Yvette Nicole Brown has a few starring television roles under her belt ― most recently the buzzy upcoming ABC comedy “The Mayor.” Like many other actresses of color, however, she has faced her share of pay inequality, a topic actors and entertainment insiders have only recently started discussing openly.
(Or rather, more openly than in the past.)
Earlier in her career, as a series regular on a network show, Brown discovered she was making “just a smidge” more than a white male guest star, and far less than some of the other series regulars, who weren’t “shocked” at the reveal. She shared the anecdote earlier this month with her Twitter followers, and elaborated in an interview for Variety’s 2017 salary issue this week.
“It’s not like this was Tom Cruise,” she told Variety. “If Tom Cruise comes, back up the Brinks truck. This was a journeyman actor. He wasn’t performing a series-regular role.”
“I’ve been a series regular now for eight years on network television, and I’m making what a guy coming for a week is making. And it’s because I’m a black woman,” Brown continued. She told the outlet that the pay incident didn’t happen on “Community,” where she starred as Shirley, but wouldn’t name names.
Women of color experience pay inequality in Hollywood in large part because there are not as many opportunities for characters who look like them on screen. Variety’s top-paid TV actors lists provide a neat illustration of the depressing state of affairs: The only woman of color to make the drama list is Kerry Washington, for her role in “Scandal,” and no black women made the outlet’s comedy list.
“I speak up because others who are coming up cannot speak up,” Brown said. “It’s so someone who’s just starting out can say, ‘I know you said you’d pay me $5 and a chicken sandwich this week, but someone else is getting $1,000. Could I possibly get that thousand?’ Because if you don’t get it coming in, you’re always behind.”
There’s some hope on the horizon, though. UCLA’s annual 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report found a small bump in the number of minority roles on scripted broadcast TV over the past few years, and a similar increase in minority writers fleshing out those characters behind the scenes.