Women have been pushing boundaries in the TV industry for decades. In the early 1950s, Lucille Ball fought for I Love Lucy to depict a multiethnic marriage — and eventual pregnancy — like her own. In 1963, Cicely Tyson became the first African-American star of a television drama. Onscreen, women challenged the norm: Mary Richards took the pill; Murphy Brown decided to raise her baby alone; Ellen came out. Too many firsts have been a long time coming for women in entertainment. But stars like Viola Davis, who in 2015 became the first black woman to win an Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama, and Sandra Oh, who became the first Asian woman to be nominated for the same award just last year, continue to break ground.
This Women's History Month, TV Guide gave some of our favorite stars the opportunity to honor to the women in television who have inspired them, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Their funny, heartfelt reflections poured in throughout March, and we've collected them here. Watch them all below.
Now Apocalypse star Kelli Berglund kicked off our Women's History Month video tributes with a shout-out to Karley Sciortino, who co-wrote the boundary-pushing Starz series. She also cited Sandra Bullock as an inspiration — and someone she wants to "be best friends with."
Kicking off #WomensHistoryMonth by asking some of our favorite women in TV to tell us their biggest inspirations in the industry.— TV Guide (@TVGuide) March 1, 2019
First up, @kelliberglund with a sweet shoutout for @NowApocSTARZ writer @Slutever ❤️ pic.twitter.com/EMBk9B79gW
Shadowhunters star Katherine McNamara told us why she admires history-making Emmy winner Viola Davis. "She can go from being the most powerful woman in the room one minute to completely breaking down and being the most vulnerable, human, intimate person the next," McNamara said.
"@violadavis's work is continually impeccable and she seems to be a wonderful person to boot. If there's anyone I've always looked up to, it's her." -@Kat_McNamara for our #WomensHistoryMonth series ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Wju12C236X— TV Guide (@TVGuide) March 4, 2019
In a sweet video, comedy icon Fran Drescher honored the original comedy icon for women in television, Lucille Ball. "She was magic on TV," said Drescher. "When I started The Nanny, I thought, 'I want to be like Lucy.'"
Appleby, the star of UnREAL and the original Roswell, gave it up for a number of women who inspire her — including Natalie Portman, Nora Ephron, and Jeanine Mason, star of The CW's Roswell reboot Roswell, New Mexico.
Janel Parrish and Sasha Pieterse
The stars of Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists are grateful to come from a show that's "driven by women" in front of the camera and behind the scenes, said Sasha Pieterse. Her co-star Janel Parrish also named Broadway legend Barbra Streisand as her stage-to-screen idol.
Fresh Off the Boat creator Nahnatchka Khan spoke for TV and movie fans everywhere with her charming tribute to Penny Marshall, star of Laverne & Shirley and director of films like A League of Their Own and Big. "I couldn't wait to get grown, so I could go and start living my life like Laverne," Khan recalled.
There's no denying the influence Lucille Ball had on the television industry. Vikings star Katheryn Winnick went deep on the trail-blazing TV icon. "Not only was she the funniest person on the planet on I Love Lucy, but she was also the very first person to be on the cover of TV Guide," Winnick said. (Ball shared the first cover of TV Guide Magazine with her newborn son, Desi Arnaz Jr.) The actress also pointed out that Ball was the first woman to run a major production company.
Arrow's Juliana Harkavy thanked actress, comedian, and singer-songwriter Hattie McDaniel for breaking so many barriers. McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her performance in Gone With the Wind, was "not only the first African-American woman, but the first African-American performer to ever win an Academy Award," Harkavy said. "She paved the way for so many of us women and women of color in this industry."
Nicole Maines, who's breaking ground herself as TV's first trans superhero, gave a shout out to the women of Supergirl for supporting her and lifting her up as a young woman in the industry. "I'm so honored to be able to go to work every day with women who inspire me," said Maines.
The Walking Dead's Lauren Ridloff recalled being inspired as a child by Marlee Matlin, who is still the only deaf performer to have won an Academy Award. "Just to see a woman like Marlee Matlin, who's beautiful, and her sign language was beautiful — I don't know, there was something that I could look forward to," Ridloff told TV Guide through an ASL translator.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of CBS Corporation.)