British actress Claire Foy has responded to outrage over the revelation she was paid less than her male co-star Matt Smith for her role on Netflix series The Crown, saying she’s “not surprised” people are angry.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Foy said she felt “odd” being at the centre of the controversy, which erupted when The Crown’s producers told a March 10 conference Smith was paid more for the show’s first two seasons because he was better known.
“I’m surprised because I’m at the centre of it, and anything that I’m at the centre of like that is very very odd, and feels very very out of ordinary,” she told EW.
“But I’m not [surprised about the interest in the story] in the sense that it was a female-led drama. I’m not surprised that people saw [it] and went, ‘Oh, that’s a bit odd.’
“But I know that Matt feels the same that I do, that it’s odd to find yourself at the centre [of a story] that you didn’t particularly ask for.”
While Foy, 33, was a relative unknown when she was cast in the lead role of Queen Elizabeth II, her male co-star, Smith, 35, had starred in BBC series Doctor Who.
However, fans of The Crown, which follows the Queen’s journey from young newlywed to monarch, were stunned Foy was paid less given she plays the lead role, has the most screen time and won a Golden Globe for her performance.
An online petition directed at both Smith and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, demanding they donate the difference between Smith and Foy’s pay to the Time’s Up movement, has received over 45,000 signatures.
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Left Bank Pictures, the production company behind The Crown, issued a statement claiming responsibility for the uneven pay and recognising it had a duty to combat inequality.
“We want to apologise to both Claire Foy and to Matt Smith, brilliant actors and friends, who have found themselves at the centre of a media storm this week through no fault of their own,” the statement said.
“As the producers of The Crown, we at Left Bank Pictures 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 understand and appreciate the conversation which is rightly being played out across society and 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, both those in front of the camera and for those behind the scenes.”
The show’s producers have promised that, going forward, “no one gets paid more than the Queen”. unfortunately for Foy, her run on the show has ended, meaning she will not benefit from the policy change.