Carrie Preston is the latest actress to speak up about Hollywood’s gender wage gap.
The actress from True Blood and The Good Wife told Time Magazine’s Motto that after discovering she was paid less than her male colleagues on one show, she tried but failed to secure equal pay on the next. “I was on a TV show and found out in the final season that I had been making a good deal less than a male actor who had a comparable size role as me,” she said without naming the show. “So for my next TV deal, I requested equal pay. I was told I got it, only to find out my male costar still got extra perks that I didn’t.”
Actors are in a particularly difficult spot if they discover they’re being unfairly paid, Preston explained. “Unfortunately, actors’ salaries get set before work commences, even before the final audition in a lot of cases,” she said. While initial deals are sometimes renegotiated later if a show is popular, “Otherwise we have to be content with the initial deal. It is very hard to fight it.”
But she does think that sunshine would be a useful disinfectant for the industry’s pay gap. “It’s hard to know the truth,” she said. “I think transparency is the only way… Many people would not like it, but it would help force employers to be more fair.”
The drive toward greater transparency around the issue has led to a number of female stars talking about being unfairly paid less than male ones. Gillian Anderson disclosed that she was initially offered half of David Duchovny’s pay for the recent “X-Files” reboot after fighting for years to close her pay gap during the show’s initial run in the 1990s. Charlize Theron said publicly that she was paid $10 million less than Chris Hemsworth for “The Huntsman.”
Anderson and Theron were able to secure equal pay, but other actresses haven’t had the same luck. Amanda Seyfried said she was paid just 10 percent of what a male costar made for a big-budget movie. Lilly Tomlin and Jane Fonda have said they are paid the same as Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston for “Grace and Frankie” even though the men aren’t main characters. The Sony hack revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams made significantly less than their male costars Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremey Renner in “American Hustle.” Sienna Miller said she even walked away from a Broadway play after being offered less than half of the male co-star’s pay.
One step toward equal pay would be male actors getting involved. Bradley Cooper recently said he’s going to team up with female costars to negotiate pay together at the outset.
But Hollywood’s wage gap is a big chasm to close. The highest-paid actors make far more than the highest-paid actresses — for example, Robert Downey, Jr., the best paid actor, makes more than the combined pay of the two top actresses, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence. Some of the problem is that women get fewer opportunities to take on the leading roles that pay the best, but when they are given that chance, they bring in more money than men.