Robin Wright fought for equal pay on Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ — and won

'House of Cards' stars Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The battle to close the Hollywood wage gap got a new champion when Robin Wright, star of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” shared that she used tough-as-nails tactics when it came to negotiating her salary with the streaming content provider.

According to the Huffington Post, Wright told the story during an event Tuesday night hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York as part of its new series, “Insight Dialogues,” which focuses on conversations with activists. Wright spoke with foundation President Judith Rodin about equal pay and human rights, in conjunction with the new documentary “When Elephants Fight,” which she narrated and which debuted on U.S. television in March.

“I was like, ‘I want to be paid the same as Kevin,’” said Wright, in reference to “House of Cards” costar Kevin Spacey. Spacey and Wright play Frank and Claire Underwood, a longtime married couple that feeds on conniving and power plays as they game the political system.


It was actually from Claire that Wright took the most inspiration upon learning that she and Spacey were receiving different salaries.

“I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public,’” Wright recounted for the audience, “And they did.”

Both Wright and Spacey have earned Golden Globe awards for their performances on the series, which debuted its fourth season in March, and both serve as producers on the show.

The conversation surrounding inequality in Hollywood has been picking up traction as of late.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has begun interviewing subjects other than just female directors in its investigation of alleged gender bias in the hiring of film and television directors.

In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law California’s Fair Pay Act, aimed at reducing the pay gap that separates the genders, a move that held particular resonance in Hollywood. In fact, Patricia Arquette’s 2015 Oscar acceptance speech championing the end of pay inequality was credited by State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson as increasing the measure’s momentum.

As an example of Hollywood’s penchant for underpaying women, Arquette pointed to Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, who earned less than her male costars in the 2013 film “American Hustle.”

Though exact salary numbers for Wright and Spacey for “House of Cards” are unavailable, TV Guide reported in 2014 that Spacey was making $500,000 per episode, including his earnings as producer, or $6.5 million per 13-episode season. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Spacey received a salary bump from around $5 million to $9 million for the third season of the series.

By comparison, Forbes reported in 2015 that Wright had made $5.5 million from June 2014 to June 2015, a span that included the third season of “House of Cards.”

Netflix declined to comment on the matter and representatives of Wright did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.


With new equal-pay act, will Jennifer Lawrence get paid like Bradley Cooper?

Gender bias in Hollywood? U.S. digs deeper to investigate the industry’s hiring practices

Kevin Spacey enters ‘Race for the White House’ at CNN

Follow me on Twitter @midwestspitfire