Octavia Spencer told a really great Show Your Work story at Sundance this week. Octavia and Jessica Chastain are good friends. Over a year ago, Jessica reached out to Octavia because she wanted them to do a movie together. During those discussions, they talked about pay equity and how men are paid so much more in Hollywood than women. But Octavia took it further and wanted Jessica to understand that while there is pay inequality between men and women, women of colour are paid even less. What ended up happening is that they’re doing the movie now. And they’re getting paid the same. Which is five times more than what they asked for originally.
This is called “favoured nations” and Duana has brought it up during the last two episodes of Show Your Work. It’s what the cast of Friends did, negotiating to each be paid the same ($1 million/episode) during the final two seasons. Jessica Chastain, after learning from Octavia Spencer, backed up Octavia and insisted on a favoured nations clause to the deal.
Watch the video starting at 19:30 – it’s only 5 minutes and it’s well worth your time:
F-ck yes, right? And while Octavia, of course, is giving credit to Jessica for “walking the walk”, as the moderator points out, Octavia had to make herself vulnerable, having a potentially uncomfortable conversation with a friend about the different levels of privilege, in order for this to have happened in the first place. Credit to both of them then for putting in the work, in this case taking the time to have these awkward conversations, in order to get a place where equality can happen.
Last week, when I posted about Tracee Ellis Ross’s contract negotiations on black-ish, it came out of a report from The Hollywood Reporter that at Time’s Up meetings now, women are getting transparent about money, sharing pay information so that other women might be better prepared as they negotiate their salaries and demand to be paid to their value. This is exactly what Octavia and Jessica have done. And in doing so, both came out ahead. Which must be terrifying to the status quo and the institutions that have, up to this point, tried to discourage it.
In November, on Show Your Work, Duana and I podcasted about The Hollywood Reporter’s actress roundtable Jessica Chastain was there alongside Mary J Blige, Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, and Allison Janney. During that conversation, we noted that it was consistently Jessica who would direct the conversation over to Mary, to ask about Mary’s experiences, to get her thoughts on whatever it was they were talking about. I think back now to that interview and I wonder if that’s part of what Jessica learned from Octavia. Over a year ago, her friend Octavia got real with her. And she was listening. We should all be so lucky to have friends like that, to teach us what we don’t know and to guide us when we do wrong, even though they don’t have to.