'OITNB' Actress Alysia Reiner Shares How Her Latest Film Inspired Her to Fight for Equality

You probably recognize Alysia Reiner from her role as D.A. Wendy Parks on How to Get Away with Murder or Natalie "Fig" Figueroa in Orange Is the New Black—but the actress has a myriad of other interests, not the least of which is women's equality. We caught up with Alysia to get the inside scoop on the importance of her latest role in Equity and her thoughts on the stereotypes women still face in the workforce.

Equity, which touches on women's role in the workplace, the LGBTQ+ community and the relationship between money and morality, is the first-ever female-driven Wall Street film. The movie is a testament to Alysia's views on the inequality women are subjected to, especially in Hollywood. "It sucks, there are so many examples of inequality," she says. "Honestly, I hate talking about this stuff, let's just take steps to change it." One of the steps she and other industry changemakers took was making Equity, which was directed, produced, written and invested in by women. 

While doing research for the film, Alysia—who in addition to acting also produced the project—continuously heard from women who were not able to break the glass ceiling once they reached a certain level in the financial field. She and the creators of the film wanted to focus on portraying an accurate representation of what women working in the financial sector go through—even if that meant telling a truth Alysia didn't necessarily want to accept. "I think the thing that has impacted me the most is opening my eyes to how far we have to go, how hard we still have to work, and really exploring how to do that work, and what it will take."

Although there is much more work to be done, Alysia hopes Equity will encourage women to make a name for themselves in whatever field they want to pursue. Speaking about the film's influence, she says, "I think so many millennial women were deeply inspired by seeing these characters and the possibility of their lives, and by the example of making your destiny."

Part of creating your own destiny as a woman involves fighting the stereotypes that challenge us every day. Alysia notes that when it comes to breaking down stereotypes, women should be aware of their own unconscious biases and beliefs: "Watch and challenge yourself. And lovingly challenge the men and women around you to do the same. You can't challenge [stereotypes] unless you acknowledge it in yourself, maybe make light of it, and then change it." 

According to Alysia, it's all about getting inspired and putting words into action, whether that means creating art that sheds light on these ideas or working hard to achieve your personal goals. Alysia's advice is to live in the moment, because having it all isn't always a realistic goal, making it nearly impossible to work towards. In her words, "[Accept] being a mess." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.