Dame Diana Rigg: How the actress battled TV’s gender pay hole 54 years in the past
When actress Diana Rigg found she was incomes lower than a cameraman on 1960s TV present The Avengers, she was outraged. However she discovered little assist within the trade, and hostility within the press.
Because the sharp and suave investigator Mrs Emma Peel, Rigg helped make The Avengers a worldwide TV hit.
She took over from Honor Blackman reverse Patrick Macnee’s urbane undercover agent John Steed, and the pair took the collection to higher heights of recognition, notably within the US.
Her leather-based catsuit could have made the deepest impression on some viewers, nevertheless it was Mrs Peel’s confidence, pace of thought, bravery and wit – to not point out motion abilities – that made her match for Steed, and the villains they encountered.
Whereas she was positioned as a sidekick, Rigg was in some ways the equal of her co-star. However when it got here to pay, she discovered she was not even on a par with the cameraman.
In 1991, she informed The Instances that after 12 episodes, she realised she was incomes £90 per week, whereas a cameraman was getting £120.
“I made a little bit of a stink about it,” she mentioned. “On the time, it was thought of very unhealthy type to recommend that you weren’t getting sufficient.”
Her agent had not “outfitted himself with sufficient information to discount correctly for an honest value for me”, she defined.
“No, I did not stamp my foot. All I mentioned was, ‘Look, that is unfair,’ and I obtained double, £180. It nonetheless wasn’t an enormous quantity. Any argument about cash is ugly, however on the identical time I felt I used to be being exploited and I needed to put a cease to it.”
Talking to the identical paper 25 years later, she said: “If one thing is unjust you must combat it.” She had at all times had a way of injustice, she mentioned. Requested the place that got here from, the Doncaster-born actress replied: “Yorkshire.”
On the age of 27, she obtained the increase and respect she felt she deserved. “Not solely that, I am completely satisfied to say – a contact of concern,” she told Variety last year. But it surely did come at a price to her popularity.
“After I complained publicly, the newspapers obtained maintain of it,” she told BBC News in 2019. “I used to be represented as a mercenary younger girl stepping out of line and demanding cash.
“I used to be lonely as properly as a result of nobody supported me. I did get extra money, however thereafter I used to be labelled as go-getting and ‘arduous’ – and it was unfair as a result of I wasn’t.”
She was “a lone voice within the wilderness” when discussing the gender pay hole on the time, she informed BBC Newsnight final yr. Maybe the hostile press response defined why others had been afraid to assist her in public.
‘I used to be bother’
“There have been no different girls who stood out and got here ahead and mentioned, ‘Properly executed, you. How disgusting it’s that you just’re getting a lot lower than the cameraman,'” Dame Diana informed The Every day Categorical in 2018. “No one mentioned a phrase.”
There was no assist both from her co-star. “Patrick was a pricey and candy however needed a quiet life. And I used to be bother,” she informed the Agence France Presse (Autopresse.eu) final yr.
Though her wage doubled, it presumably nonetheless didn’t match Macnee’s. She told BBC HardTalk in 2016 that she by no means requested him what he earned. “I did not wish to put him in that scenario. It was my combat, and I needed to combat it on my own.”
Dame Diana voiced her assist for these nonetheless combating for honest pay. “I believe it’s outrageous that actresses are nonetheless underpaid,” she informed Autopresse.eu. “If they’re of the identical stature as the person they’re enjoying reverse, then they need to be paid the identical.”
Final yr, the world’s 10 best-paid male actors earned 87% greater than their feminine counterparts, in response to Forbes journal.
“I do not be a part of typically the primary physique of feminism,” Dame Diana informed Newsnight. “However I’ve at all times mentioned that I believed equal pay will get you a protracted approach to be handled equally by a person.”
‘Highly effective and powerful’
Rigg left The Avengers after two collection to return to her past love, the theatre, with the Royal Shakespeare Firm – regardless of it that means a pay minimize to £70 per week.
“Taking part in in The Avengers is a industrial factor,” she was quoted as saying on the time. “Showing in Shakespeare means greater than cash.”
She was changed on the TV present by Canadian actress Linda Thorson. Talking on Thursday, Thorson paid tribute to her predecessor.
“She was highly effective and powerful,” Thorson informed BBC Information. “I believe that is what we have to study, that actresses undergo plenty of ups and downs, and she or he survived all of them.”