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“It’s about implementation,” he said in the interview. “Equal pay and a place at the table are the central tenets of feminism. Look at your quotas. Ask what women are being paid, and say: ‘If she’s not paid the same as the men, I’m not doing it.’”
On top of that, he’s focusing his production company on projects that promote all kinds of diversity. “I’m proud that [my friend and partner] Adam and I are the only men in our production company… If it’s centered around my name, to get investors, then we can use that attention for a raft of female projects. Half the audience is female. And, in terms of diversity, Black Panther is now the third most successful film of all time.”
It’s a decision that nods to Frances McDormand’s famous call for inclusion riders in her Oscars speech back in March, and part of a growing trend in Hollywood for male celebrities to bear some of the burden of advocating for gender equality in the workplace. Just this month, Netflix awarded back-pay to The Crown‘s Claire Foy after it was revealed her salary was a fraction of her male supporting star’s.
Fans online spoke out in support of Cumberbatch’s announcement, though some are questioning why he’s still a minority in the industry.
“I suggest that from now on the first thing male actors are asked in interviews is if the’ve done this too,” one fan tweeted. “And if not, why?”
In light of Benedict Cumberbatch's announcement re equal pay, and this is the bare minimum allies should be doing, I suggest that from now on the first thing male actors are asked in interviews is if they're done this too, and if not, why?— Cassandra Frances (@Cass_Frances_) May 14, 2018
The industry might be a way off from that reality, but this is certainly a start.
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.