After ‘In Living Color’ ended in 1994 following a four-year run, Fox decided to give sketch comedy another go and ultimately started airing ‘MadTV’ in 1995, which ran against NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ for 14 years.
‘Mad’ was known for its share of memorable characters and celebrity impressions, along with having a strong set of cast members.
One person that stood out to viewers and fans was Debra Wilson, who was part of the original cast and was on the show as a regular from ’95 until 2003.
Wilson provided her share of characters including Bunifa Latifah Halifah Sharifa Jackson and impressions of such stars including Oprah Winfrey and Whitney Houston.
Yet, as revealed in a recent interview with Comedy Hype, she wasn’t given the proper support and respect all of us thought she would get. She also was not paid very well compared to other cast members, especially those who came on after her.
Wilson reveals to Hype she saw newer performers who brought in getting much better financial support than her. That ultimately lead her to leave the long-running Fox show after an eight-season run.
From Madame Noire:
“I recognized that there were people who came in after me — I was a tenured cast member from the beginning, from pilot. And people were coming in after me making more than me,” she said. “And when I realized there was white male cast members who were coming in after me making more than me, I went, okay, ‘Can we talk about this?’ And the answer, essentially, was no.”
“What I wanted to do and what I wanted to create on that show did not hit a glass ceiling, but when I was told that all the things you want to create and be on the show has a monetary value and we don’t value it as much as the new people coming in, that’s when I left,” she added.
When she tried to talk to the show’s producers about her salary, she was met with indifference:
“I said listen, ‘I’m not going to name names or do anything, but with what I’m bringing to the show and what I hope to continue to do, you tell me I’m financially hitting a glass ceiling,’ and it was like, ‘yep,’” she said.
To Wilson, it wasn’t so much of how much more a certain newer made than her, but instead on how she felt it was “devaluing, or what I felt was devaluing of what I bring to the table and could continue to bring to the table.”
When Wilson was on ‘Mad,’ she was the only black female cast member on the show’s first eight years, while a lot of the white male, black male and white female cast members came and went during her original stint. Ironically, after she left, there were a lot of black female cast members that came and went.
Yet, it felt she wasn’t treated properly by those who ran the show and after producers had failed to offer her a increase in pay, she decided to leave:
“There wasn’t even a negotiation to raise where I was, let alone to match someone else,” she said. “Had they just said, ‘You know what Debra? We’re going to raise your salary. It won’t match his but we’re going to raise it,’ I would have stayed.”
Though she came back for guest appearances between 2005 and its original conclusion on Fox in ’09, though she also appeared on the short-lived CW revival in 2016, Wilson found more success in voice acting.
This has become another example involving Black actresses not getting the pay and respect they deserve. A lot of changes need to be made in the entertainment world.
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Article Courtesy of Madame Noire
First Picture Courtesy of Lucianna Faraone Coccia and Getty Images
Second Picture Courtesy of Alberto E. Rodriguez and Getty Images