'The Crown' producers apologize to stars over pay controversy

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II and Matt Smith as Prince Philip in an episode of Netflix's 'The Crown.'

(CNN)The U.K. production company behind Netflix's "The Crown" has apologized to stars Claire Foy and Matt Smith for thrusting the pair into the middle of a pay equity debate after a producer revealed that Foy was paid less than Smith during the first two seasons of the show.

"We want to apologize to both Claire Foy and to Matt Smith, brilliant actors and friends, who have found themselves at the center of a media storm this week through no fault of their own," a statement released by Left Bank Pictures said, according to Deadline. "Claire and Matt are incredibly gifted actors who, along with the wider cast on 'The Crown' have worked tirelessly to bring our characters to life with compassion and integrity."
Representatives for Left Bank Pictures have not responded to CNN's multiple requests for comment.
Last week, executive producer Suzanne Mackie said in a panel at the INTV conference in Jerusalem that star Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth II, was paid less than co-star Matt Smith during their time on the award-winning Netflix drama.
    Smith played Prince Philip.
    "Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen," Mackie said, according to a report in Variety.
    Mackie attributed the pay gap to Smith's experience and fame from starring in the iconic British program "Doctor Who" prior to joining the cast of "The Crown."
    "As the producers of The Crown, we at Left Bank Pictures are responsible for budgets and salaries; the actors are not aware of who gets what, and cannot be held personally responsible for the pay of their colleagues," Left Bank's statement added.
    Since the information about the actors' pay discrepancy was revealed, more than 25,000 people have signed a petition asking Smith to donate a portion of his salary to Time's Up, a female-led organization created to end sexual harassment in the workplace and to advocate for equal pay for women.
    Left Bank Productions said it supports "the conversation which is rightly being played out across society and we are absolutely united with the fight for fair pay, free of gender bias, and for a re-balancing of the industry's treatment of women, both those in front of the camera and for those behind the scenes."
    The company said it plans to enter into "talks" with the U.K. arm of Time's Up and ERA 50:50, a British movement of actors and actresses campaigning for gender equality on British television and stage, "to make our contribution to the debate."
    New actors are set to take over the roles played by Foy and Smith in the upcoming third and fourth seasons of the series, set in the royal couple's later years.