Two of the stars of Netflix's Emmy-winning drama series The Crown have responded to the controversy brewing since last week when it became public that Matt Smith, who played Prince Philip in the first two seasons, earned more than star Claire Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth II. Foy told EW, “I’m surprised because I’m at the center of it, and anything that I’m at the center of like that is very very odd, and feels very very out of ordinary...But I’m not [surprised about the interest in the story] in the sense that it was a female-led drama. I’m not surprised that people saw [the story] and went, ‘Oh, that’s a bit odd.’ But I know that Matt [Smith] feels the same that I do, that it’s odd to find yourself at the center [of a story] that you didn’t particularly ask for.”
Her co-star Jared Harris, who played Elizabeth's father, the late King George VI in the series' first season, was less diplomatic and, in fact, suggested that Left Bank, the show's production company, owed Foy cash. “I understand [Left Bank] made an apology but, you know, an apology and a check would be more welcome,” he said, per Vulture. “She worked longer hours. Her performance is a huge reason why this thing is going to have a season three, four, five, and six … send her a pay check and, in retrospect, bring her pay up to parity.”
General consensus is that Smith, coming off a stint as the lead in mega-popular BBC series Doctor Who, was able to negotiate a higher salary due to his name recognition, but that there's still a smack of sexism when you pay your female lead, who is in many more scenes than her male co-star, less. This is not a mistake Left Bank intends to repeat. In a statement, Left Bank creative director Suzanne Mackie said, “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the queen.” The third and fourth seasons of the show will star Olivia Colman as Elizabeth.