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The real reason Michelle Williams returned to TV for the first time since Dawson’s Creek

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Sarah Shaffi
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Michelle Williams has spoken about getting equal pay for her work on Fosse/Verdon.

Michelle Williams is at the centre of the fight for equal pay, and she’s starting to win the battle.

When Michelle Williams was paid just $80 a day for reshoots for All the Money in the World, while her co-star Mark Walhberg took home a pay packet of $1.5m, many were rightly outraged.

The incident led to big changes for Williams, who has since spoken about how she was left “paralysed in feelings of futility” after finding out the pay disparity.

Williams has become an outspoken advocate for equal pay since her pay for the film, which had to be reshot with Christopher Plummer after sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey, who originally starred, were made public.

She’s described it as “the most exciting and the most important thing that I’ve ever been involved in” in her public life. “It’s the thing that I’ll feel the closest to, more than any work that I’ve ever done, if I can just incrementally move the needle for other women,” she continued.

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And she’s taken the work she’s done on equal pay into her latest job as Gwen Verdon on Fosse/Verdon.

The TV show about the romantic and creative partnership between choreographer Bob Fosse and dancer Verdon is Williams’ first TV role since Dawson’s Creek in the ‘90s.

In a new interview, Williams revealed she was initially reluctant to go back to television, having forged a successful film career which includes four Oscar nominations.

Speaking to Vulture, Williams said: “When I got out of television, it felt like a stain on you. It was hard work to erase it and to ask to be looked at in a different new way.”

She also didn’t want to sign up for a TV show, and then find herself being asked to do something she wasn’t keen on. Williams said: “Scripts come at you and you have no say. You feel like an eternal child.

“I was afraid of putting myself in a position where I was going to commit to something and then eventually be asked to do something that I didn’t want to do.”

But she was persuaded to do Fosse/Verdon when she was assured that she and Sam Rockwell, who plays Fosse, would have equal salaries, and she’d get the support she needed in the role.

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“They gave me the support I needed, and for them that took the form of putting their money where their mouth is,” Williams said.

TV channel FX also paid for dance lessons requested by Williams, opened dance studios when she needed them, and postponed production for a week when she and her co-star said they needed more rehearsal time.

Williams said: “People were treating me like I had value, and so then I felt valued, and I displayed my value.”

Regardless of what industry you work in, pay and job support – such as training and mentoring – are a way for your employer to show that you are valued. Like Williams, you’re more likely to start displaying your value when you know your employer appreciates it. 

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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