Taraji P. Henson is an Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe-winning actress and multiple NAACP Image Award winner, but the harsh reality of significant wage inequality in Hollywood has her ready to leave it all behind.
In a conversation with King Gayle for SiriusXM radio, promoting his next movie, The color Purplewith other guests Danielle Brooks and Blitz Bazawule, things got bleak when Henson opened up about her frustrations over the lack of fair pay in the industry, implying that long-standing issues are determining factors in whether she will quit acting for good.
“I'm tired of working so hard, being kind in what I do, and getting paid a fraction of the cost,” she said. “I'm tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over again. You get tired. I hear people say 'you work so hard!' “I have to do it. Math is not math. And when you start working hard, you have a team. Big bills come with what we do, we don't do it alone.”
Henson noted that a successful career in Hollywood requires a team of people who deserve a salary. “What we do comes with big bills. We don't do it alone,” he said. “The fact that we're here means there's a whole team behind us. They have to get paid.”
“When you hear someone say, 'So-and-so made $10 million,' that didn't make it into their account,” Henson continued. “From the top, Uncle Sam is getting 50%. Now he has $5 million. His team is getting 30% – or whatever he figures – of what he raises, not after what Uncle Sam took. Now do the math.”
“I'm human. Every time I do something and break another glass ceiling, when the time comes to renegotiate I'm back down as if I'd never done what I just did, and I'm tired,” she lamented. “I'm tired. It wears you down. What does that mean? What does that tell me? If I can't fight because they're coming after me, then what the fuck am I doing?”
Henson broke down in tears of frustration and noted that despite her various successes, she is still told there is no money on the table during negotiations because Black actors and stories “don't translate overseas,” among other excuses. She said she has turned to several other projects, including her TPH hair care line, to supplement her income as an actress and diversify her brand.
“I'm tired of hearing that my entire career,” Henson said. “Over twenty years in the game, I hear the same thing and see what you do for another production, but when it comes time to bat for us, they have no money. They play in your face.” “And I'm supposed to grin and grin and bear it. That's enough! That's why I have other (brands), because this industry, if you let it, will steal your soul. But I refuse to let that happen.” “
Bazawule, who directed The color Purple, backed up his claims and shared that he had to fight to get all of his lead actors cast in the film despite their various successes. She said, “It was like you were never here,” when he mentioned their names in the studio.
“The fact that each of you had to audition for this role…roles that were second nature to you…roles that no one should even question,” Bazawule said.
Several stars spoke out in support of Henson's comments, including A black lady sketch show creator Robin Thedewho noted that Henson was “telling the absolute truth” in his post on X (formerly Twitter).
“70-80% of GROSS income is deducted from taxes and commissions (agents, managers, lawyers)”, Thede he wrote in a series of posts on the social platform. “And for those who also pay other employees? Honey! Math is not math! And I know: you're like 10 million dollars minus 8 million dollars is still 2 million dollars… Yeah, that true. However, 10 million dollars is VERY RARE! Most of your favorite black actresses earn between $250k and $500k for STARRING in movies (i.e. between $50k and $100k net) and it is possible that they only get ONE project a year.
He added: “This woman is OSCAR NOMINATED; imagine the struggle for 99% of the rest. Maybe people don't relate, but that's the problem too: being misunderstood and people just assuming they're 'rich.'” So the next time you see an actor working at Trader Joe's, maybe it will be different.”
gabriela union added his voice to the masseswriting: “Not a damn lie. No. A. Damn. Lie. Let's GO TO BAT for the next generation and even for our own generation and above. We don't hesitate to be the change we all need to see.” And it takes a toll on your mind, health, soul and career if we keep it up 💯 ❤️ u”
Viola Davis praised Henson for his bravery. sharing a clip of the interview on his Instagram page. “This!!! THIS!!! 👆🏿👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿,” she captioned the post, which caught the attention of several other famous faces.
“It's brave of you to talk openly about this. Problems at the top are hard to understand when it's not you.” Star Wars', commented John Boyega.
Black Panther Star Winston Duke also wrote: “Thank you for speaking this truth… Thank you… thank you for fighting for us; for bravely representing your entire career. Thank you also @violadavis for sharing and defending… thank you @octaviaspencer for fighting and defending and exemplifying… you are true heroes🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿”
Davis herself has spoke about inequality of opportunity and compensation for black artists in Hollywood. Davis highlighted the racial pay gap in a conversation with Tina Brown as part of the Women in the world salon in February 2018.
“We will not talk about gender pay inequality. Because many of the women who have taken a step forward – and I sympathize with them, it's fine – what they receive, which is half of what a man earns, pays me… “Well, we get probably a tenth of what a Caucasian woman gets. And I'm number one on the call sheet. And then I come in and I have to work up my nerve,” she said.
The Juilliard-trained actress noted that she is widely acclaimed in numerous media with decades of experience in film, television and theater.
“I got the Oscar, I got the Emmy, I got the two Tonys, I did Broadway, I did off-Broadway, I did television, I did movies, I did it all.” ” she added. “I have a career that's probably comparable to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver. They all came out of Yale, they all came out of Juilliard, they all came out of NYU. They had the same path as me and yet I am nowhere close to them, not in terms of money, not in terms of employment opportunities, not in the least.”
She continued: “But I have to talk on the phone and people tell me, 'You're a black Meryl Streep… There's no one like you.' “Okay, so if there's no one like me, you think I'm, you pay me what I'm worth “You give me what I'm worth.”
in a post he shared on Instagram praising Hensoncomedian Loni Love stated that she believed The realThe cancellation was due to the co-hosts' demands for salary increases.
“I think one of the reasons why The real was canceled after eight seasons was due to the fact that the co-hosts would have asked for substantial pay raises… (which we all deserved),” Love shared in the comments of her post. “It was cheaper to cancel a show with four hosts and replace them with a host… the ratings held up, we won Emmys and image awards, we had great guests, and we were doing great cultural highlights… Taraji, Viola, Octavia, Monique and others have been screaming about pay inequality for years… it's hard to be a star when you get paid like garbage…”
She continued: “Please know that as an actor you have to pay a lot to keep getting work… for example, this press spread they did… I'm sure the production covers at least a makeup artist or hairstylist, travel , meals, but It usually doesn't cover wardrobe and you don't get paid to do press… so you're exempt from looking like a million dollars without getting compensated. And look how many days they've done press… that's a set or two a day… That's expensive..”
This is not the first time Henson has spoken on the subject. In his 2016 memoirs, road girlclaimed that he experienced a considerable pay discrepancy while working on the 2008 film. The curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Compared to her co-stars, including Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, Henson wrote that she was paid “the equivalent of a couch change.” He said his salary was in the “lower” six figures and claimed he had to foot the hotel bill for several months during production, an arrangement he called “insulting.”
In 2019, she expanded on his claims while speaking with Variety, saying she was initially offered $100,000 for the role that later earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Henson claimed that he was able to increase the salary to $150,000, but that it was still far short of the $500,000 he expected to earn as the third-billed actor in a studio film directed by David Fincher.
“I want to make this very clear: I'm not saying that Brad or Cate shouldn't have gotten what they got,” Henson said at the time. “They put asses in seats, so give them their money. They deserve it. I'm not saying they shouldn't get what they're getting. I was just asking for half a million, that's all. That's all. .When I was doing Benjamin Button, still not worth a million. My audience was still starting to get to know me. “We thought we were asking for what was fair for me at that time.”
“I asked for half a million. That's all,” Henson added. “And they gave me $100,000. Does that make sense? I'm number three on the call sheet. Does that make sense to you? All I was asking for was $500,000; that's all we were asking for.”
Henson also revealed the breakdown of her salary for the film. during an appearance in The real in 2021. The star claimed her six-figure check turned into a deposit of less than $50,000.
“Okay, so let's break it down like this: You have 12 months in a year to make your money right. If you make a movie for five months that takes you out of the market for anything else or any other currency until… We've finished with that program,” he explained.
“At that time, my son's school tuition, because he was in high school in Buckley, was $30,000. I chose my son's education over fancy cars and all that stuff, and literally for five months that's what I won, your tuition,” he said. aggregate. “What now? I have to hit the pavement again and get another check, that's how it works.”
Addressing her fans and critics who perhaps perceived her as ungrateful or even greedy when it came to her check, she said: “And I never expected to be paid what my counterparts, they have worked to get their quote, deserve exactly what that they are receiving. But, nevertheless, I also deserve a little more.
In a profile interview with she magazine published last month, the Empire The student revealed that, in some ways, she is actively looking forward to retiring. “Well, not to retire completely,” Henson explained. “I will always work. I'm talking about the routine, (the) feeling that I have to accept a job as an actor.”
“I really want to start enjoying the fruits of my labor more and be in a position where I can charter a yacht and call my family and say, 'Meet me in Spain,'” Henson added.
Watch Henson's comments on SiriusXM below.
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