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Octavia Spencer: Jessica Chastain helped me get 5 times the salary I asked for

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As women in Hollywood continue to shine a light on sexual harassment and pay disparity in their industry and beyond, actress Octavia Spencer is thanking her co-star and friend Jessica Chastain for moving the conversation beyond social media.

Spencer spoke about her relationship with Chastain during a Sundance Film Festival panel this week and explained how the actress helped her to negotiate a salary five times her initial pay for their upcoming film together.

According to People, Chastain contacted Octavia, with whom she co-starred in the 2011 movie "The Help," a little over a year ago about working together on a comedy. After agreeing to the project, the two connected a few months later and started talking about the pay gap between men and women and the need for there to be equality.

Jessica Chastain plays a scientist in the movie "Interstellar."
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Jessica Chastain plays a scientist in the movie "Interstellar."

The Oscar-winning actress said she told Chastain, "But here's the thing, women of color on that spectrum, we make far less than white women. So, if we're gonna have that conversation about pay equity, we gotta bring the women of color to the table."

Spencer says Chastain admitted that she had no idea that women of color faced an even greater pay disparity and agreed they would work together to ensure she receives equal pay for their upcoming film.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, women in the United States are paid 83 cents for every dollar a man earns. When it comes to women of color, that number is even lower — black women and Hispanic women are paid 65 cents and 59 cents, respectively, for every dollar a white man earns.

"I love that woman, because she's walking the walk and she's actually talking the talk," Spencer said of Chastain. "She said, 'Octavia we're gonna get you paid on this film. You and I are gonna be tied together. We're gonna be favored nations, and we're gonna make the same thing.' Fast forward to last week, we're making five times what we asked for."

Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at financial website WalletHub, says the key to creating real change is for more women to be in leadership positions and involved in decisions about compensation.

"The pay gap still persists because women continue to have disproportionate representation in both corporate leadership positions, as well as political ones," she tells CNBC Make It.

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