23 March 2023

Screenwriter Abi Morgan on the ‘power of vulnerability’ from women in politics

23 March 2023

Screenwriter Abi Morgan said she applauds women in power who recognise when they need to take a break.

Discussing Jacinda Ardern – who stepped back as New Zealand prime minister in January – and Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland who has tendered her resignation, Morgan told PA news agency: “I really applaud strong women, and women in positions of power who can openly acknowledge that it comes at a price, and comes at a cost.

“It’s a mark of how advanced we are as women.”

When stepping away, Ardern said she “no longer had enough in the tank” to do the job, while Sturgeon acknowledged the “physical and mental impact” of the role.

Morgan – who often writes about powerful women on-screen, including Margaret Thatcher for The Iron Lady and Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette – said she doesn’t “think less of them for holding up their hand and going, ‘I need some time and some personal space’.

“If anything, they should become – and I hope they become – advocates for not only women, but men, in every industry if they reach a point where they want to reflect and take time out, they should be allowed to do that,” she continued.

She referenced the “power of vulnerability”, and added: “It’s really important that we have strong leaders who can admit and reveal their own vulnerabilities and their own strains, because the patriarchy itself – one of its great failings is to believe it’s immune from that.

“Actually, we’re all human at the end of the day. If anything, I see those women as stronger now they’ve admitted that, rather than weaker.”

Within film and TV, Morgan, 54, said it’s “exciting” to see a “new generation of female storytellers” emerge.

“We all recognise the playing field of every industry needs to be levelled up,” she said.

“I just saw The Woman King [the 2022 film starring Viola Davis] which is absolutely phenomenal, [and] should have got a lot more attention than it did. I absolutely loved it, and it was a story I hadn’t seen before.”

She said she’s particularly excited by writers including Michaela Coel, creator of I May Destroy You, and Kayleigh Llewellyn, who penned In My Skin.

“That’s not me being woke,” she said, before correcting herself: “What’s wrong with being woke? It’s good to be awakened.

“I think we should be awake. So I’m very awakened and excited by writers that are coming through, the voices that are coming through, the stories that are coming through from different backgrounds, different worlds, different environments, different cultures.”

Morgan wants to see “more opportunities for women – more roles and different stories being told”.

She’s currently shooting a new Netflix thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch called Eric, and is working on various other scripts – including an adaptation of her own memoir, which has just come out in paperback.

This Is Not A Pity Memoir is a harrowing, compelling and humorous look at when Morgan’s husband, actor Jacob Krichefski, who has MS, collapsed and was in a coma for seven months, and his subsequent rehabilitation.

In the book, Morgan mulls over the casting of the film, suggesting The Favourite actor Olivia Colman could play her.

“We’ve got a generation of such amazing actors, Olivia Colman being absolutely at the helm,” Morgan said.

“But I think one of the hardest things is to cast yourself and those you love – that’s one of the stumbling blocks for me at the moment.

“I’m curious to see if the book will translate into a screenplay… But I feel it’s really important that the screenplay moves beyond the book, and there’s a purpose for why I’m writing it beyond just sheer entertainment.”

Morgan might have a busy schedule, but she said her experience with her husband has taught her a major life lesson.

Life can be upended at any point, and I have to be mindful that I try and balance my life now.  I love my work, it’s absolutely central to me, but I never forget that in a moment, it can all be obliterated. I’m more mindful of my time – my time with Jacob and my time with the kids [Jesse 21, and Mabel, 19] now.

“When you’re coming up through the industry and you’re trying to make your way, there are sacrifices. I’m probably less willing to make those sacrifices in quite the same way.”

This is Not a Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan is published in paperback by John Murray, priced £9.99. Available now.

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