Juliet Stevenson has hailed the women’s movement for helping her overcome a “difficult and quite painful” childhood as she accepted the lifetime achievement gong at the Women in Film and TV (WFTV) awards.
The Bafta-nominated British actress, best known for roles in films such as Truly, Madly, Deeply and Bend It Like Beckham, said she had spent her career looking for “the iceberg below the tip” in her characters.
She said: “I was a weird child. I think I grew up a very strange little girl. I never really thought I was like how little girls should be. That was often difficult and quite painful. So, when I got older and discovered the women’s movement, I realised it wasn’t just me.
“And then I realised, when I started to act, that it seemed the important thing to do was to keep women out of boxes. I try not to perform to stereotype and cliche.”
The Emma star was among a slew of women working in front of and behind the camera celebrated by WFTV, an international network of more than 13,000 women, at a star-studded event in London.
She continued: “I have been so, so lucky and I have worked on so many brilliant scripts with wonderful actors. But there are occasions when the scripts are slightly less than wonderful and the women you are asked to play are two-dimensional.
“It’s been my great joy and passion to look for the iceberg below the tip because there is no such thing as a mother, really. There’s a woman who has children, but she has other things going on in her mind or heart as well. There is no such thing as a wife. There is a woman who has a whole lot more of an agenda too.
“So the joy is to play the woman who looks at herself in the bathroom mirror when she is on her own, or the women with layers to unfurl.”
Accepting the prize on stage, Stevenson, 62, thanked her “beloved friend and comrade” Alan Rickman. The actor, who died in 2016, was best known for playing Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series.
Presenter and The Good Place star Jameela Jamil received the achievement of the year award for her work as a body positivity activist
In a pre-recorded video message, the 32-year-old said: “Just three years ago at 28, I left to go to America. Before I left I was told that I was too old, too fat and too ethnic to start again in a new country. So I am thrilled to have been given a new opportunity to prove that you can start again.”
The Great British Bake Off’s Sandi Toksvig was handed the presenter award by Only Connect host Victoria Coren Mitchell, who said Toksvig brings “wit, humanity and humour to everything she touches”.
Actress, writer and director Phoebe Waller-Bridge received the screen skills writing award. The Killing Eve writer was unable to accept the award in person as she was on holiday in Malta.