More than 800 guests filled the Omni Dallas Hotel ballroom on October 4 for The Family Place's 23rd Annual Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon. And while the cuisine and table conversation were lovely, the room was positively abuzz with anticipation for the keynote speaker, actress Laura Linney.
Before she took the stage for a Q&A with NBC 5's Meredith Land, event co-chairs Marjon Henderson, Marisa Howard, and Samantha Wortley welcomed both longtime patrons and newcomers to the popular fall luncheon. Paige Flink, CEO of The Family Place, reiterated the organization's mission to help combat family violence and empower victims in the Dallas area.
Since 1996, the Texas Trailblazer Award has honored those who create positive change locally. This year's award winners were six female CEOs of Dallas-based companies: Beth Garvey of BG Staffing Inc., Mandy Ginsberg of Match Group, Kim Lody of Capital Senior Living, Melissa Reiff of The Container Store, Lori J. Ryerkerk of Celanese, and Jill Soltau of JCPenney.
A “Real Life Hero” award was presented to Lavinia Masters, who spoke of her efforts to pass legislation that protects sexual assault victims.
Then it was time for the main event: an onstage chat with the two-time Golden Globe winner, four-time Emmy Award winner, and Academy Award-nominated actress. Linney had jetted quickly to Dallas from Atlanta, where she's filming the third season of Netflix' award-winning drama Ozark — and she would jet back to continue work that night, she said.
Linney acknowledged the work of the Family Place and spoke candidly about struggles women face, both in Hollywood and in other work places. She also talked warmly about her life and joked about the "awful" character she portrays in Ozark.
Here, highlights of her talk.
On Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct: "Everybody knew. This was no secret. Everyone knew. And by the way, Harvey Weinsten’s just one man. He’s just the big bear in the room, but there are many others, as well ... It’s in every profession ... in medicine, in politics, in journalism, it’s everywhere. Harvey was really — it was bad. And everyone knew.”
On the worst advice she's been given: "I went to an audition and I showed up in pants. I was told to wear a skirt. I was told to wear a short skirt. And I wore pants. And I was given a real dressing-down afterwards. And I thought, you know what? Nuh-uh, nuh-uh, not gonna do that.
"I tend to think of what I do as a vocation and not a profession. That’s where I find the meaning in it. The arts are incredibly important to me, they have given me so much throughout my life that I think it deserves respect. And I think it deserves a standard and a quality that deserves to be fostered every day.
"I thought, they don’t need to see my legs to see if I can act this. I have two legs, you can imagine what they look like. So the advice was like, 'Always go in wearing a skirt.' And I thought, 'You know, when I want to, I’ll wear a skirt. And when I don’t, I won’t.'"
(Did she get the role?) "No! The director was pissed off, too. It was 1991 and I walked in, and he gave me a look up and down, and he was not happy. And I was like, 'Well, nice meeting you.'"
On the best advice she's been given: “It came from Gabriel Byrne, who’s a wonderful actor who I’ve had three troubled marriages with in film. It was during a rather difficult period in my life. And he said, 'There’s no way through it but through it. You’ve gotta go through it. Stay present, stay connected, do not abandon yourself.' And I learned from him that to sit in discomfort is a very important thing to be able to learn how to do."
On what keeps her relevant in Hollywood at age 55: "A lot of it is luck, hopefully some skill, I work hard, I show up, I get along well with others. I’m really lucky in that ... I was born with a really good disposition for the business. ... I don’t mind rejection ... I just love what I do so much that I don’t take it too personally."
On becoming a mom at age 49: “I tried for decades to have a family, and fortunately it just happened when it happened. And you never realize why certain things happen in life, and then I had this child and I realized, 'Oh, I had to wait for THIS child. Not any other child. I had to wait for THIS one.' I could never have seen that in the 30 years prior that I wanted a family, and then all of a sudden it made sense. ... I am deeply grateful to be a parent. I was up at 4 am with my child, happy as can be. I was like, I waited a long time to be up with a child at 4 in the morning. For me it was sacred, sacred time. So I’m having a great time."
On balancing family in New York with work in Atlanta: "You just do it. You get up in the morning, you get on a plane, you show up, you’re happy to see people. You realize this is a very high-class problem to have. My life is really good. As long as my son is happy then the travel with continue. The minute it seems like it’s a little wobbly or off course, then we’ll stop."
On her character on Ozark, Wendy Byrde: "Isn’t she fun? I love her because she’s so immature. And she’s impulsive, and she’s a terrible parent, and she’s just awful in many ways, but she’s shrewd. She’s really smart, very reactive, it’s great fun to play.”
On working on Ozark: "The whole production is wonderful. I realized early on, 'Oh, I landed in the pot of honey here.' And a lot of that is because there are three great men who lead this production. And they’re exceptional men because they’re really good to the women, and that’s unusual. It’s unusual to have that type of awareness and support and sensitivity so high up. And they make a concerted effort to treat everyone with a sense of care and community and a sense of common investment … that everyone is valued and needed. ... It’s fantastic, it’s a great group, and that’s not just phooey, it’s really true."
Among the attendees were Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, U.S. Representative Colin Allred, Real Housewives of Dallas star Stephanie Hollman and her husband Travis, Maggie Kipp, Megan Flanagan, Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, Kari Schlegel Kloewer, Lynn McBee, Rocky Masters, Ashley Quigley, Madison Wernecke, Trey Stewart, Tia Williams, Jana Williams, Candace McGrew, Jamie Charles, Julie Gonzalez, Pamela Critcher, Valerie Richardson, Suzie Wilson, Jessica Coogan, Melissa Collins, Katherine Wynne, Stacy Hicks, and Jodi Harris.