In Taraji P Henson’s new memoir “Around The Way Girl,” the actress candidly opens up about numerous aspects of her life—including how she was treated while working on the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
According to The Guardian, the Oscar-nominee claimed that she was paid “less than 2 percent” of her co-star Brad Pitt’s salary and was forced to pay for her own accommodation during the shoot. She also referred to her pay as “sofa change.”
“Both Brad and Cate got millions. Me? With bated breath, I sat by the phone for hours, waiting for Vince [her manager] to call and tell me the number that I thought would make me feel good: somewhere in the mid six figures – no doubt a mere percentage of what Brad was bringing home to Angelina and their beautiful babies, but something worthy of a solid up-and-coming actress with a decent amount of critical acclaim for her work,” she wrote.
She added: “Alas, that request was dead on arrival. “I’m sorry, Taraji,” Vince said quietly when we finally connected. “They came in at the lowest of six figures. I convinced them to add in a little more, but that’s as high as they’d go.” There was one other thing: I’d have to agree to pay my own location fees while filming in New Orleans, meaning three months of hotel expenses would be coming directly out of my pocket. Insult, meet injury.”
Henson, who won a Golden Globe for Empire earlier this year, also wrote about the lack of substantial roles for Black actresses in Hollywood and how that deficiency makes it hard to negotiate for a higher pay.
“The math really is pretty simple: there are way more talented black actresses than there are intelligent, meaningful roles for them, and we’re consistently charged with diving for the crumbs of the scraps, lest we starve,” the 46-year-old said.
“This is exactly how a studio can get away with paying the person who’s name is third on the call sheet of a big-budget film less than 2% what it’s paying the person whose name is listed first. I knew the stakes: no matter how talented, no matter how many accolades my prior work had received, if I pushed for more money, I’d be replaced and no one would so much as a blink.”
Clearly her salary has gone up as she makes sex figures episode of Empire, The Huffington Post pointed out, which she credits to Tyler Perry for giving her a fair wage in I Can Do Bad All By Myself, “thus raising her quote and enabling her to negotiate for more money on future projects.”
“It was because of [Tyler Perry] — not an Oscar nomination — that I never had to take another movie project at the rock bottom of six figures,” The Hidden Figures star wrote.
These revelations were released not too long after a Variety published a report on race and gender gap disparities on television. They found that Black-ish stars earn less than the stars of Modern Family, The Middle and Last Man Standing with Anthony Anderson getting $100,000 an episode, and Tracee Ellis Ross $80,000; while The Middle’s Patricia Heaton and Standing ’s Tim Allen all earn $250,000 an episode.
Looking at TV dramas, the disparity is even worse: Gilmore Girls’ Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel earn about $750,000 per episode, while the Emmy Award-winning star of How to Get Away with Murder, Viola Davis, and Emmy-nominated star of Scandal, Kerry Washington, only earn $250,000. Even Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, stars of the highest-rated drama on television, Fox’s Empire, are earning considerable less than their colleagues, with only $175,000 an episode while their on-screen sons, Trai Byers, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Y. Gray, are paid just $20,000 per episode.