If Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon's reported salaries for Big Little Lies Season 2 are anything to go by, change may actually be afoot in the entertainment industry. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kidman and Witherspoon will reportedly be paid $1 million per episode for the second season. It's a significant increase from their Season 1 salaries, reportedly receiving between $250,000 and $350,000 per episode. In addition to starring on the show, they both serve as executive producers. Their co-stars, like Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodley, also appear to be receiving significant pay raises for Season 2. But this story isn't about money: It's about Hollywood finally acknowledging the value of women, their stories, and their work in a tangible manner. Most importantly — it's about damn time.
THR reported that Apple had previously set a precedent for TV salaries by paying Witherspoon and Aniston upward of $1.25 million per episode for an untitled morning show drama. With the salaries of the mostly female main cast of Big Little Lies following suit, the show is sending a clear message about what these actors are worth. And it's a major deal when you consider that the wage gap between men and women in Hollywood has remained a pressing topic in the past couple of years.
Recently, USA Today revealed Michelle Williams earned only 1 percent of Mark Wahlberg's salary for reshooting their scenes in All The Money In The World. Catt Sadler left E! after learning her co-host, Jason Kennedy, was reportedly making double her salary "and has been for several years." (However, E! said in a statement to Bustle: "E! compensates employees fairly and appropriately based on their roles, regardless of gender.") And at the start of 2017, Oscar winner Natalie Portman revealed that Ashton Kutcher was reportedly paid three times her salary for the 2011 movie No Strings Attached. And these are just three examples of an issue that's been happening, as Jessica Chastain once said, "for years and years and years."
The salaries these women talk about may be staggering to those of us dealing with a more everyday incomes, but they still reflect a deeper societal issue wherein women are paid less than men across various industries. So when an industry as visible as Hollywood makes bold attempts to adjust that balance, as seen with Big Little Lies, it can give hope to all of us that change is finally be happening.
On Wednesday, Grey's Anatomy star, Ellen Pompeo gave a truly inspirational interview to The Hollywood Reporter, which also appeared to suggest so much. Discussing how she managed to negotiate a salary increase to earn $20 million a year for her role in the primetime drama, Pompeo revealed that Shonda Rhimes gave her some advice: "Decide what you think you're worth and then ask for what you think you're worth. Nobody's just going to give it to you." Pompeo also divulged that she basically entered negotiations doing nothing differently to how a man would:
"As a woman, what I know is you can't approach anything from a point of view of 'I don't deserve' or 'I'm not going to ask for because I don't want other people to get upset.' And I know for a fact that when men go into these negotiations, they go in hard and ask for the world."
It's exhilarating to hear a woman encouraging another to demand her desired salary. But it's also empowering to witness Pompeo's outright confidence in following up on that advice and being a total boss about it. It hardly feels like a coincidence that we're seeing such salary changes, and the confidence in women to demand them, and support each other in doing so, during a moment defined by the Time's Up movement.
Emily Nussbaum, TV critic for The New Yorker, shared her own thoughts on that idea in a Twitter thread regarding Pompeo's THR interview. Starting by enthusing that she was "blown away" by Pompeo's "refreshing bluntness about money & negotiations," Nussbaum went on to speculate the effect that the current movement may be having in encouraging women to support each other about salaries. She tweeted,
"The interview actually made me wonder if a big side effect of Time's Up might be solidarity among actresses on issues other than sexual violence, because it's a golden opportunity to exchange information."
It's hard to argue with that observation. Especially when you remember that Emma Watson once told Esquire, "We are not supposed to talk about money because people will think you're ‘difficult’ or a ‘diva,’" and that Kathy Griffin once expressed to Variety, "I think it’s part of the male industrial complex to keep women quiet about what their salaries are." The time has definitely been called on staying silent about salaries and not encouraging other women to speak up and demand what they're worth. That counts as much for physical safety and having our boundaries respected as it does for being paid as well as men.
The extraordinary salaries the Big Little Lies cast are reportedly being paid will hopefully help set a precedent for all women on the big and small screen to demand a fair and sizable income for themselves, too. And maybe the rest of America will soon follow suit, and finally embrace the reasonable demand that each and every woman be paid what she's worth.