had nothing to do with which directors were chosen as finalists in the competition and more!
On her decision to get involved in Jameson's "First Shot" competition:
"They sent along some of the shorts that they made in the past with some actors who I really admire like Willem Dafoe, Uma Thurman, Adrien Brody and Kevin Spacey, and the shorts were really good and it seemed like an interesting way to do something good."
On how she chose the three winning filmmakers out of 20 finalists in Jameson's "First Shot" competition:
"When I'm looking at any script ever, I'm always looking for quality. Some things are better written than others. But I'm also looking for something that is interesting to me in particular. There were other well-written scripts in the top 20, but the characters didn't seem exciting to me to play -- at least not as exciting as the characters that I decided to do."
On why it's important to her to support up-and-coming filmmakers:
"There are lots of ways to support up-and-coming filmmakers. You can just make movies with them. If they have a good script and they seem like they're awake and interesting and inspiring, you can say, 'Yes, I'll do your little movie.' But in this case, this [competition] ... seemed like it had an adventurous, generous spirit to it, and I just kinda thought, 'Yeah, okay, let's do it!' And I was free and it seemed like a good way to give back to a community that's been really generous and supportive of me."
On whether or not she gets nervous her first day on a new set:
"I do, yeah... I think everybody feels nervous when they first start any project. Not everybody, but I feel like most people do. Once you get down to work, you start to relax and focus on the work as opposed to on yourself and what other people are thinking of you... As you have more experience, you learn that the nerves go away after a while. They don't seem like as big of a deal. Although when you're nervous, you're nervous. I think getting down to work is the thing that really helps relax me."
On the importance of having a female director represented in the final three of Jameson's "First Shot" competition:
"It was [important]. But also, I was just really into [director] Kat [Wood]'s script and her movie. So I did not choose her because she was a woman. But I found the ideas in her script and the way that she wrote compelling, and I think that had something to do with the fact that she is a woman."
On roles for women in Hollywood as they get older:
"There are so many interesting roles that are available. As a grown-up, the spectrum of feelings and ideas and emotions that you're able to play with grow exponentially. So right now, I'm working on a project [HBO's 'The Deuce'] that's totally fascinating me that I couldn't have played when I was 25. And there are four other [projects] like that that I'm thinking about right now... I think there are incredible opportunities for women in Hollywood, and I feel really lucky. I think in every part of our world, women are treated differently than men. It was amazing to see the way that Hillary Clinton is responded to by our community as a woman as opposed to the way a man would be responded to."
On the current projects on her slate, including HBO's "The Deuce":
"'The Deuce' has just been incredible. It's like heaven. I love working on it. I love the part I'm playing... I look forward to going to work every day. There's another movie I'm getting ready to make called 'The Kindergarten Teacher,' which is also a really fascinating part, and I'm going to make a television show about Victoria Woodhull, who was actually the first woman to run for President. She's a really fascinating character -- she was [rumored to be] a prostitute and a spiritualist who spoke to the dead. So there are lots of interesting things going on out there for women -- so many interesting directors, so many interesting writers... The women who are writing on our show ['The Deuce'] are so interesting and smart and emotionally intelligent and are contributing stuff that is really fantastic and exciting. To be feeling like a feminist and playing a prostitute is a really fascinating place to be. I feel very hopeful and I feel very excited about where things are going in general in our world for women -- and also in Hollywood. I feel hopeful."
On how portraying a prostitute in "The Deuce" fits into her idea of feminism:
"I'm in the middle of making [the show], and I always find it difficult to talk objectively about something that I'm still involved in in such a subjective way -- and also because it's long-form storytelling, there's so much about it that I have to keep secret -- but I feel like [the writer, director and producers] are feminists. I can't speak for them -- I've never actually asked them that outright, but I'd be shocked if they said anything else. So to be exploring the sexuality, the intellect and the emotional life of a woman who also is a prostitute with a group of feminists is really fascinating."
On her unrecognizable appearance as a prostitute in the first images of herself on the set of "The Deuce":
"I always find costumes a great way into working on a character. One of the things I just noticed with doing the costume fitting for the fifth episode is that it took us like 15 minutes because we go together so well now -- whereas it was taking us a few hours at the beginning. We're like, 'Oh, let's go with that one shirt or shorts and let's see!' That's the nice thing about working on something for so long and developing a character over such a long period of time. Already we've shot ... four hours of television, and we have another four to go. That's twice a movie! So it's cool to be able to work on that scale."
Watch the three short films -- each starring Maggie -- that won Jameson's "First Shot" competition in the videos below.