Why Emmy Rossum’s ‘Shameless’ Pay Negotiations Went Viral


Late last week, Emmy Rossum’s Shameless pay negotiations went public.

“Rossum, who’s been a lead on Shameless since it debuted in 2011, is in the midst of re-negotiating her contract for a potential eighth season,” reports Variety. “Sources close to the show tell Variety that months ago, the actress was offered pay parity with her co-star William H. Macy — but she is asking to be paid more.”

Hollywood pay negotiations are increasingly in the news, especially when it’s a woman doing the negotiating. We rooted for Robin Wright when she publicly demanded equal pay to Kevin Spacey in House of CardsWe thought Mila Kunis an effective voice for feminism when she penned an open letter to the misogynists in Hollywood/the world about pay and general industry sexism.

The media headlines when these things pop up are always obnoxious. The women are always made to look a little bitchy, a little misguided. Like they’re throwing a tantrum instead of being reasonable. Some examples I found after about 10 seconds of Googling:

From AV Club: “Shameless star Emmy Rossum wants to be the highest-paid person on Shameless.” (So greedy!!!)

From NY Daily News: “‘Shameless‘ star Emmy Rossum demands higher pay than co-star William H. Macy.” (So demanding!!!)

From Deadline: “For decades, TV studios have successfully used the parity rule when negotiating deals with actors on successful, long-running series. […] Shameless star Emmy Rossum is now trying to break that rule, not accepting a salary equal to that of her male co-lead William H. Macy, who has signed on the dotted line for an eighth season.” (How unreasonable!!!)

Rossum, as Fiona, is the lead star of Shameless. I know this because everyone says it and because my roommate is obsessed with the show. After years of being paid less than co-star Macy, Rossum now wants the highest salary. Macy came into Shameless with an extensive film résumé and an Oscar nom for Fargo. Rossum came in with a name and face recognition from Phantom of the Opera and Day After Tomorrow, but Fiona was a breakout role for her.

So I guess the question is: What constellation of factors drives star salaries? Is it a combo of experience and sheer celebrity wattage? Do hours worked matter? What about the size of the role?

Shameless has been on for seven seasons. The show hangs on Rossum. She now wants top dollar for the responsibility after not getting it to date and this seems, in a word, reasonable. And it’s also worth noting this wouldn’t even be close to a story if she were a man. But I guess that goes without saying, as it always does.

What do you think? Is this complex or not at all?

Photos via Getty Images.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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