When it comes to equals on screen, House of Cards‘ Frank and Claire Underwood lead the pack; there can be none without the other, and their characters give equal weight to the now infamous series. Like yin and yang, the show they work on is a perfect (and rare) example of equally billed male and female characters who are depicted as equals. Which is why Robin Wright (who plays Claire) demanded she be paid the same salary as co-star Kevin Spacey.
“It was the 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,” Wright said last year. “I was looking at the statistics, and Claire Underwood’s character was more popular than [Frank’s] for a period of time. So I capitalised on it. I was like: “‘You’d better pay me, or I’m going to go public.’”
Given that season five of the show will premiere on Netflix on May 30th, Wright is back in the spotlight but, disappointingly revealed at Cannes this week that despite being told she would be paid the same as Spacey, this never materialised – she has since found out she was misled (AKA blatantly lied to).
She told NET-A-PORTER’S The Edit: “Yes [I fought the studio for equal pay]. I was told that I was getting equal pay and I believed them, and I found out recently that it’s not true.”
“Yes, so that’s something to investigate. Claire and Francis are equivalent as far as their power, their union and the plot. I may not have as many scenes or words as Francis, but Claire doesn’t need to verbalise as much. Francis is an orator, a poet, a demonstrator. Claire is an [ego] that sits in the back and directs him, but they are partners on the same plane.”
And they are; Wright, who plays the steely First Lady in the hit series, has been credited instrumental in making Claire Underwood as central a character as she is – she was initially written as mere “arm candy” in the early scripts. Her enigmatic portrayal alongside Spacey as President Frank Underwood has been widely acclaimed and credited as a central part to the show’s prolonged success – so to hear this latest revelation is beyond depressing. After all the female figures coming out to champion equality in the last year, what does it say about the Hollywood system? Very little if even after an actress has gone public and demanded pay equality, she is still ignored.
Wright has since said that she no longer wants to be in front of the camera and only wants to direct – her directorial debut premiered at Cannes – so if she is to return for another House of Cards outing, the Hollywood bosses will perhaps be forced to account for their actions. And Wright is the ideal woman to ensure they do.