For the stellar actress Robin Wright to receive equal compensation as her co-star, Kevin Spacey, in the hugely popular (and profitable) Netflix drama, “House of Cards,” she needed to channel the steel and ice of her character, First Lady Claire Underwood. In typical Claire Underwood style, she leveraged her request for equal pay with the promise to go public regarding the pay gap between her and Kevin Spacey. The Netflix executives agreed; and, after three seasons of earning $420,000 to Spacey’s $500,000, she is now being compensated equally.
Robin Wright shared her experiences with the Netflix executives last May, 2016 when she was being interviewed by Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation during an Insight Dialogues interview program.
Wright’s request to Netflix was clear, “I want to be paid the same as Kevin.”
“It was the perfect paradigm,” Wright told the audience. “There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal. And they are in ‘House of Cards.’”
Wright had earned the prestigious Golden Globe Award in 2014 for her work on the highly acclaimed series - one year before Kevin Spacey received the Golden Globe in 2015 for Best Actor.
Both Wright and Spacey serve as executive producers of the show; Wright has not only appeared in every episode of “House of Cards,” she has also directed seven episodes.
Last year, Wright’s daughter, Dylan Penn, brought up the pay disparity between her mother and Spacey in an interview with the magazine “Marie-Claire,” simply calling it “crazy” and emphatically stated that Spacey and her mother “equally grab the attention of the audience.”
And, after examining the data that proved that Wright’s character, Claire Underwood, was actually more popular that Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood for a period of time, Wright decided to seize the day and approached the network.
Wright’s recall of her experience came when Judith Rodin had asked her about the barriers confronting women in advancing their careers and Wright had mentioned the pay equity gap.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, It is a common and uncomfortable fact that in 2016, women still earn less than men in 439 major occupations. In 2015, women earn only 79 cents for every dollar made by a white man - and widens still for women of color.
How Hollywood compensates their leading actors and actresses is a subject Hollywood attempts to avoid. When actress Patricia Arquette won the Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in “Boyhood” in 2015, and grabbed the opportunity to raise the subject of Hollywood pay inequity in her acceptance speech, she was out of the running for several upcoming roles.
However, despite her temporary freeze in Hollywood, Arquette’s bravery in speaking out encouraged another Academy Award-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence, to take a stand. Last October, Lawrence expounded on the subject in an essay published in Lena Dunham’s newsletter, “Lenny:”
“Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share.”
Lawrence’s essay then sparked actresses Kerry Washington and Carey Mulligan to talk publicly about the issue.
Actress Sharon Stone continued on the subject in an interview with “People” magazine last November. Stone emphasized that equal pay will begin in Hollywood when all women are paid what they are worth. “Not just for movie stars,” stated Stone, “but regular pay for the regular woman in the regular job.”
However, the perennial question always appears when discussing such large Hollywood salaries: why would women complain when they are making millions of dollars, unlike the untold millions of women working without a decent salary or the chance of advancement.
Actress Susan Sarandon answered that question last month at the Cannes Film Festival.
“It’s about respect,” Sarandon emphasized. “It’s not about the money.”
Social media users applauded Wright’s story for receiving equal pay. Until the day comes when pay equity is not an issue, Wright’s ability to channel Claire Underwood’s uncompromising stance in achieving her goals will be utilized.
Published by Nancy Snyder