On the Basis of Sex: Felicity Jones Channels Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On the Basis of Sex star Felicity Jones tells us how she approached playing the role of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On The Basis Of Sex - Felicity Jones
Focus Features

Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be the most well-known and recognized Supreme Court Justice of the modern era, and the new film On the Basis of Sex chronicles her career and details the landmark case that she and her husband Martin took on, which changed the course of their lives and the courts’ view of gender discrimination for decades since. 

In an era when women were expected to stay home and fulfill the typical gender roles of housewife and mother, Ruth fought against a legal establishment that was firmly in the grip of men to teach, practice law and eventually ascend all the way to the Supreme Court, on which she was seated in 1993 and still serves today.

Further Reading: Armie Hammer Plays the Man Behind RBG

For British actress Felicity Jones (Rogue One), playing a still-living person who is respected and heralded here in the United States by millions of Americans tested her skills in its own particular way. “It was quite a challenge to play someone who is so deeply beloved, who people have looked up to their entire lives,” Jones told us in the video interview below, adding that when she got the script, she was “blown away by just how much she’d gone through to get to the position we see her in today.”

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Jones was also adamant about why On the Basis of Sex, with its exploration of gender, the law and equal rights as they were defined decades ago, was relevant to today’s audiences. “It’s just making sure that we continue to fight for true equality,” she said. “And also breaking down those preconceptions about how men and women should behave.”

Jones was also thrilled to have the opportunity to meet the real RBG in person on a trip to Washington D.C. — both at the Supreme Court and in her home — before the movie started shooting. “I really just got to know her and sort of understand how she had such strength and determination to do what she did,” she recalled. “And I could see that even in little things, like her desk being very close to her bed so she can get up in the middle of the night and write something down.”

On the Basis of Sex is directed by Mimi Leder and also stars Armie Hammer as Martin Ginsburg, along with Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates, Sam Waterston and Cailee Spaeny. The film has been playing in limited release since Christmas and expands nationwide on Friday (January 11).

Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye