You Won't Believe How Much These TV Actors Make Per Episode
If you thought movie stars made bank, just wait until you see how much these TV actors earn on an episode-by-episode basis.
Following the announcement that Meryl Streep is raking in a whopping $825,000 per episode to star in Netflix's new show The Nix, based on Nathan Hill's novel of the same name, we did some digging to see just how that salary stacks up against her fellow TV actors, many of whom, like her, are venturing onto the small screen after years of starring in box office flicks.
Before the "golden age of television," actors traditionally used TV shows as a jumping off point for their career, hoping to gain a fandom and attention from a show in order to later break out onto the big screen. But networks are now looking to recognizable talent to cast in their projects, rather than newcomers. "Viewership is shrinking on a per-show basis, so what [these networks] are doing is trying to break through the crowd with big-star and big-ticket names," said Henry Schafer, Executive VP at brand specialist Q Scores, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
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Plus, according to Variety, "not too long ago, pay for top-level talent on broadcast or basic cable would often max out at $125,000," but now that TV roles have become more and more desirable, not to mention premium and streaming services having bigger budgets, "there’s no line anymore between television and film, and anyone who says they won’t do TV, they're crazy," according to a talent agent who talked to the publication.
There are of couse television stars who have always earned top dollar in their field, like Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, and Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory, each of whom take in an estimated $1 million per episode. Plus, plenty of the Game of Thrones actors top the highest paid list, with Peter Dinklage and Lena Heady making $500,000 per gory, incestuous, dragon-filled episode of the fan-favorite show.
Scroll down to see some of the highest paid stars on TV today (with data from Variety), many of whom you'll recognize, not just from your favorite television programs, but from your favorite movies as well.
Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, and Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
Each in the trio pulls in a whopping $1 million per episode to star on the scientist sitcom.
Meryl Streep, The Nix
Streep will be paid an estimated $825,000 per episode to star in J.J. Abrams's latest project, based on Nathan Hill's novel of the same name.
Alexis Bledel, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
Upon returning to the beloved series, Bledel was paid $750,000 for each of the four 90-minute episodes.
Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
Starring as Lorelai Gilmore, Graham raked in $750,000 per episode.
Mark Harmon, NCIS
Harmon has starred as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the crime-drama series since 2003, and currently makes an estimated $525,000 per episode.
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
The actor gets paid half a million dollars per episode to play a scheming politician with a seriously evil streak. #LifeGoals.
Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
Both actors, along with co-stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, and Peter Dinklage, earn $500,000 per episode. But that's practically pocket change compared to the $10 million it costs on average to make just one episode of the show.
Claire Danes, Homeland
As the bi-polar CIA agent Carrie Mathison, Danes makes $450,000 per episode, which we'd say is pretty reasonable given the amount of breakdowns she has flawlessly acted out over the show's five seasons.
Dwayne Johnson, Ballers
In HBO's sports version of Entourage, Johnson plays a retired football player turned agent, and makes $400,000 per episode.
Ellen Pompeo, Grey's Anatomy
Oh Meredith, what would we ever do without you in the Greysverse? Please don't ever leave us (or your $400,000 per episode)!
Drew Barrymore, Santa Clarita Diet
This new Netflix comedy isn't even out yet, and Barrymore reportedly already secured $350,000 per episode.
Jonah Hill, Maniac
Hill is set to star in another Netflix original, coming out next year. The show centers on guy who lives a fantasy life in his dreams, but in reality, is locked up at an institution. He was reportedly paid $350,000 per episode.
Emma Stone, Maniac
Stone plays a fellow patient in the institution with Jonah Hill and will be making the same salary per episode: $350,000. Hooray for equal pay!
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
HBO's much talked about new miniseries stars Kidman, among others. The actress reportedly will pull in $350,000 per episode.
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies
Witherspoon is co-starring alongside Kidman on the HBO show. She also garnered a salary of $350,000 per episode.
Sarah Jessica Parker, Divorce
She'll always be Carrie Bradshaw in our hearts but we still love her as Frances in HBO's newest dramedy, where SJP rakes in $275,000 per episode.
Naomi Watts, Gypsy
Watts will make $275,000 per episode as "a therapist who begins to develop dangerous and intimate relationships with the people in her patients' lives," according to The Hollywood Reporter.