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How Emmy Rossum’s Fierce Contract Dispute Could Help Close the Hollywood Pay Gap

Emmy Rossum is locked in a fierce contract renegotiation battle with Showtime. If she wins, it will make for a major victory in an ongoing fight to close Hollywood’s gender pay gap.

According to multiple sources who have spoken to The Hollywood Reporter, the “Shameless” star seeks to earn more than her co-star William H. Macy, as retroactive pay for making less than him during the show’s past seven seasons.

Rossum plays Fiona on the hit Showtime drama, a key character who has appeared in all 84 episodes of the series. She has allegedly been earning much less than Macy, who, according to THR, has been pulling in a salary that puts him at the “upper echelon of cable dramas.”

If Rossum’s negotiations are not successful, the show will either be canceled, or continue on without her character.

But if Rossum succeeds, it would mean not only a major victory for the actress, but serve as powerful message to other studio executives.

The dark underbelly of Hollywood salary negotiations has come into light recently, with more and more actresses vocalizing the gaping inequalities between their salaries and those of their male co-stars. In a piece written for Lena Dunham’s feminist newsletter Lenny Letter back in 2015, Jennifer Lawrence admitted that she “failed as a negotiator because [she] gave up early” during pay talks for “American Hustle.” As a result, co-stars Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner earned significantly more than the actress, who had an Oscar at the time.

While some actresses have successfully negotiated equal pay (Charlize Theron reportedly fought and won her battle to be paid the same salary as Chris Hemsworth in “The Huntsman”), there are risks involved in trying.

Amanda Seyfried, who revealed she once made 10% less than her male co-star, explained that there’s always the chance that part will slip away.

“You have to decide if you’re willing to walk away from something, especially as a woman,” Seyfried told The Sunday Times.

For his part, William H. Macy is all for his co-star getting her due. When stopped by TMZ on Monday, the actor said “it’s about fucking time” that women receive equal pay.

“She works as hard as I do, she deserves everything,” Macy said.

Thea Glassman is an Associate Editor at the Forward. Reach her at glassman@forward.com

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