• Entertainment

Patricia Arquette on Her Oscar Speech: ‘I Don’t Think People Really Understood What I Meant’

7 minute read

No matter what happened at the Oscars this year, where Patricia Arquette ended up winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood, the actress had her next role lined up.

Arquette stars as the head of a group of technologically-agile sleuths in CSI: Cyber, which debuts March 4 at 10 p.m. It’s a pivot for an actress who was last widely seen as an intuitive, emotional mother in Richard Linklater’s film, but hardly new for an actress who previously won an Emmy for the police procedural Medium.

In conversation with TIME, the actress addressed those who thought her Oscar speech was insufficiently intersectional, as well as the state of network TV and of cyber-security.

TIME: Has working on this show taught you anything about technology?

Patricia Arquette: Well, it’s pretty terrifying. Every script I got, I’d be like: What? Technology has become such an integral part of our lives, and it’s just going to become more dominant. it’s illuminating and terrifying to learn what criminals are able to do now.

So has it prompted you to use technology differently?

It’s definitely changed the way I looked at my technology. I never was a huge technology person. But one thing people can do is have two-step verification on their email: That’s a good place to start.

What do you make of Hillary Clinton’s emailing on a personal account when she was Secretary of State?

I read a little bit about that, but I didn’t think about it pertaining to the show. Everybody’s figuring out: “Where are you most vulnerable?” “Who would they most likely target?” You know, we’ve been spying on other governments, so I don’t know that there’s any foolproof thing.

It seems like the revelations of Edward Snowden made all of these questions more pressing.

Definitely. I don’t know how you would avoid that if you wanted to; it’s revolutionary information. And this is the way we communicate. We have cell phones; it’s great walking around the city able to communicate. But there’s also a trail. When you look at how criminals are exploiting those flaws in our systems, it’s really scary.

Given the content of your Oscar acceptance speech, did you fight for equal pay to your male counterparts on the CSI: Cyber set?

I wasn’t talking about my own position. I know I’ve been really blessed in my life. What I was talking about is the other 52 percent, and how it doesn’t make sense why they’re being discriminated [against] because of their gender. They’re taking the same student loans but taking years to pay it back, making half a million to a million dollars less over a lifetime. That’s money they’re not putting into Social Security, or using to pay for college or childcare. I won an Academy Award because I played a single mom, moving and moving again and trying to provide for her kids. I thought long and hard about how her life would have been better with wage equality, and if she made those extra cents on the dollar; and how if she was Latina, she’d need to make those fifty cents more, or how if she was African-American, she’d need to make those 40 cents more.

Did it surprise you that there was such a negative response to your speech and your backstage comments?

It did surprise me. I guess I don’t think people really understood what I meant by that. I don’t think they understood what I was talking about, exactly. This is a huge discrimination issue affecting women across America. It affects whole lives — the impact of this.

Do you feel pressure, external or internal, to be more circumspect now that you’re employed on a major TV franchise, airing on a corporate-owned broadcast network?

Some people are concerned about that and maybe they don’t voice their opinion. I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel like I’ve been inhibited from being myself, an American person with freedom. And it wasn’t my idea to have a female middle-aged woman as the lead in a CSI. That came from CBS. That was their concept. It was forward-thinking, really interesting, and exciting, to take one of the world’s biggest franchises and have a female lead and young people bringing their own energy.

A lot of people were surprised that you were moving from winning the movies’ highest honor to work in TV — discounting that this was already underway before Boyhood hit so big. But what do you make of the TV/film divide?

I really am driven by material. This material is interesting to me. I am an American living in the world today; I do see how much technology is driving our lives and how dangerous it is. That’s illuminating and interesting and shocking to me. This is like the Wild West.

What’s it like working with the cast [which includes James Van Der Beek and Shad Moss, formerly known as Bow Wow]? And how did you feel about getting offered the lead, given how tough the industry can be for actresses over 40?

They’re so good. I felt so excited the first time we started working. They’re really talented. We have this kind of electric energy, and they’re super solid actors.

And I was totally excited about it. To work on a global franchise like this as a female lead is really exciting. It’s really cool to be working in an arena where you’re going into every country in the world.

Is it strange to work with the subject matter you are on a daily and weekly basis?

This character’s so different from me. She’s so tech-savvy. I’ve played a lot of characters who are emotionally driven. But her safest place is being in her brain. Her skill-set comes from her brain. She’s not the most nurturing person.

Is the pace difficult? You’ve been away from TV for four years, and movies tend to have slightly more forgiving schedules.

We have a strong team on this show. They do [the] heavy lfiting. It’s not as hard as Medium, where I was in every scene except for the crimes. I have nothing but appreciation and gratitude for this experience, and the other actors I’m working with. It was a long time ago when I started doing Medium because I didn’t like the parts coming to me. They were pedestrian. The good wife waiting around for her husband, or the annoying wife so the husband could go act out. Medium gave me a much more interesting part to play. And with that success from Medium, I got to be the lead on a show that was [already] successful.

Did you see the GIF of Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez reacting to your speech? Or did you notice them from the stage?

Somebody sent me that. But I was so nervous when I was up there — I couldn’t tell you.

Really? After winning so many other awards, you seemed like an old hand.

I don’t know if you can become an old hand. It was just mind-boggling, the feeling. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

See All the Best Actresses in Oscar History

Cinema Personalities, pic: circa 1930's, American actress Janet Gaynor, (1906-1984) who had one claim to fame in that she was voted "Best Actress" at the vey first Oscar's ceremony which was then a very minor affair thought to be of no great note
1929: Janet Gaynor - Street Angel, Sunrise and 7th HeavenBob Thomas—Popperfoto/Getty Images
America's Sweetheart
1930: Mary Pickford - CoquetteEdwin Bower Hesser—John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
Divorcee Norma
1931: Norma Shearer - The DivorceeGeorge Hurrell—John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
1931: Portrait of Marie Dressler
1932: Marie Dressler - Min and BillKeystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
Helen Hayes
1933: Helen Hayes - The Sin of Madelon ClaudetGeneral Photographic Agency/Getty Images
Portrait of actress Katharine Hepburn on the set of her Broadway play "The Philadelphia Story."
1934: Katharine Hepburn - Morning Glory 1968: Katharine Hepburn - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner 1969: Katharine Hepburn - The Lion in Winter 1982: Katharine Hepburn - On Golden PondAlfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Claudette Colbert
1935: Claudette Colbert - It Happened One NightImagno/Getty Images
1936: Bette Davis - Dangerous 1939: Bette Davis - JezebelKeystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
Luise Rainer
1937: Luise Rainer - The Great Ziegfeld 1938: Luise Rainer - The Good EarthTed Allan—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Vivien Leigh
1940: Vivien Leigh - Gone with the Wind 1952: Vivien Leigh - A Streetcar Named DesireGordon Anthony—Getty Images
Ginger Rogers
1941: Ginger Rogers - Kitty FoyleHulton Archive/Getty Images
Joan Fontaine
1942: Joan Fontaine - SuspicionJohn Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
Cinema. Personalities. circa 1940's. British actress Greer Garson, portrait, among her many films "Goodbye Mr. Chips" 1939 and her 1st Academy Award film "Mrs. Miniver" 1942.
1943: Greer Garson - Mrs. MiniverPopperfoto/Getty Images
Red Riding Hood
1944: Jennifer Jones - The Song of BernadetteSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Ingrid Bergman
1945: Ingrid Bergman - Gaslight 1957: Ingrid Bergman - AnastasiaApic/Getty Images
Joan Crawford
1946: Joan Crawford - Mildred PierceSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Olivia De Havilland
1947: Olivia de Havilland - To Each His Own 1950: Olivia de Havilland - The HeiressSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Loretta Young In 'Paula'
1948: Loretta Young - The Farmer's DaughterColumbia Pictures/Getty Images
Jane Wyman
1949: Jane Wyman - Johnny BelindaJack Albin—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Judy Holliday
1951: Judy Holliday - Born YesterdayGAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images
Shirley Booth As Hazel
1953: Shirley Booth - Come Back, Little ShebaCamerique/Getty Images
Audrey Hepburn
1954: Audrey Hepburn - Roman HolidayHulton Archive/Getty Images
Grace Kelly
1955: Grace Kelly - The Country GirlSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Portrait Of Anna Magnani
1956: Anna Magnani - The Rose TattooMondadori/Getty Images
Joanne Woodward
1958: Joanne Woodward - The Three Faces of EveSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Susan Hayward
1959: Susan Hayward - I Want to Live!Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
1960: Simone Signoret - Room at the TopKeystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
Elizabeth Taylor
1961: Elizabeth Taylor - Butterfield 8 1967: Elizabeth Taylor - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Sophia Loren
1962: Sophia Loren - Two WomenSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
The Graduate
1963: Anne Bancroft - The Miracle WorkerSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Patricia Neal
1964: Patricia Neal - HudGene Kornman–Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Julie Andrews
1965: Julie Andrews - Mary PoppinsSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Julie Christie
1966: Julie Christie - DarlingSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Maggie Smith
1970: Maggie Smith - The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieTerry O'Neill—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Glenda Jackson In 'Lost And Found'
1971: Glenda Jackson - Women in Love 1974: Glenda Jackson - A Touch of ClassGordon Film Productions/Getty Images
Jane Fonda
1972: Jane Fonda - Klute 1979: Jane Fonda - Coming HomeSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Liza Minnelli
1973: Liza Minnelli - CabaretTerry O'Neill—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Ellen Burstyn
1975: Ellen Burstyn - Alice Doesn't Live Here AnymoreCynthia Macadams—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Fletcher As Ratched
1976: Louise Fletcher - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestSilver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Faye Dunaway
1977: Faye Dunaway - NetworkTerry O'Neill—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
50th Annual Academy Awards
1978: Diane Keaton - Annie HallRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
Sally Field Portrait Session
1980: Sally Field - Norma Rae 1985: Sally Field - Places in the HeartHarry Langdon—Getty Images
53rd Annual Academy Awards
1981: Sissy Spacek - Coal Miner's DaughterRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) Awards - November 3, 1983
1983: Meryl Streep - Sophie's Choice 2012: Meryl Streep - The Iron LadyRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
41st Annual Golden Globe Awards
1984: Shirley MacLaine - Terms of EndearmentRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
1986: Geraldine Page - The Trip to BountifulABC/Getty Images
Marlee Matlin
1987: Marlee Matlin - Children of a Lesser GodKevin Winter—DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Cher At The Academy Awards
1988: Cher - MoonstruckEvan Agostini—Liaison/Getty Images
Jodie Foster, New York City "Little Man Tate" Premier, Oct 1991
1989: Jodie Foster - The Accused 1992: Jodie Foster - The Silence of the LambsThe LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
1990 NATO/ShoWest Convention
1990: Jessica Tandy - Driving Miss DaisyRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
51st Annual Golden Apple Awards
1991: Kathy Bates - MiseryRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
"Vogue Magazine 100th Anniversary" - April 2, 1992
1993: Emma Thompson - Howards EndRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
66th Annual Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon
1994: Holly Hunter - The PianoRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
1995 Vanity Fair Oscar Party - Arrivals
1995: Jessica Lange - Blue SkyRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
1996 Palm Springs International Film Festival
1996: Susan Sarandon - Dead Man WalkingRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
3rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards
1997: Frances McDormand - FargoRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
"Great Expectations" Los Angeles Premiere
1998: Helen Hunt - As Good as It GetsRon Galella—WireImage/Getty Images
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow
1999: Gwyneth Paltrow - Shakespeare in LoveVince Bucci—Getty Images
Hilary Swank Stars As Carly Reynolds In Beverly Hills, 90210 (Season 8 World Vision Enterpri
2000: Hilary Swank - Boys Don't Cry 2005: Hilary Swank - Million Dollar BabyGetty Images
58th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Pressroom
2001: Julia Roberts - Erin BrockovichKevin Winter—Getty Images
Celebs attend Berlinale Film Festival
2002: Halle Berry - Monster's BallSean Gallup—Getty Images
41st New York Film Festival Sponsored by Grand Marnier - "Dogville" Premiere - Inside Arrivals and Green Room
2003: Nicole Kidman - The HoursDimitrios Kambouris—WireImage/Getty Images
The 2003 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Annual Awards Gala
2004: Charlize Theron - MonsterRobin Platzer—FilmMagic/Getty Images
The 63rd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals
2006: Reese Witherspoon - Walk the LineJ. Vespa—WireImage/Getty Images
The 79th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
2007: Helen Mirren - The QueenJ. Vespa—WireImage/Getty Images
The 80th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
2008: Marion Cotillard - La Vie en RoseSteve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images
81st Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
2009: Kate Winslet - The ReaderKevork Djansezian—Getty Images
82nd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
2010: Sandra Bullock - The Blind SideDan MacMedan—WireImage/Getty Images
83rd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
2011: Natalie Portman - Black SwanJohn Shearer—Getty Images
85th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room
2013: Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings PlaybookSteve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images
86th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
2014: Cate Blanchett - Blue JasmineJason Merritt—Getty Images
2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals
2015: Julianne Moore- Still AliceAnthony Harvey—Getty Images
88th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room
2016: Brie Larson - RoomC Flanigan—Getty Images
89th Annual Academy Awards -  Press Room
2017: Emma Stone - La La LandJason LaVeris—Getty Images
ABC's Coverage Of The 90th Annual Academy Awards
2018: Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriCraig Sjodin—ABC/Getty Images
2019: Olivia Colman - The FavouriteCraig Sjodin—ABC/Getty Images

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com