Viola Davis is a big name in Hollywood these days. So big, she was recently asked to speak with Women in the World CEO Tina Brown about her role in pop culture. During the conversation, which happened on Wednesday, Davis took the opportunity to talk about her career in Hollywood, slamming the pay gap she and other women of color have faced in Hollywood over the years. According to the actress,
I have a career that's probably comparable to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver. They had the same path as me, and yet I am nowhere near them. Not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities, nowhere close to it. People say, 'You're a black Meryl Streep ... We love you. There is no one like you.' OK, then if there's no one like me, you think I'm that, you pay me what I'm worth.
Viola Davis has been acting since the nineties, however it took her some time to step into the limelight. Her early roles included "Social Worker" in Traffic and "Policewoman" in Kate & Leopold. Gradually, Davis began to be noticed more in Hollywood, earning bigger roles on TV and movies, but it was only after she took a key supporting role in Doubt opposite Meryl Streep that she started gaining momentum in terms of acclaim. Now she headlines big TV shows like How To Get Away With Murder, she has her foot in the door in the superhero world, and she's earned three Academy Awards nods, winning for Fences last year.
Not everyone has an overnight path to fame. Some people work in bit parts for years before landing a leading gig. However, according to what Viola Davis recently said to Tina Brown (via Mashable), it's not about being the most famous person in Hollywood, it's about getting more opportunities. Per Davis:
We get probably a tenth of what a Caucasian woman gets. And I'm number one on the call sheet.
Her comments are coming during a week that features Black Panther hitting theaters to what should end up being big box office returns. It's also coming during a time in which inequalities, both in payment and in opportunities, are being increasingly talked about in public. It seems like momentum is growing, and some evidence of change, at least in individualized circumstances, have emerged. Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer negotiated their salaries together in order to make sure their pay was equal. Saturday Night Live added more voices of color, and more and more films are making diversity a growing priority.
Here's to hoping the best and brightest keep rising to the top and start getting paid fairly when they do, regardless of what age, race or gender they might be.