The pay gap between men and women working in Hollywood has become an important point of conversation, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Michelle Williams, for example, was paid just £750 for reshoots on All The Money In The World — when her co-star Mark Wahlberg was paid a whopping £1.2 million. Jennifer Lawrence wrote a Lenny Letter about being underpaid on American Hustle, the film which scored her an Oscar nomination. Catt Sadler was applauded for leaving E! after learning Jason Kennedy made a great deal more than she did at the network.
While it's vital that we discuss how women are underpaid in Hollywood in order to ensure future equality, one thing that we're simply not talking about enough is how, for people of colour, the wage gap is even wider. That means that women of colour are at the greatest disadvantage in Hollywood.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, attorney Darrell Miller explains that part of the reason for this disparity is that there simply are not enough opportunities for people of colour onscreen. It's simply easier for a white man in Hollywood to walk away from negotiations that are not going his way — he knows that his next opportunity could be right around the corner.
"People of colour concede [in negotiations] quicker because they infrequently get golden opportunities," Miller, who represents stars like Angela Bassett, told THR. "The issue goes to the lack of diversity in the content being made. When there's more, that shifts the ability to have real leverage for people who are fortunate enough to be there the one year they're making Black Panther."
A limited ability to negotiate means that the salaries for Black stars can be significantly lower than that of their white peers. Black Panther might be the film that turns the tide.
Black Panther, the next solo superhero flick in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, boasts a predominantly Black cast, which includes Lupita Nyong'o, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, and Miller's client Bassett. Given its place within the superhero universe, and the general fanfare surrounding it, it seems destined to rake in major money at the box office — which can only be good for its cast, and Black actors in Hollywood in general.
Miller told The Hollywood Reporter that oftentimes, movies starring Black actors are not greenlit because they are not considered internationally viable. Yet, as proven with 2017 Best Picture winner Moonlight, and three-time Oscar nominee Hidden Figures, both of which have great international numbers, that's completely untrue.
"That myth has hurt a lot of product of colour, and it's still a problem with the middle-aged buyers who are the proverbial gatekeepers, who in fact enforce that misperception by not buying content of colour," said Miller.
While we don't know what the cast was paid to appear in Black Panther, the success of this particular Marvel film could give a group of Black actors leverage in negotiations that they may not have had previously. At the very least, Black Panther can prove that major blockbusters with a predominantly Black cast can work — which means that it's time Hollywood pay the people starring in them their fair share.