Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain have the most beautiful friendship—they are the epitome of friendship goals. During the HFPA “Women Breaking Barriers” Panel at the Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday, Spencer told everyone about how her friend and colleague Chastain helped her make five times more than her asking salary for their forthcoming Christmas comedy. The duo first starred together in the Oscar-winning The Help.
“I love that woman, because she’s walking the walk and she’s actually talking the talk,” Spencer said at the panel while holding back tears. Spencer continued to tell the panel that Chastain approached her about 15 months ago about doing another film together, but this time a comedy. Spencer was eager to get out of doing period pieces, which have ironically landed her three Oscar nominations and one win. Six months later, Chastain and Spencer were talking about pay equity. “But here’s the thing, women of color on that spectrum, we make far less than white women. So, if we’re gonna have that conversation about pay equity, we gotta bring the women of color to the table,” Spencer recalled of her conversation with Chastain. “And I told her my story, and we talked numbers, and she was quiet, and she had no idea that that’s what it was like for women of color.” An emotional Spencer continued, saying that Chastain told her, “Octavia, we’re gonna get you paid on this film. [...] You and I are gonna be tied together. We’re gonna be favored nations, and we’re gonna make the same thing, you are going to make that amount. Fast forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.” Spencer praised her friend for “walking the walk” and truly negotiating her salary to get equal pay with men.
Spencer also went on to add that women need to produce more because that will really get them on the same playing field in Hollywood. Chastain is producing the duo’s forthcoming comedy and from that, they found out how in-demand they actually were amidst a massive bidding war between studios vying for their project.
The full Sundance panel included Spencer, Tina Lifford, Reed Morano, Sandra Oh and Cathy Schulman. You can view the whole panel below and hear Spencer’s comments on Chastain around the 19:30 mark.