Emma Stone Wants to 'Learn to Fight Better' for Equality After Playing Tennis Champ Billie Jean King

The Oscar-winning actress takes on the role of tennis champ Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes

Photo: Greg Kadel

Taking on the role of legendary tennis champion and icon of the equal-rights movement Billie Jean King for Battle of the Sexes was a “game changer” for Emma Stone — both on and off screen.

For the cover of Marie Claire’s September issue, the Oscar-winning actress is featured in conversation with her Sexes co-star Sarah Silverman on how portraying King for the film inspired her to find her own voice and speak out for equality.

“I am very nervous to communicate my opinions a lot of the time, especially publicly…[Billie] is so direct and confident in the way that she communicates what she believes is right,” Stone, 28, said. “To be able to step into that was a pretty powerful experience.”

She continued: “It’s something that I still don’t feel entirely comfortable with, but it was also one of the great parts about playing her.”

Greg Kadel

This role is different from anything that Stone has done in the past in that it’s the first time she’s depicting a real person, so she focused on “building from the outside in” to create an accurate representation of the drama surrounding the historic 1973 tennis match between King and Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carell) which the film centers on.

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Riggs claimed that women’s tennis wasn’t in the same league as men’s, so King took on — and defeated — Riggs in the match that became the most-watched television sports event of all time, and sparked an ongoing conversation about gender equality.

“There is so much power to our voices, and we need to speak out,” she said. “That’s something that I struggled with in the past, but it’s very hard not to feel galvanized right now, politically or consciously.”

Greg Kadel

Despite the current political climate, Stone is hopeful after seeing people fight for “love, humanity and equality.”

“It’s so inspiring to see marches and beautiful writing and creative work,” she said. “There’s so much power and a grace coming out of so many people who have so much to lose, and the human spirit is incredible.”

She added: “That’s worth a fight every day — and I want to learn how to fight better.”

Battle of the Sexes hits theaters September 22.

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