To celebrate the second year of our partnership with the Screen Actors Guild Awards®, American Forests chatted with the president of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, JoBeth Williams. Williams is known for her work on both sides of the camera, earning multiple award nominations for her roles in Poltergeist, the Big Chill, Kramer vs. Kramer, and for directing Frankie and Hazel and On Hope.
American Forests (AF): The SAG Awards have been a real environmental leader in Hollywood, having received ten consecutive Green Seals from the Environmental Media Association. What inspired you?
JoBeth Williams (JW): Becoming a greener production was a joint effort by our team. We are all committed to being as earth-friendly as possible. We each brought an individual environmental consciousness, and many contributed to instituting more sustainable practices. Using online voting and communications instead of paper and staging with green materials and equipment has been an ongoing process over the years. We recycle diligently at our offices and at our awards show venue.
AF: What are your hopes for the partnership between SAG and American Forests? What are some other foundation activities?
JW: Certainly the partnership with American Forests is very important for me. Planting new trees benefits the earth and everyone on it. By planting so many trees in our name, AF helps all people have better lives, which is the major goal of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.
Right now the Foundation is partnering with The Actors’ Fund to raise money and get aid to as many of our fellow performers as possible who have been affected by the terrible California wildfires. We urge everyone to go the SAG-AFTRA Foundation website. They will see Harrison Ford making a plea for those who need help to ask, and those who can to give.
AF: What role has the natural world played in your and your family’s life?
JW: When I was growing up in Texas, we had a beautiful mimosa tree in our front yard. Its branches started spreading fairly low to the ground, so I could easily climb up into it. Its bright green leaves would spread so thickly that it formed a perfect hiding place for a young child to sit and dream about the future. Its fluffy pink flowers smelled so sweet and were so soft that I would brush them over my face like a powder puff and imagine what I might be when I grew up. Sometimes I would imagine myself a doctor, sometimes an actress; the whole world seemed open to me from that perspective in that tree. I felt at one with the world in that tree.
I have been to the John Muir Woods in Northern California and taken my sons there. In the presence of those ancient and majestic redwoods, I always feel the presence of a spiritual power, and I have shared that with my family. Trees are a gift we must protect because all life is connected to and through them.
When my husband and I bought our house in Los Angeles twenty years ago, the first thing we fell in love with was the trees. We have a star pine that is about 100 feet tall, we have California Oaks that are several hundred years old. We have over twenty-five different species of trees, many of which we have planted ourselves since we have lived here. We sit in our backyard most evenings and look at these beautiful trees and try to let go of the anxiety of the day.
Stay tuned for the next in our Q&A series with SAG Awards staff and leaders! The 25th Annual SAG Awards ceremony will be nationally simulcast live on TNT and TBS on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 at 8 p.m. (ET) / 5 p.m. (PT).