Will Smith did a very classy thing for his King Richard co-stars and it’s all thanks to Aunjanue Ellis. The Oscar-nominated actress who played Oracene Williams in the most talked about movie of the year stopped by The Breakfast Club and revealed how the actor and producer lent a helping hand to the cast after he discovered they weren’t paid fairly.
Back in November, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Will gave bonuses to the actors after he raked in $40 million. While he hasn’t spoken publicly about the generous act, Aunjanue provided more insight into the situation.
“I think it’s important that I say this, after you get the job, the fight is not over. You have to fight to get paid, and I did that job and I’m thankful for it, but you know I could’ve gotten paid better, and so I told him this. And he did something about it,” she said. “As a result of his doing, him responding to the letter that I wrote to him, not only did he address that with increasing my pay, but the other actors in the movie also got their pay increased, which is the proof of when Black women do well, everybody does well.”
She continued, “I think it’s important that first of all, people know who this man is and what he did and first of all and also that you know, Black women still have to fight to get paid equally, fairly.”
DJ Envy then posed the question if it was actually up to the agent for actors to get paid what they’re worth, which she responded, “Speaking for myself, whoever your agent is, they can fight for having the best thing for you, but if you are working within a system that doesn’t believe the work of Black women is as important as the work of white men, no matter how much they fight, it doesn’t matter, because that’s still a reality,” she said. “And there’s not a Black woman in the world who has had my path, essentially, who doesn’t have that story.”
Many Black actresses have been speaking up about the gender pay gap between them and males, particularly white males. Viola Davis went viral in 2020 for her interview where she talked about her experience with the gender pay gap.
“We won’t talk about gender inequality of pay because a lot of the women who stepped forward – and I stand in solidarity with them, okay - what they’re getting paid, which is half of what a man is getting paid?
"Well, we get probably a tenth of what a Caucasian woman gets. And I’m number one on the call sheet. And then I have to go in and I have to hustle for my worth. That’s what I feel like I’m doing.”
She continued, “I got the Oscar, I got the Emmy, I got the two Tonys, I’ve done Broadway, I’ve done Off-Broadway, I’ve done TV, I’ve done film - I’ve done all of it. I have a career that’s probably comparable to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, let’s say, Sigourney Weaver.
“They came out of Yale, they came out Juilliard, they came out of NYU. They had the same path as me and yet, I am nowhere near them. Not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities - nowhere close to it.”
Aunjanue Ellis Talks "King Richard", Working With Will Smith, Black Women In Hollywood & More
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