After the interview, feeling upset and overwhelmed, Shawkat herself cried. “I felt like I didn’t say enough to defend her. I felt like I didn’t say enough to explain that the movement is so important—and that Jeffrey's story is a piece of this movement, and we can’t silence it,” she said. “Women’s voices need to be heard, and, ironically enough—I wasn’t able to be heard. I was really scared that the interviewer didn’t even hear me.”When the allegations against Tambor first came out, Shawkat says she spoke with him privately, letting Tambor know what her perspective was. She felt good about the conversation they had. “That was between him and I. And then publicly, when I was asked about it, I said, ‘It’s a very tricky situation. You know, Jeffrey’s on the show with us and I’m supporting the show and I care about Jeffrey, but I also support the voices of the victims and it’s not my decision whether he was off the show or not,’ and I kind of left it at that," she said. "There has to be a certain separation for someone who’s accused to answer for themselves.”But now she was in an unexpected position, listening to a group of men she has known since she was a child seemingly excuse Tambor’s behavior toward their friend and colleague, Walter, all the while appearing to be oblivious to how their conversation relates to the greater discourse happening today around men’s toxic behavior in Hollywood and beyond.
“Women’s voices need to be heard, and, ironically enough—I wasn’t able to be heard. I was really scared that the interviewer didn’t even hear me.”
Shawkat believes that, as difficult as that particular interview was, it’s important to have these discussions while not excusing behavior. “We have to talk about things that are uncomfortable,” Shawkat said. “There are obviously flaws and blind spots that these men were unaware of. I don’t think they’re bad people. I think that there needs to be much deeper education, especially for men.”In the context of #MeToo and Time’s Up, Shawkat has been thinking about the past—how people just “let things go by”—and questions how to deal with inappropriate behavior today. “How are we going to act differently on sets?” she asked. “How are we going to be more verbal and express things that make us feel uncomfortable?”“It’s been a very consistent conversation that has affected the way I look at my work, the people I work with, the art I want to make. Everything. So what surprised me—but maybe also didn’t—was that there’s a lot of men who’ve not been accused of anything that haven’t taken the time to think about this. What’s most important to me is that these men—whether they’ve been accused of anything or not—need to start looking at this movement and realizing it has a lot to do with them.”
"What’s most important to me is that these men—whether they’ve been accused of anything or not—need to start looking at this movement and realizing it has a lot to do with them.”
After the interview, Shawkat said she checked in with Walter and the rest of the cast members. “I tried to explain to them that, in defending Jeffrey, we covered up something that was more important in the conversation—which was Jessica’s feelings in the moment, and also any voice that I felt I had,” she said, explaining that they all apologized to her after she spoke with them.“I’ve known these people for 15 years; I was a child when I met them,” she said. “For the most part, they still have seen me as a little girl.”“For the first time as a woman, through this awkward scenario, I finally had their ears to say, ‘This is how I felt, and this is what I want, and this is what I believe in.’ I think they were hurt to realize they had not been aware of that. They were all very sincerely apologetic, as well as surprised.”Shawkat believes that the fact they know her so well on a personal level helped make it “sink in to them, to be like, ‘We never realized that it was this bad.’ It felt very healing, too. We needed each other in a different way.”She sees the subsequent public apologies of her male colleagues as a silver-lining; the experience put them in a position to confront the issues that many women are forced to confront every day. “I hope that the guys on the show and now all these men of all different ages start to communicate with the women in their lives, the women they work with, and just ask openly with no shame, ‘What can I do to be better?’”