Another day, another female actor being paid less than her male co-star. This time it’s been reported by The Telegraph that Poldark's Eleanor Tomlinson is paid less than Aidan Turner, her on-screen husband. During an interview with Red, Tomlinson said she’d be "pretty upset" to discover a disparity in pay between the two leads, though at the time the actors had yet to discuss their salaries with each other. However, the newspaper reports production company Mammoth Screen has since confirmed her suspicions. Is there a word for being simultaneously entirely unsurprised and entirely infuriated?
Tomlinson has played Demelza, the passionate, resolutely independent wife of Turner’s Ross Poldark, in all three series since the show launched on BBC One in 2015. The series is expected to return for a fourth season in summer 2018. When asked by Red if she was paid the same as Turner, Tomlinson said, "My guess is no" — a depressingly astute guess, given the ubiquity of the gender pay gap in the entertainment industry and beyond. She continued, "And while at the beginning that might have been OK — he was a bigger star than me — now, I don’t think so. We’re equal leads of the show, so I’d be pretty upset if the gap hadn’t closed."
A good time for Mammoth Screen, the production company that creates Poldark, to swoop in and assuage Tomlinson’s fears, wouldn’t you think? Well, not quite. A company spokesperson is quoted by The Telegraph as saying: "Whilst we can’t and won’t disclose the details, we do pay Aidan Turner more for playing Ross Poldark as throughout all series Ross has significantly more screen time than any other character."
Turner was of course a more established star when the show first aired, after appearing as Kilí in The Hobbit trilogy, and as John Mitchell in the TV series Being Human. Comparatively, Tomlinson had largely starred in supporting roles, in period dramas like The White Queen and Death Comes To Pemberley. What The Telegraph neglects to observe, however, is Tomlinson’s vital role in a landmark piece of British cinema, a culturally definitive work of art still cherished by swathes of millennial women today. I’m talking, obviously, about 2008’s Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, in which Tomlinson played Jas, and you are lying to me if you don’t continue to quote this in the group chat at least once a month.
But back to the topic at hand: Tomlinson is just the latest in a long line of undervalued female actors whose pay doesn’t match that of their male co-stars. In March, it was revealed that Claire Foy, star of Netflix show The Crown, received less pay across both series than her co-star Matt Smith, despite playing the lead role of Queen Elizabeth II — or, you know, the crown — to Smith’s Prince Philip. In a familiar refrain, producer Suzanne Mackie attributed the pay gap to Smith’s greater international fame, after his lead role in Doctor Who. Even after Foy received a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild award, and further BAFTA and Primetime Emmy nominations, however, the pay gap between the two actors prevailed. Mackie pledged that in future series of the show, in which Olivia Colman will take over Foy’s role, "no one gets paid more than the Queen." It’s also been reported by the Daily Mail that Foy has received £200,000 in back pay to make up the disparity.
So what about Eleanor Tomlinson? Based on Mammoth Screen’s statement, it doesn’t look like a similar turnaround is on the cards so far for the star, who will next appear in Colette, alongside Keira Knightley, and as reported by Radio Times is also preparing to release her first album, Tales From Home. I’ll be keeping all appendages crossed for — and all the energy of Claire Foy directed towards — a rapid change of heart.