For Emmys season, The Hollywood Reporter has convened its regular roundtables of champions and contenders in each category, and the Comedy Actress edition is a real tearjerker. Featuring Emmy Rossum, Issa Rae, America Ferrera, Pamela Adlon, Minnie Driver, and Katherine Hahn—gods, all—they got very real about the vagaries of being a funny woman working, and trying to be taken seriously, in Hollywood.
In addition to their discussion of parity in the realm of male-female nudity (Rae: “Let’s see some dicks”) and the way they’ve been treated like objects in auditions and attempts at securing parts (Rossum was once asked to show up to an audition in a bikini to make sure she had not gained weight), the five talked about the aspect that makes inequity most apparent: their checks.
Rossum, of course, spoke about her successful negotiations with Showtime for pay equal to (or more than) her Shameless costar William H. Macy, saying that the salary stalemate began to move right along once the issue became public:
ROSSUM: It wasn’t public for a long time when it was going on. And when it was finally public, it kind of took me aback. But as it was happening, I’ll tell you the person who supported me the most was William H. Macy. To have the man counterpart on my show be like, “Yes, she does deserve this and more” was so validating. And after it became public, it was a quick resolution.
Unfortunately, the other actors could relate to Rossum’s experience, with Adlon saying she had similar negotiations while on Californication, and bringing up another brilliant woman comedian who was ousted for asking to be paid what her work was worth:
ADLON Suzanne Somers went through this with Three’s Company, and they got rid of her. She was a huge star on that show. And I know everybody thinks it’s fluffy, stupid ‘80s, but she was on the cover of every magazine. She was massive. She’s a fascinating woman. They made a documentary about this. And basically, she asked for equal pay, and they not only said no, they said, “You’re fired.” And she had to come and do one final scene where they let her in the back of the set, they made a fake Hawaii porch for her, and she calls Jack and Janet, and she’s like, “I’m in Hawaii. I’m never coming back. Bye.”
DRIVER Oh, my God.
ADLON They escorted her out, not to see anybody, and that was it.
They discuss the barriers against women actors bringing up pay disparity—generally, the fear that people will threaten not to work with them—but fight against it anyway, reassuring one another that it’s the right thing to do. In the end, though, Rossum levels a good point, and a good motivator for asking for equal pay: “I think when they start paying you more, they actually respect you more.”