This Is How Much the Top TV Actors Make Per Episode
Variety’s annual roundup of the TV actors’ salaries is here, and it’s eye-opening, to say the least.
Topping the list of episodic salaries for a drama series is Robert De Niro, who isn’t known for his TV roles. The Oscar winner is slated to star in David O. Russell’s still untitled Amazon series for a whopping $775,000 per episode. Julianne Moore is also attached to the project, though her salary is absent from the list.
Other celebrated actors involved in Amazon series include Billy Bob Thornton, who reportedly earns $350,000 per episode of Goliath, and Jeffrey Tambor, who nets $275,000 per episode of Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series Transparent.
Unsurprisingly, the cast of Game of Thrones also cleans up nicely. Major players Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, and Lena Headey make $500,000 per episode of the fan-favorite HBO series.
However, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, star of HBO comedy Ballers, makes even more than the GoT cast with $650,000 per 30-minute episode.
After last year’s public standoff with Showtime, Shameless star Emmy Rossum is now earning the same episodic fee as her TV dad, William H. Macy. Both stars rake in $300,000 per episode of the long-running series, which is heading into its eighth season.
Netflix, another major player in the world of serial entertainment, appears on the list several times—touting the triple digit salaries of House of Cards star Kevin Spacey ($500,000), Ozark duo Jason Bateman and Laura Linney ($300,000 each), and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Ellie Kemper ($150,000). Notably, The Crown’s Claire Foy and Kimmy Schmidt’s Tituss Burgess make considerably less per episode ($40,000 and $90,000, respectively).
Spacey's House of Cards co-star, Robin Wright, is also conspicuously missing from the list. After demanding equal pay and opening up about eventually earning it in May 2016, Wright recanted her statement a year later, telling Net-a-Porter's The Edit that she was told she'd receive the same pay as Spacey, but later found out that wasn't true.
When it comes down to it, though, reality TV is where the money is. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres tops the list, earning a yearly salary of $50 million. Judge Judy’s Judith Sheindlin isn’t far behind—reportedly earning $47 million yearly from both new and syndicated episodes of the courtroom series.
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The 2017 list shines a spotlight on how few minorities are among television's top earners. Variety notes that the salary and casting landscapes are still egregiously out of balance when it comes to gender and race. In May, the publication reported that only 20 percent of leads in upcoming broadcast TV series were nonwhite or Hispanic, and only a third of new shows employed a female lead. For the third year running, CBS failed to order a single new show with a female lead.
See Variety's full salary report here—and maybe consider a career in television.