Robin Wright and her House of Cards character, steely first lady Claire Underwood, have at least one thing in common: they refuse to play second fiddle to Kevin Spacey’s President Frank Underwood. Wright demanded the same pay as Spacey for her work on the popular Netflix political drama, and damned if she didn’t get it.
Wright broke the news to “a roomful of activists, philanthropists and media on Tuesday at the Rockefeller Foundation,” per the Huffington Post. “I was like, ‘I want to be paid the same as Kevin,’” said Wright, who also produces House of Cards and directed four episodes of the show’s recent, 13-episode fourth season.
“It was the perfect paradigm. There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal,” Wright pointed out. “And they are in House of Cards.” Wright’s observation is especially true in light of the show’s most recent season, in which her character well and truly became the protagonist (and easily the most interesting aspect) of the Emmy-winning series.
Wright’s demand was borne of more than just her desire for basic gender equality: the actress also did her homework on House of Cards’ viewership. “I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood’s character was more popular than [Frank’s] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it,” Wright explained. “I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public.’ And they did.”
Spacey reportedly made $500,000 per episode for his work on House of Cards as of 2014, prior to the premiere of its third season. Insiders predicted that figure would be bumped up to $1 million, making Spacey a top-earning TV/streaming actor. Meanwhile, Forbes reported last year that Wright made $5.5 million for her work on the show—about $420,000 an episode, a disparity that has now been corrected.
House of Cards will return in 2017, sans showrunner and creator Beau Willimon. Also, Wright is set to star in Denis Villeneuve’s Bladerunner sequel, due out in 2018. We look forward to her excellent work (for excellent pay) in both.