In "The Help," Octavia Spencer plays a maid who helps Jessica Chastain's character through a difficult period in her life.
Off screen, it was Chastain who came to Spencer's aid when she learned that Spencer, who is a woman of color, was making less than other actresses, even with her Academy Award for "The Help."
Now a vocal advocate for gender pay equality, the Time's Up initiative and #MeToo, Chastain told The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview why she stood up for Spencer.
"This is the God's honest truth -- I care more about what Octavia's getting paid than what I'm getting paid. Because I've got a great life," she said. "I am more concerned about her than I am about me. Equal pay for equal work!"
Chastain, who has her own production company, told THR that once she found out about what Spencer was being offered on their upcoming Christmas comedy, she knew she had to act.
"Your silence is your discrimination," she said. "So if you are succeeding in an environment where there is discrimination, you are actively being discriminatory."
She continued, "I knew women of color got paid less than Caucasian actresses. What I didn’t know is someone of Octavia’s level, who had an Oscar and two Oscar nominations, how much less she would be getting paid. When she told me what she was making, that’s what really made me go, 'Hold up, that doesn’t compute in my brain.'"
Spencer first revealed how Chastain helped her make five times more back in January during a panel at the Sundance Film Festival.
"I told her my story, and we talked numbers, and she was quiet, and she said she had no idea that that’s what it was like for women of color," Spencer said during the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's "Women Breaking Barriers" panel.
"She said, 'You and I are going to be tied together. We’re going to be favored nations and we’re gonna make the same thing, you are going to make that amount.’ Fast-forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for," Spencer concluded.
She applauded Chastain for not just taking up her cause, but the crusade for gender equality.
"She provided a much-needed shoulder and listened," Spencer told The Hollywood Reporter. "And then she did what she always does: She took up my cause and made it her own. As a friend, she’s your biggest cheerleader; but as a colleague, she’s your most vocal advocate."
For her upcoming female-fronted spy thriller, "355," which was Cannes' biggest sale, Chastain spearheaded a deal to have all five actresses paid equally and get a share of equity in the film.
"Susan Sarandon or Jessica Lange or Sissy Spacek. You wonder: These incredible actresses, where are they now? Why did they disappear for so long?," Chastain explained. "It was a system that wasn’t working. And so I thought, ‘Well, what if we now take the power and give it to the actresses?’"