A Queen’s Ransom: gender-pay gap scandal in The Crown

It has been revealed that the star of the Netflix tv series The Crown, Claire Foy, has been paid less than co-star Matt Smith. Amidst all the rising commentary around the gender wage gap, it was particularly interesting, and somewhat disheartening, to note that this is unlikely to change anything. As the leading lady, the Queen of England, and the heart of the series, it is unacceptable that Foy ispaid one penny less than she rightfully deserves. The entire series was buoyed by her skill and characterisation of Elizabeth II, and this should be rightfully acknowledged as such by paying Foy a fair salary. The producers commented that Smith was worth more because of his previous career in Doctor Who, but it wasn’t Smith who won a Golden Globe last year for his performance in The Crown– it was Claire Foy.

While producer Suzzane Mackie reportedly told an audience during a panel in Jerusalem on the 13thMarch that, “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen,” this is too little too late. Olivia Coleman has been cast as the next Queen Elizabeth for series three, therefore Claire Foy will remain cheated for what was undoubtedly a stunning performance displaying wit, ingenuity and character. It seems that these statements were only made to placate the audience and it remains to be seen whether any higher paying contracts will be issued to the female side of the spectacular cast. Series producers Left Bank Pictures have apologised about the pay disparity between Foy and Smith, but what good will an apology do when it was only to pacify complaints? Quite frankly, it’s an embarrassment that in 2018 the lead actors were not paid the same salary and their apology should have been made monetarily for it to hold a degree of sincerity.

Foy was reportedly paid £28,000 an episode but it has yet to be revealed the amount Matt Smith was also paid. Perhaps Smith was only paid a thousand or two more than Foy, and this entire scandal has been exacerbated by the media and by recent debates surrounding gender-pay controversy. However, it seems more likely that Smith’s salary is being desperately hidden from the media to avoid any further criticism. A petition has been launched for Matt Smith to pay a large part of his salary to the Time’s Up Movement and demands that Smith and Netflix “make up for this sexist pay gap by donating the difference in their paychecksto the Time’s Up Legal Defence Fund for Sexual Harassment & Abuse Victims”. But, why should Matt Smith have to donate his salary when he earned it rightfully alongside Foy? Like Foy, Matt Smith was incredible in his portrayal of a young Prince Philip; he was dynamic, mercurial and profoundly poignant. There should be no criticism ofMatt Smith when he has not committed any offence. It is Left Bank Pictures and the producers who ought to have more condemnation; the actors were not aware of what their colleagues were paid and so not only have no jurisdiction but no knowledge to comment.

Left Bank Pictures said that: “We all have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that these issues are tackled, and as a leading production company we want to make our contribution to the debate. As companypolicy, we are engaged in conversations with ERA 50:50 and going forward are keen to talk to Time’s Up UK – organisations which are working to ensure all women have a voice.” This is incredibly ironic that they want to make their positive ‘contribution’, but have instead restricted, disparaged and impeded the leading female protagonist in their show.

What prerogatives does this scandal set for the future? That a pay imbalance is fine if the producers apologise for it after the fact? Instead of fumbling for excuses and dodging important questions that need answering, Left Bank Pictures, and the film and entertainment industry as a whole, need to consider enforcing real change. Their ‘responsibility’ should not be to avoid blame as they mollify the audience, but to take real, fundamental steps towards a better, more inclusive and more equal industry that isn’t built on the skeletons of sexism, racism and corruption that have pervaded it thus far.

Stephanie Bennett

(Image: Pedestrian TV)