Acting legend Angela Bassett recently received a pay increase, and made history in the process.
Deadline announced that the 9-1-1 star will be earning $450,000 per episode of the first responder drama series, making Bassett one of the highest-paid actresses on network television. She’s also on her way to becoming the highest-paid Black actress for network television ever.
The news of Bassett came on Tuesday (August 3), which is also Black Women’s Equal Pay Day –– the day in the year when Black women finally catch up to what white men earned the year prior. Bassett’s salary increase has some saying it’s been long enough.
Hollywood's History of Not Paying Black Actors
The cast of the 90s classic Friends made $1 million per episode by the time the show ended in 2004, a report by PopSugar pointed out. Living Single, the Black predecessor of Friends that starred Queen Latifah, Erika Alexander, Kim Fields, and Kim Coles never saw that type of financial success.
“They saw you as a Black show,” Alexander told Shadow and Act in an interview where she explained the difference between Friends and Living Single. “So they would often put you in a cultural ghetto. That would undermine any sort of ambitions that you might have to grow the show beyond its locked-in demographic,” she said.
Even Kerry Washington and Viola Davis were each making $250,000 per episode for their starring roles on the wildly successful Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, PopSugar reported. Though Davis’ pay could have increased to the $450k range by the end of the lawyer-murder series. And this is just a fraction of the generations of Black actresses who graced our screens every week.
Pay Us –– In and Out of Hollywood
In and out of Hollywood, Black women in the US make about 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes, the National Women’s Law Center found, making pay equality for all Black women essential.
With Angela Bassett’s immense talent and success, the pay increase may hopefully pave the way for future generations of Black actresses –– and workers everywhere –– to be able to raise their price.
It should also be noted that even our individual, long overdue, history-making achievements are burdened with the task of potentially birthing a lineage of equality and not the systems that perpetuate the inequality.