Claire Foy never wanted her role on Netflix’s The Crown to be remembered as an example of wage discrimination, but she didn’t have much choice. She says that after two years of working on the show, she was “deeply hurt” to discover the “big, fat, dirty secret” that her co-star/supporting character Matt Smith was making about $13,000 more per episode, news which one of the producers admitted at a panel discussion in March. In a feature for the new issue of Net-a-Porter, Foy says:
I was deeply hurt by it...because I’d been working on that show for two years. I loved everybody on it. And then I realized, there’s been a big, fat, dirty secret that nobody’s ever talked about. But then there was also that thing [of being] an inadvertent spokesperson. Why did it have to be me? I could have said nothing. And I think everyone would have preferred that. But I thought, if I do that, I will be cheating myself and all the other women I know.
Her case was particularly outrageous not only because of the sizable chunk of money, but also because Foy played Queen Elizabeth in a show about Queen Elizabeth and was therefore in approximately 99% of the scenes; also it was a show about a woman who is the dominant character of... England. The producers’ line was that Smith got more for his name recognition from his previous starring role in Doctor Who, but Foy alone received a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and two SAG awards for her work on the show.
Foy’s still aware of the fact that starring in a high-profile and already well-paying role opens her up to criticism about what’s fair. But silence enables silence:
You feel lucky to have a job. It’s so competitive. So, in that way, they rely on competitiveness and actors’ vulnerability to say, “They’ll accept it for 10 grand less.”
In April, The Daily Mail reported that The Crown had promised her $275,000 in backpay, and producers Left Bank Pictures offered this statement:
As the producers of The Crown, we are responsible for budgets and salaries. The actors are not aware of who gets what and cannot be held personally responsible for the pay of their colleagues. We are absolutely united with the fight for fair pay, free of gender bias and for a rebalancing of the industry’s treatment of women in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
In July, Foy said she had never been offered or paid the additional sum.