The hit Netflix series The Crown has been in the news a lot recently, but not for its award wins, terrific performances, or stunning production design. Producers Andy Harries and Suzanne Mackie revealed last week that Matt Smith, who played Philip, had a higher salary than the show’s star Claire Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth, for the show’s first two seasons. This, despite the fact that Foy’s role is far larger than Smith’s, and her workload is nearly double his as Elizabeth is the central figure of the series.
This news elicited a number of different responses, but ultimately—whether it was right or not—this pay scale isn’t a surprise. When The Crown was being put together, Smith was just coming off a starring turn on the hit series Doctor Who, while Foy was essentially at the beginning of her career, coming off scene-stealing work in smaller shows like Little Dorrit and Wolf Hall. Smith held the “star power” over Foy, and thus the show’s producers paid more to convince him to join the series. This is a not uncommon practice, as screentime and workload unfortunately have little to do with pay scales in Hollywood—it’s almost always about who’s the bigger “star” or draw.
That being said, once The Crown was a bona fide hit, Foy should no doubt have been raised to at the very least match Smith’s salary for Season 2. That didn’t happen, and since the show is jumping forward in time for Season 3 and recasting, there’s no chance of a new deal being may to compensate Foy for her stunning work on the series.
The show’s producer, Left Bank Pictures, has now released a statement apologizing to Foy and Smith and offering some clarity on the matter:
“We want to apologize to both Claire Foy and to Matt Smith, brilliant actors and friends, who have found themselves at the center 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 re-balancing 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 Time’s Up UK; organisations which are working to ensure all women have a voice.”
Olivia Colman is taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth for Season 3, and while Paul Bettany was in talks to play Prince Philip he had to bow out due to scheduling issues. The producers have said, however, that there will be no pay gap going forward so the actress playing Queen Elizabeth—again, the star of the show—will not be on a lower pay scale than the actor playing Prince Philip.