Sex harassment comes of age in HBO's 'Confirmation'

Wed Apr 13, 2016 8:27am EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When Anita Hill accused then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, the graphic Senate hearings riveted the country.

Twenty-five years on, writer and producer Susannah Grant says few women under the age of 30 have ever heard of Hill, which is one of the reasons she felt compelled to revisit the story for the HBO film "Confirmation," which premieres on Sunday.

"This has not been written into our cultural history in a way that anyone younger than 38 or so is aware of. I think it important that people know because everybody who takes a job now is told clearly of the rights and boundaries of responsible workplace behavior.

"Very rarely do civil rights get granted. They usually have to be demanded and fought for," Grant said.

"Confirmation" - starring "Scandal" star Kerry Washington as law professor Hill and Wendell Pierce as Thomas, who denied the allegations and is now a Supreme Court justice - depicts Hill as a voice that changed history.

Thomas declined to talk with the filmmakers and declined to comment on the film.

"Her voice completely altered how we, as a nation, talk about sexual harassment in the workplace. ... It took (sexual harassment) from something of an insiders' legal conversation to a large national conversation," Grant said.

Hill emerged from the 1991 hearings with her reputation in tatters. Yet the following year, the number of women in the U.S. Senate shot up from two to six and sexual harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doubled.   Continued...

Cast members Kerry Washington and Wendell Pierce pose at the premiere for the television movie "Confirmation" in Los Angeles, California, in this file photo taken March 31, 2016.   REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files