It’s hard to believe “Equity” is not only Anna Gunn’s first starring role since “Breaking Bad” ended, but her first starring role ever.
The actress spent five seasons playing Skyler White, wife of high school chemistry teacher-turned-drug lord Walter, on the monster hit AMC show. She bided her time looking for her major follow-up, until "Equity" offered a character of equal complexity: Naomi Bishop, an investment banker on Wall Street who tries to protect her latest client from a complicated scheme to undo their hard work.
The film was conceived, written and directed by women, which was another reason she took on the project.
Were you particularly picky about what you did after “Breaking Bad”?
Absolutely. I felt I had been on such an extraordinary journey with extraordinary material. It opened a lot of doors; I wanted to make sure I walked through the right ones. I’d never come across a role this rich and complex, and where the character was at the forefront of the story. And the creators and conceivers were these two women. The director was a woman, the writer was a woman. It’s obviously a very unusual situation, and long past due.
The film says a lot about what it’s like to be a woman in power today. For one thing, Naomi has had a disaster in her past, and people are constantly reminding her about it, even after all her successes. She has a bigger hill to climb than a man would in her situation.
I agree. In the research process — which I always say is one of my favorite parts about acting — I got to talk to Barbara Bryne, who is on Wall Street and is one of the film’s investors. She gave me a wealth of information. One of the things she said is when you’re a known commodity on Wall Street, you feel your gender more. Any time there’s been something on the news [about her], she walks into the office and there’s a sea of men. She thinks, “Are they talking about me? Is this going to put me in a bad position?” But she’s a confident woman.
There’s a parallel there with Hillary Clinton. There’s so much negativity and criticism of her, but then you watch the Democratic National Convention and you see how much she’s done. People focus more on the negative side than the positive.
They certainly do. That’s something women experience across the board in every profession. We’re seeing [Clinton’s] qualifications, her intellect, her policies, her track record. But everyone thinks, ‘Let’s not focus on that, let’s focus on the way she dresses or wears her hair.’ That’s something Barbara said women have to think about a lot more than men. She picks out the color of her suit depending on the client she’s dealing with. Maybe they’re dealing with someone who prefers a pink suit. On another day you might need to wear that red power dress. That’s something that doesn’t come into play with men. People aren’t tweeting and blogging about men’s choice of suits the next day. [Laughs]