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Jada Pinkett Smith Has an Awesome Story About Jessica Chastain & Octavia Spencer Getting the Paychecks They Deserve

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Last month, Jessica Chastain received a sizeable amount of criticism after she appeared on the cover of the LA Times’ magazine The Envelope along with five other white actresses. The issue was meant to indicate “a shift in focus,” but while it’s great that there has been a growth in the number of quality leading roles available to (white) women in Hollywood, the lack of diversity on the cover was glaring. Chastain herself called it a “sad look”–but only after being called out online.

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It may seem unfair to some for Chastain to be called out for her participation in this photoshoot, while the other actresses involved were not. But Chastain is very vocal about her commitment to being an ally for women of color and POC. So it was extra disappointing to see that she showed up for this shoot and the accompanying roundtable discussion, and failed to note the very obvious problem.

Her response to the criticism was basically that yes, it is a “sad look,” but the problem is with Hollywood and its lack of leading roles for WOC.

Chastain, though, has a production company called Freckle Films. She launched it two years ago, staffed the company with female executives, and (along with partner company Maven Pictures), pursues female-driven projects.

So it’s not like Chastain is solely responsible for changing the game in Hollywood, but she does have power. And after her comments regarding the “sad look” of her industry’s whiteness, I was curious how she used that power. She’s vocal about the need for gender representation, but is she throwing her weight behind projects starring women, or just those starring white women?

As it turns out, she’s walking the walk. During a panel at Sundance, Jada Pinkett Smith told a story about Chastain. (That panel, by the way, was the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation Presents Broadening the Lens: Perspective on Diverse Storytelling panel.) Chastain and Freckle Films reportedly just sold an untitled holiday comedy to Universal. She’ll be starring and producing alongside Octavia Spencer. According to Pinkett Smith, Chastain used her clout to make sure everyone was taken care of.

She says that “Jessica said to Octavia, ‘I got you. I’m going to Universal, and we’re going to make a favored nations deal.'” A favored nations deal means that there’s a clause in an actor’s contract stating none of their costars can have a better deal than they do.

As a result, “Jessica stood up for Octavia and I want you to know that because they stood together, they got three times what they were asking for, as a unit.”

Could Chastain have gotten a bigger payday if she stood alone? For sure. But closing the pay gap of WOC requires the eager participation–and sacrifice–on the part of white women, just like white women themselves need men to participate in closing the gender pay gap.

As Pinkett Smith says,

It’s nice to go out and march. We can do that. It’s nice to wear black at the Golden Globes–it’s nice to do that. But what are we doing behind closed doors? And I’ve got to give our sister Jessica Chastain her props because she stood up for Octavia and put it down. And that’s how we all need to do it for each other.

(via BuzzFeed, image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
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.

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