Last year, Variety estimated that actress Claire Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth II, was compensated around $40,000 per episode for the first two seasons of the series. And this week, during a panel discussion about the show at the INTV Conference in Jerusalem, the show’s producers Suzanne Mackie and Andy Harries confirmed that Foy took home less than Matt Smith, who played her husband Prince Philip.
According to Variety, Mackie and Harries claimed that Smith’s higher salary was directly tied to his star status, developed during his four years as the lead on the beloved British series Doctor Who. That said, they also promised things would be different in seasons to come. “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen,” Mackie said.
While it’s positive that the pay scale will be rebalanced from here on out, at this point it won’t do Foy any good. The actress, who took home both a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award for her performance in seasons one and two, is done one the series: Season three moves the period drama decades forward into the 1970s, with Olivia Coleman in the role of a middle-aged Queen Elizabeth II. (Hugh Laurie is rumored to be stepping in to fill Smith’s shoes, though the casting hasn’t been confirmed.)
The gender wage gap has been a trending topic of conversation in entertainment circles dating back to the Sony hacks, when it was revealed that Jennifer Lawrence was paid significantly less than her American Hustle male co-stars; the roiling #MeToo revolution and Time’s Up initiative have put it squarely back into the spotlight over the past year. As a result, course correction around wages are headed in the right direction.
But if the star of a hit series about the Queen of the Commonwealth can’t get a fair shake on a hit show, then clearly we’ve got a long, long way to go.
Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, Octavia Spencer, and More of Hollywood’s Biggest Stars Demand Equal Pay
Oprah shared with Time magazine that in 1986 when her talk show became syndicated, the female producers were not getting paid enough. “Well, either my producers are going to get raises or I’m going to sit down. I just won’t work. I will not work unless they get paid more money,” she told the executives.
At CNN’s “Women in the World” salon, Viola Davis announced that she would no longer “hustle” for her worth, and reminded audiences that actresses of color get paid “a tenth of what a Caucasian woman gets” and “half of what a man is getting paid.”
When Patricia Arquette won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2015, she used her acceptance speech as an opportunity to remind Hollywood that “all women deserve equal pay” in every industry. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
“I don‘t like the fact that I get paid much less than the boys,” Quantico star Priyanka Chopra told the BBC in 2017. “I don‘t like the fact that the disparity is so massive.”
Meryl Streep has been a longtime supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. In 2015, the actress revealed that she is still paid less than her male co-stars. While promoting her Oscar-nominated film The Post, Streep told Gloria Steinem, “Equal means equal. And if it starts at the top, none of these shenanigans would have filtered down and it wouldn’t have been tolerated.”
In August 2017, Amy Schumer revealed that she negotiated for more than the initial $11 million offer for her Netflix special, The Leather Special, due to the fact that comedians Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle were offered $20 million each for their own respective specials.
Jessica Chastain made headlines in January 2018, when it was revealed that she negotiated higher salaries for herself and Octavia Spencer in an upcoming holiday comedy film starring both actresses. Spencer told the story for her, explaining, “She said, ‘Octavia. we’re gonna get you paid on this film… You and I are gonna be tied together. We’re gonna be favored nations, and we’re gonna make the same thing.’ Fast-forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.”
In July of 2017 Emma Stone told Out Magazine that “In my career so far, I’ve needed my male co-stars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them. And that’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair.”
“Here’s the thing, women of color on that spectrum, we make far less than white women. So, if we’re gonna have that conversation about pay equity, we gotta bring the women of color to the table,” Octavia Spencer said to her co-star Jessica Chastain when the two decided to negotiate a salary raise for their upcoming joint project.
In October 2015, Jennifer Lawrence published an essay on Lenny, titled “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co‑Stars?” which tackled her questions about the wage gap in Hollywood.
Charlize Theron discovered her The Huntsman: Winter’s War co-star Chris Hemsworth made more money than she did, and negotiated a $10 million increase in salary. “This is a good time for us to bring this to a place of fairness, and girls need to know that being a feminist is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that you hate men. It means equal rights. If you’re doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated in the same way,” she told Elle UK.
“I knew I was being paid less,” Amy Adams told Vanity Fair about her role in American Hustle.
In support of the Equal Pay Day initiative, Kerry Washington tweeted, “Equal pay for equal work.”
When asked by a journalist about pay disparity in Hollywood, Julianne Moore replied, “I think that that’s something that’s not endemic just to show business, but I think that it’s something that we’re all dealing with. That was what the Lilly Ledbetter Act is all about.”
“I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts,” Emma Watson said in a speech about gender equality at the United Nations as the U.N. Women’s Goodwill Ambassador in 2014.
In a 2014 essay titled “Gender Equality Is a Myth!”, Beyoncé wrote that “Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.”