I can’t have been the only one who was sat, open-mouthed, after Alison Bailey, one of the four main characters in The Affair was killed off after four seasons of building a brilliant, complex character integral to all of the show’s best storylines. ‘Why would they do this?!’ I frantically text my fellow Affair obsessed friend, who like me was dumbfounded by the strange storyline decision.
After some intense digging, it turns out that Ruth Wilson, who plays Alison opposite Dominic West, Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney, decided to leave the show before writing started for the fourth season. However, this discovery comes just months after she spoke out about pay disparity with her male co-stars.
‘I definitely get less money than a male in my situation would,’ Wilson told Radio Times back in February, stating that while her and co-star Dominic West – who is best known for his portrayal of Jimmy McNulty in The Wire - have never discussed pay, she is sure her is paid more than her.
‘Certainly, when I signed up to that project, I would have got paid less,’ she continued, ‘Then they [the producers] might argue, “Well, he’s already done a major American TV show so he’s already got a level.” But even after a Golden Globe I’m not going to be on parity.'
‘So, he definitely gets more than me. I mean, I don’t know what the figure is, but I’m sure he does.’
Stating the important of men being allies in the fight for equal pay, she went on to discuss how uncomfortable it is to discuss money with co-workers.
‘It’s quite hard to bring that up in a way. But it needs to be an open discussion and men need to help us out,’ she said, ‘I don’t want more money, I just want equal money. Which means men have to take less.’
While The Affair co-creator, Sarah Treem, has confirmed that ‘Ruth wanted to leave the show’, to The Hollywood Reporter, she hasn’t explained why Wilson came to that decision or commented on the pay disparity. Wilson is also yet to comment on her decision to leave, however many are assuming unequal pay was a factor in her decision.
Whether or not the pay disparity was her reason for leaving, it existed and she has since left, and so ultimately, she has been treated extremely unjustly given how integral she was to the show. The only actor to win a Golden Globe for her performance on the TV show, she was a lead character and fan favourite, making West’s alleged higher salary a clear-cut case of sexism should it be proven.
Of course, many women facing pay disparity aren’t able to leave their job, so if you find yourself in the same position as Wilson and need to challenge unequal pay in your workplace, here’s a handy how-to guide.