Taraji P. Henson has said she was “gutted” to take home just $40k for her role in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.
Speaking in a new interview, the Empire actor talked about being paid less than her white co-stars in the 2008 Brad Pitt-led movie that earned her an Oscar nomination.
“I felt like what I was asking, at that time of my career, was fair to the ticket sales that I would contribute to this big film,” Henson told the Ladies First With Laura Brown podcast. “[The studio] wouldn’t do it… and then I was gutted.”
The actor, who is also known for her roles in Think Like A Man, Hidden Figures and The Best Of Enemies, said that after paying her team she only took home $40K (£28,320) for her work on the box office hit that grossed over $335million (£237million) worldwide (according to IMDB).
Elsewhere in the interview, Henson talked about what pay inequality means as a Black woman in Hollywood and having to fight against stereotypes in order to eventually receive the kind of money she deserved.
“I understand why we took that on, Black women being the bottom of the totem pole, never being seen,” she said. “I understand, but it’s when others go, ‘Yes, strong Black woman!’ and then dismisses us.”
She continued: “Then if my child or somebody I know is gunned down in the streets, I’m supposed to be strong through that? I’m not allowed to be angry? I’m not allowed to be pissed off? I can’t say [anything back] because you’ve taken everything from me. I’m not allowed to feel that? I’m just supposed to be strong?”
Last year, Octavia Spencer spoke about pay inequality in Hollywood, saying she hasn’t been paid “what I feel I deserve” in her career so far.
The actor landed her first role in the 1996 film A Time To Kill and has gone on to appear in the likes of Ugly Betty, The Help, Hidden Figures, The Shape Of Water and more. She won an Oscar in 2012 for Best Supporting Actress for The Help.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Spencer said the gender pay gap was still a problem but, despite feeling underpaid, she had gotten a raise on every project she’s worked on. “I haven’t gotten paid what I feel I deserve,” she said. “Not yet. But I always get a raise. Every single job, I get a raise.”