When news recently broke that Shameless star Emmy Rossum was demanding the same equal pay as co-star William H. Macy and being compensated for all the years she had been paid less than him on their hit Showtime series, it wasn’t an unfamiliar story. She was putting her foot down – she would not sign a deal with producers for an eighth season until she got what she deserved.
In many ways, it mirrored the story of her character Fiona Gallagher, whose most recent storyline has involved her asking for all the credit she’s always deserved and never really gotten.
According to IMDb, both Rossum and Macy have been listed in all 84 episodes of the veteran Showtime series, which just wrapped its seventh season this Sunday. As any fan of the show can tell you, the series has always focused on both with equal measure, with Macy playing unreliable, drunk and eccentric Frank Gallagher, father of the Gallagher clan, and Rossum playing reliable, responsible and loyal older sister Fiona Gallagher, who has taken care of her siblings, the home, the bills and everything since she was a child herself.
Both have breathed life into these characters and the Gallagher clan beautifully. Both have brought their A game, every episode of every season. I’ve cried and ached for Fiona’s exhaustion and cheered her on every time she’s picked up the pieces. I’ve found myself rooting for Frank to live every time that seemed in question, and despite all his selfish actions and horrible parenting, I’ve found myself loving him anyway.
Both have been nothing short of dynamic, and both have carried the show for seven years. It’s high time that the network, the fan base, and the world recognize that they deserve the same compensation for that.
Even Macy himself agrees. “They wrote the Equal Rights Amendment in 1927; it didn’t get passed by both houses of Congress until 1972,” he said in a clip with TMZ, who asked about the Rossum deal. “It still hasn’t been approved by all the states. Therefore it didn’t make it as an amendment to the Constitution. About f*cking time, don’t you think?”
It seems, however, that producers heard the noise.
Last week, Showtime pulled through, in what is not only a victory for Rossum and fans of the series, but for any woman who has demanded the same respect as the men she works beside.
“Playing Fiona Gallagher has been one of the great privileges of my life. I’m so happy to continue w/ my SHAMELESS family! Back to work in May!” Rossum tweeted on Wednesday.
I, for one, cheered loudly. It was a queen-like move, and ladies everywhere, take note.
Yet, it wasn’t a new story, by any means. A lead actress on a show, speaking up and asking for equal pay, to be compensated for similar (if not more, and in this case, it just may be) screen time and work as her male lead counterpart – if anything, at this point, we expect it.
Earlier this year, 2014 Golden Globe winner and veteran actress Robin Wright made headlines when she revealed at an event for the Rockefeller Foundation that she’d demanded equal pay as her House of Cards’ costar Kevin Spacey – and she won.
“It was a perfect paradigm. There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal. And they are in ‘House of Cards,’” said Wright, according to the May 17 Huffington Post article.
The same article noted that Spacey had, reportedly, been making $500,000 per episode before season 3 of the hit Netflix show. It was rumored that that amount could increase to $1 million – while Wright, equally the lead in every way, was making an underwhelming nearly $420,000 per episode at the time.
“I was looking at statistics and Claire Underwood’s character was more popular than [Frank’s] for a period of time. So I capitalized on that moment. I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public.’ And they did.”
In 2015, Jennifer Lawrence famously spoke out against having been paid less than her American Hustle male co-stars – something she learned after the Sony email leaks. Amy Adams, who also starred in the movie, was revealed to make less than their male counterparts, as well.
And even still, the issue is worse for women of color. Early in 2016, Academy Award Winner Mo’Nique spoke out in light of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in an interview with Variety. When asked if she watched the Oscars growing up, she commented on the lack of representation – and how that problem still exists.
“The focus should not be on the trophy. The focus should be on the paychecks and the unequal wages. Anytime you hear Patricia Arquette and Gwyneth Paltrow, when you hear those white women say, “We’re not getting equal wages.” Well if they are saying it, what do you think we’re getting?”
The list goes on. From blockbuster movies to cable TV shows and everything in between, the issue exists, and the conversation keeps arising.
So why are we still needing to have it? (The million dollar question.)
The issue is far from limited to actors. According to the Insitute for Women’s Policy Research, “In 2015, female full-time workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent. Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio.”
But thanks to women like Rossum, Wright and more, we now have a few more examples to give us hope. After all, if just one woman sees Rossum’s fight and victory and finds her own strength to do the same, I’d call that a victory in my book.
We are women. Hear us roar.
Congratulations and cheers to Emmy Rossum.