How The Crown’s Salary Problems Changed Netflix As A Whole

the crown elizabeth philip claire foy matt smith netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

The Crown brought Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to the small screen in an unprecedented (and pricy) way, and the Netflix series was a hit with viewers and critics alike. The show made headlines for an unfortunate reason after the second season released, when news broke that actor Matt Smith was paid more for his work on the show than Claire Foy, who starred as Elizabeth II. Given that Foy was undeniably the lead of the series, many were shocked and dismayed at the revelation.

As it turns out, the salary issues from The Crown changed Netflix as a whole, as Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos recently explained:

The show turned out to be an enormous show for Netflix and it was an incredible launching pad for Claire Foy’s career. I can’t comment on her salary, I wasn’t in charge of it. But there was a disparity. What it did for us is, it had us go back and look at all of our productions and all of our productions that were being run by third parties, to make sure none of those disparities existed.

Ted Sarandos’ comments indicate that Netflix decided to make a change based on what happened with The Crown, even though the pay disparity between what Matt Smith and what Claire Foy took home was actually the result of a third party. Netflix licensed The Crown from Sony Pictures Television, and the salaries were determined by producers at Left Bank Pictures.

While Matt Smith was better known than Claire Foy when The Crown released thanks to his role as The Doctor on Doctor Who, he undeniably played a supporting role to Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, and Claire Foy won at both the Emmys and the Golden Globes for her performances.

Many were outraged on Claire Foy’s behalf when the news of the disparity broke, and Left Bank Pictures addressed the situation by apologizing to the actors, who were not aware of any pay disparity and were not responsible for it. Furthermore, Left Bank stated that they “are absolutely united with the fight for fair pay.”

The news of pay disparity on The Crown didn’t break until Season 2 was already completed and released, so any changes in how pay is handled at Netflix won’t affect what Claire Foy made for the show. It’s unfortunate for her, but hopefully Ted Sarandos and Netflix will make good on the intention to make sure that pay disparities do not exist. Something good can come out of the situation.

Ted Sarandos went on at the 2019 MAKERS Conference in Dana Point, CA (via Deadline) to answer a question as to whether Netflix now sets guidelines for in-house work and business partners, saying this:

It’s in practice, it isn’t a plaque we hang on the wall. It’s something that we do every day. I think that the Claire/Matt issue, as complicated as it is, pointed to a bigger problem throughout the industry. We were able to find a couple of other ones we were able to adjust.

The content chief didn’t name any projects or actors with pay disparity that needed to be changed, but it’s good news that adjustments were made. Netflix has been known to shell out the big bucks for hits, as is obvious from the reported earnings for the Stranger Things cast in Season 3.

I think it’s probably safe to say that any parity issues from the first two seasons of The Crown won’t apply to future seasons, which will star a new cast as the show jumps ahead in the timeline of Elizabeth II’s life.

You can find the first two seasons of The Crown, starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, streaming on Netflix now. Foy never expected the show to be as big a hit with Americans as it turned out to be, and her career has flourished on the American side of the pond. For some additional streaming options now and in the coming weeks, check out our 2019 Netflix premiere guide.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).