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SHOW ME THE MONEY

Robin Wright used a brilliant Claire Underwood-like tactic to get equal pay on “House of Cards”

Adam Epstein
By Adam Epstein

Entertainment reporter

On House of Cards, Claire Underwood is a ruthless schemer, a dogged postulant of power in the vein of Lady Macbeth. She is every bit the equal of her husband, US president Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey). Often, she is even more impressive and imposing than he is.

By all accounts, Robin Wright, who plays Claire Underwood on the Netflix series, is nothing like her character. But recently, she negotiated a higher salary—one equal to that of Spacey’s—in a way that would make Claire proud.

Spacey reportedly made $500,000 per episode in 2014. Forbes reported that Wright made $5.5 million in total from the show in 2015, which comes out to $420,000 per episode.

“I was like, ‘I want to be paid the same as Kevin,’ ” Wright said in an interview at the Rockefeller Foundation on Tuesday (May 17), according to the Huffington Post. “It was the perfect paradigm. 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.”

When the show began in 2013, Spacey was clearly the main draw. As an executive producer, he helped get the show off the ground. But Wright’s Claire quickly became a fan favorite, and by the show’s fourth season (released in March), she was arguably even more central to the storyline than Frank. Wright is certainly deserving of being paid the same as Spacey now.

“I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood’s character was more popular than [Frank’s] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it,” Wright said. “I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public.’ And they did.”

The gender pay gap in Hollywood has gotten increased attention recently, partially due to Patricia Arquette’s riveting speech on the topic at the Oscars in 2015. Later that year, Jennifer Lawrence penned a piece in Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter after one of the Sony hacks revealed she was paid less than her co-stars in the film American Hustle:

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. Again, this might have NOTHING to do with my vagina, but I wasn’t completely wrong when another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a “spoiled brat.” For some reason, I just can’t picture someone saying that about a man.

Lawrence expressed disappointment in herself for not negotiating a better deal, while acknowledging that, as a woman, she was inherently at a disadvantage at the negotiating table. It shouldn’t require a Claire Underwood-like maneuver for a female actress—or any working woman—to earn the pay she deserves.

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