Oscar win earn actress Patricia Arquette unexpected opportunities

Patricia Arquette (above) says her role in CSI: Cyber is important to show young girls that women can be in leadership positions and be interested in technology.
Patricia Arquette (above) says her role in CSI: Cyber is important to show young girls that women can be in leadership positions and be interested in technology.PHOTO: REUTERS

Besides being an Oscar-winning actress, Patricia Arquette is now a sought-after public speaker on social causes

Winning an Oscar has not changed her life, but her acceptance speech may have, says Patricia Arquette.

The star, who took home this year's Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the drama Boyhood (2014), reveals that her stirring call-to-arms over wage equality for women during her speech left a bigger impact on her than the award itself: She is now often invited to speak at events for social causes, which has reminded her of the importance of community service and activism.

Arquette, 47, was widely praised for using her Oscar win in February this year to highlight the gender pay gap in the United States.

Accepting her award, she got a standing ovation from fellow actresses including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez when she said: "To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights. It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."

Speaking to reporters in Los Angeles recently, the Oscar winner says she is still feeling the effects of those words.

I don't feel qualified for it... I want to try to be of service if I can. I don't pretend to know everything... I just opened my mouth and said what's been going on.

PATRICIA ARQUETTE on being invited to speak at events

"That part of it actually has changed my life probably more than anything. I did grow up in a family where service was important and that part reminded me a lot of my mom's social activism," says Arquette, whose siblings include actor David Arquette, 44, and actress Rosanna Arquette, 56.

Since that speech, she has been invited to "speak at this and speak at that - events for the food bank or the girls' club".

"So, in a way, my life has changed in that I could really just be a full-time speaking person, which is weird.

"And I don't feel qualified for it either, by the way. But then again, I don't know who is. I want to try to be of service if I can. I don't pretend to know everything... I just opened my mouth and said what's been going on."

When it comes to her acting career, she says there are still precious few lead roles for "middle- aged women" in Hollywood.

Having that little gold statuette does not make it any easier.

"I think the public and the press really think things do change drastically (after you win an Oscar) - but they don't, really. You don't get all that many more offers.

"I got offered a lot of movies that weren't put together completely or didn't have their financing or were from first-time directors.

"So it doesn't change things. It changes things in people's perception of how things should be different for you and of your value, which I've kind of struggled a little bit with because I didn't feel I necessarily changed or been any different.

"And I kind of just stayed home for a few months and hung out with my family, to let it all simmer down."

Arquette was speaking to Life and other media at a press event for her television show CSI: Cyber, in which she plays a behavioural psychologist leading a cyber-crime investigation team in a spin-off from the popular CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which recently ended its 15-year run.

She is asked why she signed on to what could potentially become another long-running show, and one with 24 episodes this season, rather than keeping her schedule flexible by committing to something more short-term.

Her answer shows her pragmatism: She wants to work while she still can and also be a role model to young girls.

"I've been an actress for a long time. I've gone through a lot of different age groups in my time and I've seen the business change drastically… and there are still very few female leads who are middle- aged," says Arquette, who had a promising film career when she was younger, starring in movies such as True Romance (1993) and Flirting With Disaster (1996).

"So, to be invited to be the first female middle-aged lead in a CSI show, which is part of a global franchise, that is important - it's important in the world for girls to grow up seeing team leaders and smart people and people who are interested in technology be women."

While some might wonder why an award-winning actress is not off pursuing more glamorous, high-profile projects, the ever-practical Arquette - who also received an Emmy for playing a psychic on the popular show Medium (2005-2011) - notes that a 12-episode anthology style series "often doesn't pay you very well".

"And then you're off for another nine months and looking for a job and, you know, the business has become a lot tougher for people, particularly for middle-aged women and minorities," says the mother of a 26-year-old son with an ex- boyfriend, musician Paul Rossi, and a 15-year-old daughter with ex- husband, actor Thomas Jane.

"I'm very grateful to have a job all the time. They'll kick you out soon enough, so you might as well work while you can."


CSI: Cyber Season 2 airs on AXN (StarHub TV Channel 511) on Monday at 8.50pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2015, with the headline 'CSI actress turns public speaker'. Print Edition | Subscribe