In FX's new limited series A Teacher, actress Kate Mara plays a sexual predator: a high-school English teacher who begins an affair with a student (Nick Robinson). In an interview with Emmy Magazine in October and more recently in one with Collider, however, Mara revealed for the first time that she has felt like the victim of an unfair power dynamic herself, but in her case, it was on set with male directors.
During her filming of the 2015 film Fantastic Four, in which she played Sue Storm, the first female superhero for Marvel, she described tolerating "uneasy" moments. And even though she said she doesn't regret doing the film all together (after all, it's where she met her now-husband Jamie Bell), she regretted not standing up for herself.
"I should have followed my instincts more," Mara told Collider. "Like when my gut was telling me, ‘You probably shouldn't let that slide, what that person just said,' or if you're feeling a certain way about what an energy is like and how that is affecting your performance."
However, she has been clear that it's not solely up to her to speak up — its the directors who set the tone for the environment and atmosphere on set. "The fact of the matter is that my two horrendous experiences with directors were male directors," she explained to Emmy Magazine. "Have I not gotten along with a female director? Absolutely. And was it not the greatest work experience? Sure. But there was never a time that I felt, 'This is happening because I'm a woman.' Where with the male directors, it 100 percent was only happening with me; it was a power dynamic thing."
Mara didn't go into detail about what exactly transpired on the set of Fantastic Four and what the other "horrendous experience" with a movie director was, but Josh Trank directed Fantastic Four. "On both of my bad experiences, the movies were 95% men and I was the only woman in the movie," Mara added.
A Teacher was directed and created by Hannah Fidell as an expansion her 2013 indie film of the same name. Mara said that she learned from her past bad experiences to reach out to people she trusts about the reputations of directors and producers before agreeing to a new project — especially now that she is a model for her one-year-old daughter.
"If my daughter ended up acting and was in a situation like that where she felt like she couldn't speak up — meanwhile, I'm a pretty tough person and I really do advocate for myself..." she said. "If I was in that situation today, it just wouldn't have happened or it just would have been a different environment."