Michelle Ebony Hardy arrived in Hollywood nearly eight years ago. She has worked tirelessly to leave her mark as a filmmaker in a white, male-dominated industry. Today, Hardy stands at the helm of her production, Lace, as the executive producer and showrunner.
Lack of Diversity in Hollywood
Even as Hardy shines, she does so in an industry struggling with its own challenges. Black women in Hollywood have been been breaking barriers and making strides in recent years, specifically when it comes to creating shows. Yet, the entertainment industry still grapples with a stark lack of diversity in television and film. Despite their undeniable talent and valuable contributions, Black women creatives continue to face significant obstacles in securing top executive positions behind the scenes. The underrepresentation of minorities in decision-making roles leads to limited diversity in front of the camera, which often results in misrepresentation or stereotyping of Black characters and stories.
Now, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are echoing throughout tinseltown. Hardy is standing in solidarity with her fellow creatives, recognizing that the fight for fair wages, treatment, and equitable opportunities knows no rest. She actively empowers and uplifts marginalized voices ensuring Hollywood reflects the world’s rich tapestry.
21Ninety spoke with Hardy to learn more about her background, being a Black woman in Hollywood and the lessons she’s learned so far in her career.
Interview with Michelle Ebony Hardy
21Ninety: What brought you to Hollywood?
Michelle Ebony Hardy: I got my first job in television at CBS Sports in New York City, where I worked for five years before working on various feature films. However, I wanted to create and tell my own stories as an artist. As a Black woman working in entertainment, I have a unique perspective and wanted to share my perspective by producing and writing content for television and film. So, after my father died, I stepped out on faith and decided to bet on myself. I took a one-way ticket from Brooklyn and landed in Hollywood; the rest is her-story.
21N: Was being a filmmaker always the plan?
MEH: Absolutely! I’ve always been into entertaining others since I was a child. I enjoyed creating the characters, giving them background stories, and breathing life into them. And I loved creating ideas and then figuring out ways to make those same ideas come to life.
21N: How do you create opportunities for other Black creatives to ensure their voices are heard and their talent is recognized?
MEH: Climbing the ladder at studios like DreamWorks and Disney made me see the need to create opportunities for those underrepresented in our industry. Without connections, breaking in is tough. Even with experience at major networks, L.A. is a different type of beast. I temped and took contract roles to navigate the studio system. As industry leaders, we must intentionally hire talent from underrepresented communities and encourage allies to do the same. Collective effort is needed to drive real change. We’ve made progress, but achieving true equality and equity in Hollywood and worldwide demands more work. Like in the first season of “Lace,” I believe we nearly had all Black women as department heads. We intentionally looked for qualified Black women who may have never gotten the opportunity on other projects.
21N: Speaking of “Lace,” season two recently premiered on AMC Network’s ALLBLK. What can viewers look forward to this season?
MEH: Viewers will see a more elevated world. A more elevated show overall. Many audience members had so many questions after season one about Lacey’s character and how she became who she was. And about Tony. You’ll come to understand that story and how that world came together this season. You will learn more about the twins, Britney, Sasha, Chelsea, and her father, the governor, and their connection to Lacey McCullough’s family. In season two, we are introducing new and exciting characters. Many of the fans’ favorites are returning. The executive producers loved the character Randall Jarvis so much that we had to figure out how to work his character back in season two…without giving away too much. We have such an incredibly talented cast and compelling juicy storylines that our audience will lock in, and stay tuned every week to see what happens next.
21N: How important are Black stories in this industry?
MEH: They are imperative because, as Black people, we’re just so diverse. Black people are not a monolith. We come from different parts of the world. Black people have so many different stories and experiences that the world hasn’t seen or heard yet. Our voices matter because everything surrounding our voice, our culture, and our contributions to this world move the masses forward. We set trends, and they go worldwide. I mean, we are always in style. We are the culture. That’s why all of our stories must be told. By not having representation around that table when they’re creating and writing the stories, you are missing out on different perspectives, which can only enhance authentic storytelling. People need to see us and our different lives.
21N: Let’s talk about the strike. It’s been going on for months now, and SAG-AFTRA recently joined. How do you think this will impact the landscape of storytelling in the film industry?
MEH: Our industry cannot survive without writers and actors. Writers and actors are essential to our storytelling. They understand human emotions because they have their own experiences they can draw from. You can’t just use AI and expect the same results. Therefore, our writers and actors must be fairly compensated. We contribute to this multi-billion-dollar industry. I believe there is a way for the studio executives, writers, and actors to come together and find a fair and equitable resolution for all involved. Ultimately, all we want is to be fairly compensated for the art we create so that we can take care of ourselves, our families, and our loved ones. And if you believe that a negotiation tactic is to starve out your fellow human, then you are inhumane and should not be a part of this community of artists.
21N: We know how the strike affects writers, but how is it specifically affecting Black writers?
MEH: It’s like the saying that when white people catch a cold Black people catch pneumonia, it’s always worse because it was never a level playing field. So, if white writers are feeling it, Black writers are feeling it even more. Right now, [writers] are fighting for the collective. But it is also important that when we have an opportunity to have our voices heard and we have a platform, we don’t forget to talk about the issues that also impact us in particular. We witnessed four Hollywood Black women executives exit their roles as the head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at major studios. For me, this is alarming because it appears our industry’s commitment to inclusion and equity is no longer a priority, and this message speaks volumes.
21N: What is one lesson you’ve learned in this industry?
MEH: The cavalry is NOT coming! You must create your own opportunities. So, if you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a director, direct, and if you want to be a producer, then make it happen because that’s what real producers do. You must understand that you are in control of your career and can create the life you want for yourself, but you must bet on yourself, never give up, and always keep the faith. Turn all of your obstacles into stepping stones. And make sure you are making decisions that you can personally live with, and at the end of the day, you can still recognize your soul.
JF: What projects are you currently working on?
MEH: I’m writing two scripted projects: a thriller and a limited series during my downtime. Also, I’ve created two unscripted projects. This is the time to get your creative juices flowing so you can stay ready! Lastly, my Alma Mater, the University of San Diego, is recognizing me as a notable alumnus on their website this week. I earned my master’s degree there, and their recognition is a full-circle moment.
You can learn more about Michelle Ebony Hardy and the projects she’s completed at her website, Simply M.E. Productions.
This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.