There is a reckoning taking place right now in Hollywood and society at large around how women are treated and how much women make compared to men for the same job. This disparity even extends to famous Hollywood actresses. Co-stars of The Help and friends, actresses Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain were discussing this issue and the possibility of working together on an upcoming comedy when the former revealed that the problem is even worse for women of color. Upon hearing this, Jessica Chastain assured her friend that this inequity would not stand on their film, as Octavia Spencer recalled:
She said, 'Octavia we're gonna get you paid on this film. You and I are gonna be tied together. We're gonna be favored nations, and we're gonna make the same thing.' Fast forward to last week, we're making five times what we asked for.
That's pretty incredible, and as Octavia Spencer also noted, Jessica Chastain is talking the talk and walking the walk. She isn't just speaking about pay equity, but is actively pursuing it in projects she is a part of. Octavia Spencer revealed this awesome story while speaking during the Women Breaking Barriers panel at Sundance (via Page Six) and became visibly emotional while doing so. That's an incredible thing for a friend to make happen for you. Receiving five times the pay you asked for is a huge deal no matter what tax bracket you fall into. But what's likely more meaningful than that is the knowledge that you and your co-star are both being treated fairly and equally. This has to be a huge moment for Octavia Spencer, who has probably spent the majority of her career feeling and knowing that this was not the case.
Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her work in The Help and has received another two nominations since then, including one this year for her supporting role in Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water. Her pay should obviously not be less as a black woman, but should also be elevated in such a way to reflect this level of accomplishment. While we don't have any details on the comedy Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer will be working on together, it will be interesting to see the two actresses who are known more for their dramatic work getting a chance to show something different and getting paid what they deserve while doing so. Hopefully this studio's decision to exceed the actresses' demands will set a positive precedent going forward.
If pay equity is going to be achieved regardless of race or gender, studios being on the right side of history and willing to deliver more than lip service. It will also take people standing up for their beliefs and fighting to achieve the reality they want. Clearly Jessica Chastain is one of those people. She can be seen later this year in a very mysterious role in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, hitting theaters on November 2, and Octavia Spencer will be vying for her second Oscar at the 90th Academy Awards on March 4.