In a recent interview in Harper’s Bazaar, Zoë talked to her Big Little Lies co-star Reese Witherspoon about stereotyping in the industry, and how she’s starting to see small changes.

What makes her say that? Well, her next role was initially meant for a man, but then she was cast and miraculously nothing about the character was changed. The role wasn’t made more stereotypically feminine or changed so that it would seem more delicate or so on, but kept exactly as is.

"I think it’s so cool that they didn’t feel the need to change it," she said.

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And you probably didn’t know it, but there are lots of roles that were originally written for men and ended up with women in the part instead. Jodie Foster in Flightplan, Angelina Jolie in Salt, and one of the greatest action heroes of all time, Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies. 

So there’s a lot to be said for gender swapping characters and inserting strong female leads instead, but especially when the woman is young, black, the daughter of two iconic black stars and has a unique following, then you want to make space for her. 

The fact that the role wasn’t changed at all is an even bigger win. It shows that women don’t have to prescribe to a certain aesthetic or behaviour to be seen as women. It sends the message that anyone can be a badass and anyone can be vulnerable too.

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Zoë spoke about how her appearance shouldn’t limit the roles she gets offered: "I as a black woman with braids and tattoos shouldn’t only be able to play a hippie; I should also be able to play a lawyer or a doctor or a comedian or whatever it is!" she said. "Gay, straight, all the things. We should start opening our minds about what it looks like to be a person living in 2018."

The actress said that she never saw anyone who looked like her in movies or on TV when she was growing up. “Am I alone out here? Am I not desirable or interesting?” she recalled wondering.

She added that as an adult, she’s tried to bring awareness of this issue to writers—especially white writers.

"I’m trying to speak my mind and shift things so Hollywood can be more conscious about things," she said. "My biggest pet peeve is when I read scripts that have character descriptions like 'Stacy, 22, perky,' then you get four pages in and see, 'Sarah, 22, African-American,' which makes it clear that everyone else is white."

So it looks like Zoë’s latest role will be a great stepping stone not just for the actress, but possibly the way women, especially women of colour are seen in the industry. 

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