Debra Wilson Reveals She Left ‘MADtv’ Due to Pay Disparity With White Male Cast Members
Debra Wilson, one of the original cast members on MADtv, said she quit the sketch comedy series in 2003 after hearing about a pay gap between her and the white male actors who joined the cast after her. In an interview with Comedy Hype News, Wilson revealed that the showrunners were unwilling to increase their pay or address the issue after bringing it to their attention.
"I was a full-time performer from the start, from the pilot, and people came after me and did more than me," said Wilson. "And when I saw that white male actors came after me doing more than I did, I said," Okay, can we talk about it? "And the answer was essentially no."
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While Wilson didn't reveal the exact pay gap between her and the other cast's salaries, she said her departure was less about "dollars and cents" and more about being the only original black woman on the show since her television debut in 1993.
"What I wanted to do and what I wanted to create on this show didn't hit a glass ceiling," said Wilson. "But when I was told that 'all of the things you create and want to be on the show have monetary value and we don't value it as much as the new people who come in,' I left."
Wilson was most recognized for her impersonations by Oprah Winfrey and Whitney Houston. She created many popular characters on "MADtv" such as blaxploitation actress Cocoa Latette, Tovah McQueen and the fast-talking Bunifa Latifah Halifah Sharifa Jackson. After leaving the series, she worked as a voice actor on animated films such as "Over The Hedge" as well as television series such as "Family Guy" and "The Boondocks".
Wilson said she would have stayed with MADtv if the showrunners were willing to negotiate an increase in their salary.
"Did they just say," You know what, Debra, we're going to raise your salary. It won't match his, but we'll elevate it. "I would have stayed," said Wilson.
Wilson was one of the eight original "MADtv" cast members along with Bryan Callen, David Herman, Orlando Jones, Phil LaMarr, Artie Lange, Mary Scheer and Nicole Sullivan. Some of the cast members added later were Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Alex Borstein, Will Sasso, Frank Caliendo, and Michael McDonald. When the sketch series briefly revived on the CW in 2016, Wilson returned for an appearance.
Check out the interview below.
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