Elizabeth Banks knows her drive is aggressive—and she’s not apologizing for it.
“I’m always trying to figure out, as a businesswoman, what are the different areas in which I can expand?” Banks says in the latest episode of Fast Company’s podcast Creative Conversation. “I’m an ambitious person. I’m not afraid to say that out loud.”
Banks’s career started in acting (Wet Hot American Summer, 30 Rock, Hunger Games), but when roles began to feel a bit homogenous—if they were even offered in the first place—she and her husband, Max Handelman, launched their own production company, Brownstone, which has gone on to produce TV shows (Shrill, Press Your Luck); films, including those that Banks also directed (Pitch Perfect 2, Charlie’s Angels, Cocaine Bear); and, most recently, audio projects under a development and first-look deal with Audible.
That relationship’s first project is Banks’s own podcast, My Body, My Podcast, which explores “taboo” topics around sex and sexual health.
“The podcast is the most personal storytelling I’ve ever done,” Banks says. “The subject matter has interested me for a very, very long time. I do a lot of advocacy in women’s rights [and] women’s health. And because I, as a white American woman, have it tops and it’s still stinky? So if it’s bad for me, Jesus. I know I have a small opportunity to make the world a little bit better when I’m gone than it is when I’m here.”
On top of that, Banks also stepped into the wine business this year, becoming part owner of the canned wine company Archer Roose.
“Having known me for like 45 minutes, doesn’t it feel like canned wine is totally me?” Banks says. “This was an opportunity that was presented to me that aligned with my values. It’s a female-led company. I love the founder, Marian Leitner. She’s from Massachusetts, which is where I’m from. I have a real soft spot for Mass-holes. And not only that, I saw right away that the innovation here is not in creating great wine. I’m not adding anything new to the space of wine. What really attracted me was the distribution and canning of really good wine.”
Being “quietly revolutionary” as a director
“I like comedic elements inside of things. Pitch Perfect, it’s a comedy with music. I made a big-ass musical, but really it’s a heartfelt, comedic endeavor that happens to be a romance between all of those women. When you understand that, Charlie’s Angels did the exact same thing. I made it about friendship, them being in love with each other. Cocaine Bear, I mean, it’s absurd on its face. There’s a bear high on cocaine. My point is, tonally, I’m interested in the same vibe for the most part. I like to be what I call quietly revolutionary. I’m not out here being like, ‘Look at me! I’m doing something that nobody’s seen before!’ But at the end of the day, if you really pay attention, there’s a lot of little things in there that nobody’s ever seen before.”
Make your own lottery
“Anecdotally, I was coming up in Hollywood alongside a lot of my male peers and I was like, huh, they’re getting a lot of jobs and making a lot more money than me and I’m going to sets and I’m the one woman in the show. And then Geena Davis and her institute, and the inclusion study from USC [Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism], put raw data to my feeling, which was I just didn’t feel like there was enough opportunity [for women]. We have way less lines in movies. And the budgets for our movies are smaller. It confirmed for me what my fears were about what was going on, which is that if I didn’t start making opportunities and changing up what I did, how I spent my time, and how I told stories, I was going to be left behind at some point. I was just playing a losing game. You’re either going to get a lottery ticket or you’re not—or you can just create your own lottery.”
Don’t create in a closet
“I remember having a conversation with someone where I realized that an idea that I had could be put into the world and that it was valuable, that other people might be interested in it. To me, creativity is the confidence in my ideas. There are creative people who are prolific at home in their closet, and no one else shares in it. I am here to share it. I’m trying to put something into the world.”