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HBO Claims to Have Fixed All Pay Disparities in Wake of Time’s Up Movement

big little lies hbo pay gap disparity gender

Two years ago, Casey Bloys made the leap from heading HBO’s comedy series department to the drama side. And one of his major accomplishments has been to dramatically increase the number of female-led shows on the network. He brought a number of female leads to comedy (with shows like Insecure, Girls, Veep, and more), but the drama slate was a total dude-fest. Under Bloys, the network gained Big Little Lies, and set up a 2019 lineup with more female-led dramas to come.

But onscreen representation is just the beginning. The Time’s Up movement is bringing public attention to behind the scenes representation, as well as Hollywood’s enormous pay gap. Talking with The Hollywood Reporter, Bloys said that they’ve been working to eliminate those offensively significant pay disparities.

“We’ve proactively gone through all of our shows — in fact, we just finished our process where we went through and made sure that there were no inappropriate disparities in pay; and where there were,” he says, “if we found any, we corrected it going forward. And that’s is a direct result of the Times Up movement.”

Bloys wouldn’t give an example of a show whose payroll needed correcting, but from the sound of it, it becomes more of an issue as shows go on and become more successful.

“Look,” he says, “it becomes more of an issue when you get into season two and season three, assuming the show is a success. When you’re putting a show together, people come in with different levels of experience and maybe some people have won awards or something that makes them stand out. But when you get into season two or three of a show and the show is a success, it is much harder to justify paying people wildly disparate numbers, and that’s where you have to make sure that you’re looking at the numbers — that they don’t end up just on the path they were on from the pilot stage. So, the thing that has been interesting about the whole movement is that it really is reminding everybody to do what’s right, and I think it’s retraining all of our thinking.”

Obviously, I would like to live in a world where doing “what’s right” weren’t the product of so much public shaming. There has been so much outcry against these sorts of giant pay disparities, from The Crown to Mark Wahlberg demanding basically all the money in the world for All the Money in the World reshoots. It’s not a good look when these issues are made public, and there’s no way this isn’t a business decision.

But we can also choose, if we want, to believe Bloys when he says he’s happy about this move to make sure “people are getting what they deserve.” At the very least, they seem to have come a long way from the senior VP of drama saying that meeting the demands of the Big Little Lies cast, from a budget perspective, left the network “sort of raped.”

Bloys says that not only was that a poor choice of words, but is also “not reflective of how we feel as a network.”

Let me just say this about Big Little Lies season two. Whatever anybody was paid was 100 percent earned and well worth it. This show was a giant hit for us and for the industry. I know there’s fascination with the negotiations but, listen, they earned it. So, [the comment] was not reflective of how we feel, or how [Francesca Orsi, HBO’s drama chief] feels. And she feels terrible. I know she’s reached out to all the players on the show, and I will say while they were not happy about it they have been incredibly gracious and it actually has led to larger conversations about the choice of the word [raped] and why it’s used.

It’s great that HBO is talking about these issues. It’s commendable that they’re getting ahead of any PR disasters that might have come from underpaying their female stars. It’s not clear, though, if these corrections go beyond the recognizable faces, and if the network is examining gender and racial parity in every department. I sure hope so, though the wording of the interview doesn’t indicate as much. So maybe we can call this a good first step, with the expectation that there be many more to come.

(via THR, image: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.