Libby Wadle, Ophira Eisenberg, Michaela Watkins, Allison Williams and Nicole Holofcener during Women Behind the Words

Allison Williams recalls being disrespected on the set of ‘Boardwalk Empire’: ‘Are you the eye candy on set?’

At last weekend’s “Women Behind the Words” panel at the Nantucket Film Festival, panelists Allison Williams, Nicole Holofcener, and Michaela Watkins spoke about the contempt and disrespect they’ve experienced as women in film and TV. Williams spoke about how viewers, social media users, and even journalists have merged ‘Girls’ actresses with their characters. And Holofcener spoke about how a leading figure in the industry told her to stop writing.

But the most startling observation came when Williams opened up about an episode of on-set disrespect she experienced in the years leading up to her breakthrough on “Girls.”

“There are like 10 stories that make their way from my brain to my mouth that I’m trying to keep out of my mouth,” Williams said. “I guess one of them, just very quickly … people just underestimate your humanity often as a young lady who comes into our business. I was a substitute pilot on “Boardwalk Empire” which was the best experience ever, an amazing pilot. It was shot on film. It was amazing. But I was in craft services and a crew member came up and said, ‘So what are you doing here? Are you the eye candy on set?’”

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“This is an example of, I’m at work and that’s what someone tells me,” Williams continued. “Or an actor I’ve worked with later who saw me eating a pastry and said, ‘Don’t you want to be successful?’ You know, these types of comments inevitably crop up. Yes. Look how unshocked you both are (referring to Eisenberg and Watkins). That familiar, fuzzy feeling. We’ve all heard it. But for stuff like that, there’s like Lena (Dunham) who so graciously, and practically the same age as me, walked me through this very unusual experience and was an incredibly talented writer and director, and was able to make me understand breathe and slow down and do nothing, and in doing so, just trust the material and trust that the talent is there.

Moderator Ophira Eisenberg responded, “I mean, I think there’s this misconception sometimes that people respond very well to an intense set where someone is bugging them and that makes them.”

“He’s a very specific kind of person who thinks like that,” Williams said. “We can all picture that person.”

“The same picture,” Eisenberg said.