Earlier this month, news broke that Claire Foy was paid less than male co-star Matt Smith for her star-turn in the popular Netflix series The Crown and it stirred a significant amount of backlash online. In a March 24 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Claire Foy responded to The Crown pay controversy. She told the publication that she understood the reaction, but felt that the involuntarily put her and Smith in the spotlight.
"I’m surprised because I’m at the center of it, and anything that I’m at the center of like that is very very odd, and feels very very out of ordinary," Foy 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 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 center [of a story] that you didn’t particularly ask for.”
Bustle reached out to Netflix for comment regarding Foy's comments, but did not hear back at time of publication.
Left Bank issued the following statement to Bustle, when asked about Foy's comments:
"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. Claire and Matt are incredibly gifted actors who, along with the wider cast on The Crown have worked tirelessly to bring our characters to life with compassion and integrity.
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.
We all have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that these issues are tackled, and as a leading production company we want to make our contribution to the debate. As company policy we are engaged in conversations with ERA 50:50 and going forward are keen to talk to Times Up UK;organisations which are working to ensure all women have a voice.”
Foy's portrayal of a young Queen Elizabeth II was celebrated by both fans and critics. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination, and many reviews agreed that her nuanced portrait of the Queen made the show successful. Season 2 was Foy's finale season as Queen Elizabeth and next season, actor Olivia Colman will take over the role in The Crown.
In a panel at the INTV Conference in March, the producers acknowledged the pay discrepancy and attributed Smith's pay to his fame from starring as the eleventh Doctor in Doctor Who, according to Variety. “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen,” Mackie said during the panel, according to Variety.
On Sunday, March 25, actor Jared Harris, who played King George VI in the first season, told Digital Spy that he was unsatisfied with the production company's response. "I think it’s an embarrassment for Left Bank Pictures," Harris said in the interview. "It’s got nothing to do with Matt Smith. It’s probably nothing to do with Netflix either."
"I understand they made an apology but, you know, an apology and a check would be more welcome. She worked longer hours. Her performance is a huge reason why this thing is going to have a season three, four, five, and six. Send her a pay check and, in retrospect, bring her pay up to parity."
Despite the controversy, Foy told EW that she was excited to watch the next season of The Crown, which will star Colman as Queen Elizabeth. “I’ll be asking to see it earlier than it’s available,” Foy told the publication. “I can’t wait to see it. I think Olivia Colman’s amazing.”
It's frustrating that even in the key television roles, women are paid less as performers, but hopefully this will change that going forward.