If there is a lesson to take away from the first two seasons of “The Crown,” it is that no sane person would dare cross Queen Elizabeth II. Netflix seems to have learned this too late, however, as it was revealed on Tuesday that lead actress Claire Foy made less than co-star Matt Smith for her work on the show.
Variety reported that producers Suzanne Mackie and Andy Harries were asked during a discussion at the INTV Conference in Jerusalem whether the actors playing Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, were paid the same amount. The pair admitted that Smith made more due to his “Doctor Who” fame, insisting that the inequity would be amended in the future.
“Going forward, no one gets paid more than the queen,” Mackie said.
Unfortunately for Foy, she won’t be the one paid more. The period drama’s unusual structure calls for an entirely different set of actors every two seasons. While Foy and Smith depicted the royal couple from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign until the mid-1960s, their characters have been recast for the third and fourth seasons. Olivia Colman will play the queen when the series resumes filming in July, while the new Philip has yet to be announced. Helena Bonham Carter will replace Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, the queen’s rebellious younger sister.
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“Seasons 3 and 4 will be the test of whether the show really has the legs to survive,” Harries said, per Variety. “I think we were the first television series ever to change cast and continue, and we will change cast twice. It’s daunting but exciting and I hope it’ll keep the series fresh and really of interest to people.”
In addition to the obvious egregiousness of a series lead making less than a supporting actor, the revelation is particularly surprising when considering critical reception. Foy received high praise for her portrayal of the restrained monarch, in which she nailed everything from the queen’s posh accent to her physical poise. She was nominated for an Emmy and won a Golden Globe for her performance in the first season, arguably placing her at the same level of fame as (if not higher than) Smith. Yet she still got a smaller paycheck than him for the second season, which earned her another Golden Globe nod.
This isn’t the first time a woman has been paid less than a lower-billed actor. After Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct, “All the Money in the World” director Ridley Scott replaced him with Christopher Plummer and called the rest of the cast back to reshoot pivotal scenes. Michelle Williams, billed as the film’s lead actress, earned a fraction of what co-star Mark Wahlberg did for reshoots. USA Today reported that Williams earned just $80 a day, adding up to less than $1,000, while Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million total. Both actors were represented by the same agency.