How Emmy Rossum Made History When She Demanded Equal Pay

Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.
Emmy Rossum never intended for her salary negotiations to become headline news. But for better or for worse, her 2016 demand to be paid more than her costar William H. Macy became a shadow that loomed over Shameless' eighth season. And while the final numbers were never released, Rossum became a firebrand for equal pay in Hollywood. According to The Daily Beast, Rossum described her negotiations as a reflection of the industry as a whole, not just for women, but for different races, ethnicities, and religions, too.
Timeliness was part of what earned Rossum's account so much attention. At nearly the same time as the news broke about her Shameless paycheck, Robin Wright's demand to be paid as much as Kevin Spacey on House of Cards and Gillian Anderson's X-Files payday were also in the headlines.
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"I understand that when it did kind of leak out, it was part of a larger conversation and that's important. It just as easily could not have worked out and not be a happy ending," she said. "We've seen that happen with a couple other people's negotiations. It is a complicated issue. But my heart is with the show, I wanted to keep making the show. I love the show. I love Bill Macy, I love [showrunner] John Wells, I love my network. They've given me the opportunity to direct, to create this incredible, fascinated, multilayered character for eight years."
Rossum says that she wasn't driven by emotion. To her, it was nothing more than a business transaction. Showtime wanted to get as much as it could for as little money as possible and she, as an actor, had to take it upon herself to demand what she felt was right. For his part, Macy was supportive of her efforts.
"She works as hard as I do, she deserves everything," he told TMZ, according to The Daily Beast. Rossum descried his words as "validating."
"After it became public, it was a quick resolution," Rossum told THR.
Equal pay is just one thing in a long list of changes that need to happen, Rossum adds. She noted that her situation is just the beginning of what should be a "tidal wave" for Hollywood that expands to every industry. She's hoping that her efforts on and off the screen bring to light the body issues and economics that women face and, yes, sexual harassment in the workplace, which she's watching with "sadness, confusion, and outrage."
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"We do have a great responsibility to tell the kinds of stories that we feel will send a message," Rossum concluded. On that front, she's directing an episode of Shameless that'll touch on gay conversion and Muslim Americans fleeing for Canada. It's set to air next year.
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