Mila Kunis phoned at least one member of the Hasty Pudding Institute’s graduate board to discuss adding women to the group's historically all-male cast hours before the Pudding announced its decision to go co-ed, according to two individuals with knowledge of the proceedings.
Kunis—in town to accept the Hasty Pudding Theatricals 2018 Woman of the Year award—made the phone call while dining with various Pudding company members at Harvard Square restaurant Parsnip on Jan. 25, according to the two individuals. The actress implied she would apply pressure in some way during the call to push the graduate board to accept women, the two individuals said.
Kunis said at the lunch she strongly favored the Pudding announcing its decision to admit women as cast members that day, according to the two individuals, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
Hours after the meal in Harvard Square, Pudding undergraduate president Amira T. Weeks ’18 mounted the stage in Farkas Hall—the Pudding’s longtime campus digs—and declared the group would open its cast to women starting in fall 2018, breaking with almost 200 years of precedent. Weeks read aloud a letter from former Pudding President Andrew L. Farkas ’82 disclosing the policy shift.
Farkas wrote in his letter that the Pudding had decided to go co-ed “some time ago” and chose to keep the decision “absolutely silent” until the Woman of the Year celebrations. But up until the lunch in Parsnip, almost no members of the company knew or thought the co-ed policy would be debuted during the festivities Jan. 25, according to the two individuals.
Representatives for Kunis did not respond to repeated requests for comment. In an emailed statement, Farkas pointed to the letter Weeks read onstage.
“My letter speaks for itself and is factual in the extreme,” Farkas wrote. “Anything to the contrary would be an inaccurate statement of fact.”
Weeks directed a request for comment to the Pudding’s graduate board.
Kunis sat down for lunch at Parsnip, a white-walled farm-to-table restaurant located across an alleyway from the Pudding’s social clubhouse, with undergraduate members as well as adults employed by the theatrical group.
Soon after arriving, the actress—who dined on winter chicory salad, farm-roasted chicken, and a brownie sundae while sipping a glass of Chardonnay, according to Parsnip staff—started asking her lunchmates how they felt about accepting women as cast members, the two individuals said. Since its inception in 1844, the Pudding has retained an all-male cast of performers, though women have long held positions on other boards like business and technology.
The vast majority of those surveyed at the table said they wanted to see women on cast, the two individuals said. Kunis stopped asking when she got halfway around the table, according to the individuals.
Instead, she asked the group why the decision to go co-ed had not yet been made and publicly announced. She also asked who had final say over the Pudding’s gender policies, the two individuals said.
After attendees pointed to the graduate board, Kunis stepped out of earshot of those sitting at the table and phoned at least one member of the board, according to the two individuals. It is unclear exactly what Kunis said on the call.
Later that day—after she had been hailed as the Woman of the Year and after Weeks made the official co-ed announcement—Kunis said at a press conference she would not have attended the festivities had the Pudding not debuted its new policy.
“I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” she said.
Kunis also told reporters she had advance notice of the move.
“I knew that this was going to happen, a version of this, and maybe this was something they’ve been talking about for a long time,” she said. “I don’t want that to be taken away from the students, the infrastructure. They’ve been fighting for this, and they have wanted this, and they’re the reason this happened.”
Women on campus first began auditioning to join the Pudding’s all-male cast in 2015, with no success then or in the years since. In Sept. 2016, at least 86 Pudding alumni signed a petition urging the group to end its all-male casting practices.
Following the Pudding’s announcement of its new casting policy, undergraduate women across campus vowed to audition for the cast next year. Some said they appreciated what they called Kunis’s support for the Pudding’s co-ed move.
In the days leading up to the Woman of the Year celebrations, Kunis garnered negative attention from at least one national media outlet calling on her to turn down the Pudding’s award given her past advocacy for women’s rights.
Kunis responded to this criticism at the press conference Jan. 25.
“If you’re going to ask someone to not show up, it’s a pretty weak stance to take,” Kunis said. “The smarter thing [to] ask me of would’ve been to take a stance. Backing down is not taking a stance.”
—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1.
—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.