Keeley Hawes fought for equal pay with her Bodyguard co-star Richard Madden

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  • 'It really does feel like there’s been a real sea change here. It feels different.'

    In the wake of discussions around gender equality in the TV and film industry, it’s empowering to see actresses and female crew members standing up for themselves and fighting the patriarchy. The newest actress to inspire us is Keeley Hawes, who will soon be starring in BBC’s Bodyguard alongside Richard Madden, as she insisted on being paid the same amount as the Game of Thrones star.

    Speaking to The Mirror, Hawes revealed that thanks to the feminist reckoning sweeping through the industry she found the confidence to put her foot down and fight her worth. She said, ‘Certainly, five years ago, I wouldn’t have felt like I was in a position to say, ‘I want the same as my male counterpart’. Because I would have been worried about losing the job. And then I would think, ‘I want to work and I want to pay my mortgage.’’

    Hawes continued, ‘But now, I do think businesses and corporations that we work for seem to be taking it very seriously. So yeah, it’s not so much of a fight, anymore. It really does feel like there’s been a real sea change here. It feels different. And I feel more empowered when I go into a project.’

    Keeley Hawes will be playing fictional home secretary Julia Montague in the six-part series, who is forced to reckon with a potential terrorist attack amidst her political climb to the top. Her character’s position of power echoes Claire Foy’s as Queen Elizabeth in The Crown. However unlike Hawes, it was recently revealed that Foy was not paid parity with her co-star Matt Smith and apparently didn’t even receive the rumoured backpay meant to rectify that. While it seems to be too late for Foy, we’re glad to see that Hawes was able to learn from the cautionary tale.

    She shared some advice for other actresses going into a contract negotiation and while she didn’t explicitly confirm it, it sounds like she and Richard Madden teamed up to ensure they were both on level financial footing. Taking a leaf out of the Friends’ contract negotiation handbook, she advised going into talks together and being on the same page.

    ‘If it’s something like Bodyguard and there are two of us and you’re discussing your contract, just say ‘We want parity’,’ she said. “And more often than not, the actor will also say, ‘Yes, we’re doing the same amount of work. The same process, pay us the same.’’

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    Richard Madden, who previously played Robb Stark on Game of Thrones, will be starring alongside her as her onscreen bodyguard David Budd. In the tense trailer, it seems like his loyalties are severely tested throughout the series but thankfully that doesn’t seem like it’ll be the case offscreen.

    Hawes said, ‘That’s how I go about [negotiating pay] now and I feel empowered to do that because of ­brilliant people that spoke up from the ­beginning and people who have made a stand. It allows everybody to be in a better position. We are getting there slowly but surely. It’s very exciting, there is still work to be done but it is a very good time with lots of females in lead roles.’

    Bodyguard will air on BBC One on August 26 at 9pm. Fingers crossed I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston makes it in – we know we’re thinking of the wrong Bodyguard, but now we can’t get the song out of our heads.

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