Ryan Murphy has a message for the women of Hollywood.
In a touching speech during The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment breakfast on Wednesday, the “Glee” creator accepted the Equity in Entertainment Award, kicking things off with an apology.
“I am going to begin my speech this morning by telling the women in this room a few things I am guessing no man in your life or in Hollywood has ever said to you lately, or in combination,” he said. “I am sorry. It was my fault. I could have done better and I’m going to do better. And I have no interest in sleeping with you, I just like you a lot.”
The opening comments garnered laughs from the crowd. Murphy then got serious, launching into an anecdote about the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” episode ― about deputy district attorney Marcia Clark ― of “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
For that particular episode, Murphy explained he hired a female director, but when she wasn’t able to complete the show due to a medical emergency, Murphy decided to step in. The show, as a whole, was a huge success, and Sarah Paulson, who played Marcia Clark, went on to win a Golden Globe for her work.
As Murphy noted, though, he “did not feel triumph” once the episode aired. He felt “ashamed.”
“I have always had female directors on my shows, but why, here, didn’t I feel I had a roster of women around me who I could turn this important episode over to?” he said, adding, “Why did I make the choice that was easier for me but not for the material or the world in general?”
In his speech, the director continued to talk about the “unacceptable way, today, that female directors are treated and marginalized in our business.” He said that only 15–17 percent of working television industry directors are women, which “should make no sense to us.”
Murphy has made it his mission to promote gender equality in the entertainment industry. In February, he launched the Half Foundation, which aims to provide more opportunities for women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community working in show business.
Murphy has been doing his part, with about 60 percent of directing jobs within his company going to women.
“What I have learned, in only 11 months, is if you have power and you want to bring positive change, everyone will conspire to help you do that. But you have to speak up,” he said.