An actor who reportedly asked to leave The Affair may have been written off the show over pay issues.
On the Showtime drama, Ruth Wilson plays Alison Bailey, a waitress from Montauk whose grief over the sudden death of her young son fractures her marriage. Alison and Noah (Dominic West) are the original two involved in the titular “affair.” Both actors inarguably lead the show together—and Wilson won a Golden Globe for her incredible performance in 2015.
MAJOR SPOILER BELOW.
Which makes her death in an episode of the recent season all the more shocking; it’s also raised suspicion that Wilson may have wanted to leave the show because she wasn’t paid enough.
In February, Wilson told the British publication Radio Times that her salary definitely wasn’t on par with West’s:
On whether she is paid less than West, she replied: “Yeah. I think so. Certainly when I signed up to that project, I would have got paid less. Then they [the producers] might argue, ‘Well, he’s already done a major American TV show [The Wire] 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.”
Wilson also said she hadn’t spoken to West about pay inequity—“It’s quite hard to bring that up in a way,” she told Radio Times—and that she wanted it to be an open discussion. “I don’t want more money. I just want equal money,” she said. “Which means men have to take less.” Not long after that interview, Dominic West publicly supported Wilson’s comments and said he’d take a pay cut for a woman co-star on an indie project “as long as resources are limited.” West told Variety, “But in a long-running TV show money is not a problem and there’s no excuse for it.” Hmm, okay.
Now, in an interview with CBS News on Thursday, Wilson confirmed that she wanted to leave the show, but she mysteriously said she could not get into details. “I did want to leave, but I’m not allowed to talk about why,” she said. When Gayle King asked if it was because of an issue due to pay discrepancy between her and her male co-stars, Wilson responded, “I’ve never complained to Showtime about pay parity,” and the interview leaves it at that.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Sarah Treem also confirmed that the decision to kill off the Alison character was because Wilson asked to leave the show.
Still, Wilson’s reason for leaving remains unclear, and it’s bizarre that she can’t even address it. Worth noting is that she’s spoken about pay inequity in her industry on several occasions. In 2018, she told Elle that measuring value in negotiating pay can be hard. “Is it the number of awards you’ve won or how many people went to see your movies?” Wilson said. “There are a lot more roles for men than there are for women. So men get their fee up by sheer quantity of material.”
Sheer quantity of material... such as shows like The Wire, perhaps?
Jezebel has reached out to both Showtime and Wilson for comment and will update this post if they respond.
Update, 3:53 P.M.: Showtime Networks write in a statement to Jezebel:
We can’t speak for Ruth, but heading into season four everyone agreed the character’s story had run its course. Ultimately, it felt like the most powerful creative decision would be to end Alison’s arc at the moment when she had finally achieved self-empowerment. The impact of her loss will be felt as the series concludes next season. We thank the many fans who embraced the character of Alison and especially thank Ruth for her indelible work over the past four seasons.