UPDATED with speech and backstage video: An emotional Michelle Williams praised FX and Fox 21 Television Studios, thanking them for their support and for “paying me equally” in her acceptance speech for her Emmy win for outstanding actress in a limited series or movie for Fosse/Verdon. This was the four-time Oscar-nominated actress’ first Emmy win.
Williams, who won the trophy for her starring role as Broadway dancer/choreographer/singer Gwen Verdon in FX’s Fosse/Verdon, urged pay equality for women, particularly women of color.
“When you put value into a person it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value, and where do they put that value they put it into their work and so the next time that a woman, especially a woman of color because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her male white counterpart, tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her, because one day she may stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it,” Williams said.
Williams is no stranger to disputes over equal pay. She made national headlines last year when reports emerged about pay disparity between Williams and Mark Wahlberg during reshoots for their film All the Money in the World. Lead actress Williams was paid just $1,000 for her reshoots compared to supporting actor Wahlberg, who negotiated an additional $1.5 million for the several days of reshoots. The new footage was necessary after Christopher Plummer was brought in to the Ridley Scott-directed movie to replace Kevin Spacey, who was fired amid allegations of past sexual misconduct. Those close to the production argued to Deadline that the pay disparity wasn’t a gender issue, rather that the unprecedented reshoots to meet a pending theatrical release date forced a rush situation.
Williams addressed the pay parity issue in All The Money in The World backstage.
“It woke me up,” said Williams. “I think that I’d always known how difficult it was. I’d known from the inside how difficult it was to feel like you were ever really getting ahead. And it’s felt like no matter how many accolades I amassed, I still couldn’t really make that translate into retirement money or something that felt like financial security and so the discrepancy in All the Money in the World was so huge that it really illustrated a larger point. Not just for myself obviously, but as I said before if it was difficult for me, a white woman of privileged industry, how difficult is it for women of color across all industries? So while tonight is a kind of fairytale ending for me and my own personal story, there really won’t be any satisfaction for me until the larger message is heard, and that’s what I really wanted to point out tonight. When you look at the numbers 52 cents on the dollar is what a Hispanic woman will make compared to a white male, the numbers rise incrementally. The numbers aren’t out yet for native women, but they expect them to be worse than for Hispanic women.”
Based on Sam Wasson’s biography Fosse, the FX series chronicles the romantic and creative partnership between Broadway legends Fosse, played by Sam Rockwell, and his Sweet Charity star Verdon.
In addition to Williams and Rockwell, the limited series’ cast includes Norbert Leo Butz, Margaret Qualley, Aya Cash, Nate Corddry, Susan Misner, Bianca Marroquin, Kelli Barrett, Evan Handler, Rick Holmes, Paul Reiser, Ethan Slater and Byron Jennings.
Fosse/Verdon is nominated for four Emmys tonight including best limited series and best actor in a limited series or movie for Rockwell and supporting actress for Qualley.
Williams topped a group of nominees who combined for nearly a dozen Oscar nominations: Amy Adams for HBO’s Sharp Objects, Patricia Arquette (Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora), Niecy Nash and Aunjanue Ellis (both for Netflix’s When They See Us) and Joey King (Hulu’s The Act).
Here are Williams’ comments backstage following her Emmy win.