Watch THR's Comedy Actress Roundtable, Full and Uncensored

In 2005, Hamilton and Girls5Eva star Renee Elise Goldsberry went back home to Chicago to visit her dad. She accompanied him to church, where the reverend made a to-do of her presence. “We have a guest,” he announced to the congregation, and then proceeded to tick off her professional accomplishments, which, at that point, included a soap opera and a stint on Broadway. 

Goldsberry didn’t immediately recognize herself in the introduction. “I’m looking around, like, “Who’s in the house when I’m here?” she says. “Because the year I had, I’d had two very painful miscarriages. One was in the second trimester. It was terribly painful.”

She stood up and waved, nevertheless, but it served as a stark reminder that describing her as a Tony winner or a Grammy winner or whatever else her IMDB profile offers is not fully representative of who she is. “And quite honestly, it’s not the most valuable part of who you are,” she continues. “What’s most valuable about me are the things that I survived.” 

Over the course of an hour on a Saturday afternoon in April, Goldsberry spoke as openly about those things as she did any acting gig she’s ever landed. And she was hardly alone in her candor. Joined by Abbott Elementary’s Quinta Brunson, Saturday Night Live’s Ego Nwodim, Loot’s Maya Rudolph, Palm Royale’s Kristen Wiig and Survival of the Thickest’s Michelle Buteau for The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Comedy Actress Emmy roundtable, the women used the time and the platform to open up about their respective struggles and fears — be it the fight to have children or the desire to be valuable for more than simply their pain.

“I hope I don’t have to get caught in the trap of having to be the source material forever,” Brunson offers as the conversation turns to her desire to adapt the book The Guest, which she’s concerned she won’t be allowed to do since it isn’t, as she’s put it, a Black story about a Black woman. Brunson has no plans to stop making the more personal Abbott, of course, but the ways in which she’ll be allowed to spread her wings continues to worry her.

“It’s so limiting, and I don’t want to keep excavating my soul to make things. It’s not an expectation for white people, white men — but for a lot of Black women, they’re like, ‘Give us your insides,’” she says, as her peers nod along in agreement. “And I don’t want to do that anymore. If I want to make a show about a dinosaur, I want to be able to make a show about a dinosaur. And not a Black dinosaur, just a regular-ass dinosaur.”

Wiig, too, is eager to write something different — in her case, it’s more dramatic fare, but she’s found even herself second-guessing her ability to stretch because comedy has long been what the Saturday Night Live star is known for and thus expected to continue doing. In fact, she reveals she keeps putting down a film script she’s been penning solo as she wonders aloud, “Are you sure you want to do this? You don’t really know how to do this.”

Meanwhile, both Rudolph and Buteau suggest their careers transformed once they stopped “giving a fuck,” a philosophical shift that came with having children. When Nwodim and Brunson, who don’t yet have kids, noted that they were eager to change that, Rudolph, who has four at home, didn’t skip a beat: “I will get you pregnant,” she deadpans. “Just stand next to me.”

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