Julia Roberts' Activist Roles

From "Runaway Bride" to "Pretty Woman," Julia Roberts has established herself as America's sweetheart throughout her storied career. However, the queen of romantic comedies has also made it a point to take on movie roles with a social agenda.  They have ranged form high profile – playing environmental activist and attorney Erin Brockovich in the eponymous film – to small-scale flicks that showcased her talents. Though Roberts has eschewed the spotlight in recent years to focus on her family, she recently lent her voice to embody Mother Nature in a film for nonprofit environmental group Conservation International. 

Roberts' talents will shine again as she narrates screen again as she narrates "MAKERS: Women in Hollywood," a film that tracks female pioneers and present-day power players in the entertainment industry. The documentary premieres tonight on PBS at 9/8c, then catch it on Wednesday, October 8 at 8 PM ET via MAKERS.com.

Revisit Roberts’ career moves, from charming actor to committed activist, in the gallery above.

See the stars who light up ‘MAKERS: Women in Hollywood’ in the trailer below. 




In "Erin Brockovich," Roberts played the iconic litigator with no formal training who solved a case of drinking water contamination in the California town of Hinkley. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. Hear Brockovich tell her own story on MAKERS.

In 2004's "Mona Lisa Smile," Roberts played Katherine Watson, an art history teacher who encouraged her students to reject traditional societal confines like marriage and young motherhood. One of her pupils dedicates an editorial to her: "My teacher, Katherine Watson, lived by her own definition, and would not compromise that. Not even for Wellesley."

Julia Roberts executive produced "Samantha: An American Girl Holiday," a made-for-video film based on the American Girl dolls and their companion books. American Girl dolls taught aspects of American history to young girls by introducing them to children who lived during those eras. Samantha was a wealthy girl living in the early 20th century; when she met three orphan children, she became an advocate against child labor. 

In 2000, Roberts narrated Silent Angels: The Rett Syndrome Story, a documentary about a rare neurodevelopmental disorder Rett syndrome meant to raise public awareness.

Julia Roberts joined the “Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief”  telethon organized by George Clooney in 2010. Here, she discusses with Reese Witherspoon.

Julia Roberts headlines Conservation International's film series as Mother Nature, while Kevin Spacey voices the rainforest and Harrison Ford plays the ocean. Coupled with panoramic views of natural beauty around the world, Roberts' Mother Nature is a goosebump-inducing performance--she's not as docile as we thought. Towards the end of the video, she's heartbreakingly aloof: "Your actions will determine your fate, not mine." Watch here.

Tonight, watch "MAKERS: Women in Hollywood" to hear Roberts' latest contribution to positive social movement. Women like Shonda Rhimes, Lena Dunham, Sherry Lansing, and more talk about their experiences as pioneers in entertainment.

Shonda Rhimes is a screenwriter, director and producer. A Dartmouth undergraduate, Rhimes studied screenwriting at USC and earned a Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship Award. In 2001, Rhimes wrote Crossroads, Britney Spears’ film debut, then penned one of Anne Hathaway’s first starring roles in The Princess Diaries 2.   In 2005, Grey’s Anatomy debuted on ABC. Rhimes created the show and currently executive produces and serves as head writer. The show is about to enter its eleventh season and has been nominated for over 25 Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2007, Rhimes created and produced the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Private Practice. In 2011, ABC picked up Scandal, Rhimes’ series starring Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a political crisis management expert. The series debuted in 2012. Next up, Rhimes will be producing How to Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis as a hard-hitting law professor.