(Warning: this post contains spoilers for Season 4 of The Affair.)
What the hell is going on with The Affair? For four seasons, Ruth Wilson was the co-lead of the Showtime psychological drama series alongside Dominic West. That changed Sunday, when her character Alison Bailey was apparently murdered in the penultimate episode of the season. In an interview with CBS This Morning on Thursday, Wilson said she wasn't "allowed" to talk about why she left the show, but it sounds like her exit was not amicable.
When asked by Gayle King if it was true that she wanted to leave the show, Wilson confirmed she did want to leave and said, "But I'm not allowed to talk about why." King, a little taken aback, said that she'd heard that Wilson had left over a "disagreement about money, male and female salaries."
"I've never complained to Showtime about pay parity," Wilson said. But that's not exactly true; Wilson has publicly complained about not being paid as much as West. In an interview with the Radio Times in February, Wilson said "[West] definitely gets more than me. I mean, I don't know what the figure is, but I'm sure he does."
When The Affair premiered, West had already been a lead of a major show (The Wire), so he was paid more based on his resumé, despite having an equally important role on The Affair as Wilson. But Wilson, not West, won a Golden Globe for her performance, and she says even after that she didn't get parity.
"I don't want more money, I just want equal money," Wilson said. "Which means men have to take less." She said she hadn't talked about it with West and her dispute was not with him personally. For his part, West told Channel 4, "She should get paid more because she won a Golden Globe for the part."
Wilson likely signed a nondisclosure agreement with a non-disparagement clause when she left the show, which is probably why she says she's "not allowed" to talk about the circumstances of her exit, but it's definitely a bit shocking to hear a woman say she's not allowed to speak about something like this.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter after Alison's shocking death in the Aug. 5 episode, The Affair showrunner Sarah Treem said, "Ruth wanted to leave the show. That was a request, so that was decided basically before we started writing. It wasn't a discovery of any kind. That was very deliberate. And actually, we shot all of her work first. Her whole storyline was shot before we shot anything else."
On Thursday afternoon, Showtime addressed Wilson's comments in a statement provided to Variety.
"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 statement read. "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."
However, Wilson contradicted both Treem and Showtime in an interview with Vulture, saying she had no input into how Alison was written off the show.
"No, I had no say over how the character's arc was going to end, or how she would die and leave. I always hoped that she would... I always had the image that she would walk into the sunset with her son with no man," Wilson said. "That's what I hoped for her. But no."
(Oddly, her character has a daughter, not a son.)
The gender pay gap has been a hot topic in the Time's Up era, exemplified by the massive disparity between what Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams were paid for reshoots on the movie All the Money in the World. On Showtime, Shameless' Emmy Rossum was a little ahead of the movement as she fought for and received parity with William H. Macy in 2016. Shameless is produced by Warner Bros. and Showtime, while The Affair is produced by Showtime alone.
The Affair has been renewed for a fifth and final season. The Season 4 finale airs Sunday, Aug. 19 at 9/8c.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, Showtime's parent company.)