How Jessica Chastain helped Octavia Spencer get five times more in pay

When you find out your coworker is being underpaid, you can do more than listen to their complaints. Take the recent story of actresses Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer as a case study on how you can put words of solidarity into action.

At a Sundance Film Festival panel on Wednesday, actress Octavia Spencer shared a story about how her friend and costar Jessica Chastain used her star power to bump up Spencer’s salary for an upcoming project after hearing she had a history of being underpaid.

How Jessica Chastain helped Octavia Spencer get five times more in pay

During a recent conversation, Spencer said she and Chastain were passionately “dropping F-bombs” about gender pay gaps in Hollywood when Spencer noted that there are pay gaps between white women and women of color that also need to be addressed.

“I said, ‘But here’s the thing, women of color on that spectrum, we make far less than white women,’ ” Spencer recalled telling Chastain. “And I told her my story, and we talked numbers, and she was quiet, and she said she had no idea that that’s what it was like for women of color.”

While white women earn about 81 cents for every man’s dollar, black women earn about 65 cents for every man’s dollar, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

When Chastain heard Spencer’s salary, she promised Spencer she would help her get paid more for the upcoming comedy they were slotted to star in together. Spencer said Chastain told the studio that their salaries would be bundled together, so that getting Chastain onboard to the project was conditional upon Spencer getting a better deal. “She said ‘You and I are gonna be tied together. We’re gonna be favored nations, and we’re gonna make the same thing. You are going to make that amount,’ ” Spencer said. “Fast-forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.”

Walking the walk

It is one thing to talk about solidarity, it’s another to actually put your promises into action. Spencer’s story is a lesson for us all to find our Jessica Chastain allies in the office who are ready to more than talk to help us.

Spencer later clarified that she did not know if Chastain’s help came at a “cost” to Chastain’s salary, but that she is “eternally grateful” for her help.