These Are the 15 Actors Making the Top Dollar in the TV Industry
Whether you’ve been binge-watching re-runs of Friends, finally watched Game of Thrones, despite being one of the few who proudly announced you hadn’t watched the series, or you’ve kept your hands in front of your eyes through many scenes of the Handmaid’s Tale, there’s no doubt about it – we’ve watched a lot of TV actors over lockdown.
So today Aluxers, let’s find out who the highest-paid TV actors are from our all-time favourites.
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Why not appreciate these charming actors as you learn about their earnings? Here’s the video version of this article:
With that in place, let’s get to the first item on today’s listicle.
The Walking Dead – Norman Reedus – $1 Million / Episode
Daryl Dixon wasn’t wrong when he said, “the world is just sh*t sometimes, and you live with it. Sometimes that is all you can do.”
At least you have us here at Alux to make it a little less sh*t.
Played by Norman Reedus, Darryl Dixon is the main character of The Walking Dead. He and Melissa McBride have been on the show since it began in 2010.
Dixon is an expert hunter, tracker, and navigator. He’s the right-hand man to Nick Grimes, and according to a 2019 Variety report, reportedly earned $1 million per episode.
If you’re a fan, you’ll no doubt have heard that Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus will be headlining their own spin-offs, with filming to begin in 2023.
The Handmaid’s Tale – Elisabeth Moss – $1 Million / Episode
If you’ve read work by Margaret Atwood, you’ll know just how gripping her stories are. This series, adapted from the novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” premiered in 2017.
This series has a fourth season coming out in 2021 and has been renewed for a 5th season too.
The series has won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Drama and lead actress, Elizabeth Moss won a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
Her role is that of June Osborne, who tried to escape Canada with her husband and daughter but was captured and forced to become a Handmaid to Commander Fred Waterford and his wife.
Salaries of the actors are kept under wraps, barring a report from Variety suggesting that Moss receives $1 million per episode.
Big Little Lies – Nicole Kidman & Reese Witherspoon – $1 Million / Episode
We can’t get enough of Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, both actors releasing some incredible work over the past few years.
Big Little Lies premiered in 2017 and was based on the 2014 novel of the same name written by Liane Moriarty.
Intriguing inter-personal relationships between school moms, murder, lies, deception, cover-ups and plain old bitchiness, the series was riveting and it’s easy to see why leading actresses, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon received a million dollars per episode.
It’s not clear whether there will be a season 3, but it hasn’t been ruled out altogether, so if you’re a fan – there is still a chance!
The Big Bang Theory – $ 1 Million / Episode
Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kunal Nayyar, Simon Helberg and Kaley Cuoco brought us 12 seasons of laughs in The Big Bang Theory. The series ended in 2019, but it’s not going away as quickly as that, as we continue to indulge in re-runs.
The original stars were reportedly earning $1 million an episode, but all took a pay cut of $100,000 per episode during the final 2 seasons so that co-stars Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch would earn more.
Despite them being full-time cast members from season 4, they were said to only be receiving $200,000 per episode. With the additional money given up by their co-hosts, they were then receiving $500,000 an episode.
We’ll leave you with a joke from Sheldon: ““A neutron walks into a bar and asks how much for a drink. The bartender replies ‘for you, no charge’.”
Seinfeld – Jerry Seinfeld – $ 1 Million / Episode
Jerry Seinfeld made history when he became the highest-paid cast member in 1997, when he earned $1 million per episode. Some reports suggest that he was offered $5 million an episode, if he would return to film a 10th season of Seinfeld, but he turned the offer down.
Co-stars tried their best to get their salaries to match Seinfeld’s, but they were not successful. They settled for $600,000 per episode, which was still a 300% increase from their original earnings of $150,000 per episode.
Seinfeld continues to earn from the series, as he gets a cut of the show’s royalties.
Mad About You – Helen Hunt & Paul Reiser – $ 1 Million / Episode
It won four Golden Globe Awards and twelve Primetime Emmy Awards, Mad About You, is the story of a married couple in lower Manhattan and their baby daughter Mabel.
A brilliant part of the series was all the crossovers of other sitcoms in New York City. Friends, Seinfeld, The Dick van Dyke Show and Madman of the people.
In the final season, the leading actors received $1 million per episode.
In 2019, new episodes were released on Spectrum’s, On Demand platform, called Revival. The stories didn’t quite match up to where the series had ended, and if you were a fan, you’d have to re-invent a new dialogue, which many weren’t too keen on.
Friends – $ 1 Million / Episode
Talk of a Friends reunion has been underway for years, and we’ve been let down over, and over again. This time, it seems like it’s going to happen. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the virus, chances are – it would have already happened.
Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox, Matt le Blanc, David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry will get together at the same Warner Bros studio where they filmed the original series and enjoy looking back at memories of the successful series.
Friends ran from 1994 to 2004, and by season 9 and 10 – all cast members were receiving $1 million an episode, with some reports claiming Aniston and Schwimmer took pay cuts so that they all received an equal amount.
Filming for the reunion is set to start March, 2021… so, let’s hope that does come to fruition.
The Sopranos – James Gandolfini – $ 1 Million / Episode
He took away three Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and one Golden Globe Award, it’s no wonder James Gandolfini was earning up to a million dollars per episode of The Sopranos.
Sadly, Gandolfini died of a heart attack in 2013.
Gandolfini played the role of Tony Soprano in the American crime drama television series created by David Chase. The entire series is regarded as one of the best series of all time, earning itself 2 Peabody awards, 21 Primetime Emmy Awards, and five Golden Globe Awards.
Fans of the series have the film all about the Soprano’s background to look forward to in 2021. New Line Cinema bought the rights to the film in 2018, and will star the son of Gandolfini, Michael, playing the part of his dad as a youngster. It’s set in the 1960s and 1970s and is called The Many Saints of Newark.
Game of Thrones – $ 1 Million / Episode
Some reports suggest $1 million an episode, while others put it as high as $1.2 million per episode. Suffice to say, it was a sh*t load of money, but they were rewarded for their outlay – because Game of Thrones made $3.1 Billion through HBO subscriptions alone.
Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington star in the HBO series about a medieval civil war, where a decade-long summer comes to an end, bringing on a hard winter while the characters try to claim the seat of the king of the Seven Kingdoms.
The conclusion of the series had 19.3 million viewers tune in – to what many still claim to be the most disappointing end to a series in the history of all series.
That is not just the biggest number on the throne, check out Richest Game of Thrones Celebrities.
Little Fires Everywhere – Reese Witherspoon & Kerry Washington – $1.1 Million / Episode
Aluxers, no denying that 2020 was a tough year – but at least we had this riveting miniseries to take our attention elsewhere for a short while.
Based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller, Little Fires Everywhere, the story follows that of a middle-class white woman, offering her rental to a single African American mother. It delves beautifully into the stereotypical outlook of relationships between different races and yet, at the end – you find yourself seeing both points of view.
Both women try and do what is right for their family, end up making possibly the worst mistakes of their lives.
It’s easy to see and understand why each leading lady earned $1.1 million per episode!
Home Improvement – Tim Allen – $1.25 Million / Episode
A wise neighbour, a toolman and a home improvement tv show are the central figures of this once super popular series that ran from 1991 to 1999. It was the most watched sitcom in the US and won several awards.
The first 2 seasons saw Pamela Anderson play the part of the Tool Time girl. At one stage, Ashley Judd auditioned for the role, but the guys thought she was too talented for it. She also decided to pass it up, citing she believed that she had a future on the big-screen and wasn’t ready to settle for television. And she was right!
The series had 8 successful seasons, and Allen was offered $50 million to film a 9th season, which he declined.
Tim Allen has done some incredible voice work, including voicing Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story! To Infinity and Beyond… ok, maybe just to number 4 then!
Frasier – Kelsey Grammar – $1.6 Million / Episode
A night in, watching re-runs of Frasier, is never wasted. It proves that no family is perfect, and we all want to stifle our siblings every once in a while.
The series ran for 11 seasons and won thirty-seven Primetime Emmy Awards. There was talk in 2019 of reviving the series in 2020, but to date, we’ve had nothing concrete.
Let’s go back to the figures though. Kelsey Grammar, who played the role of Dr Frasier Crane, was earning $1.6 million an episode. That was in 2001, which at that stage, made him the highest paid actor in TV history!
Everybody Loves Raymond – Ray Romano – $1.725 Million / Episode
TV Guide puts this series down as the 60th best all-time series, Rolling Stone called it the “eleventh-best sitcom starring a stand-up comedian,” and the Writers Guild of America said it was the “the 63rd best written television series.”
Raymond Barone is the central figure of the series that ran for 9 seasons. He is a sportswriter for Newsday who lives on Long Island with his family. Expect the usual family drama, dry, sarcastic humour, the odd relationship he has with his mother and his inability to take proper responsibly if it means that conflict will ensue.
For his brilliant comedic performance, Ray Romano was awarded with $1.75 million per episode.
2 and a Half Men – Charlie Sheen – $1.8 Million / Episode
Aluxers, before Charlie Sheen had his fall from grace, he was the highest paid male actor on television and was earning $1.8 million per episode of 2 and a Half Men.
He played the role of Charlie Harper for 12 seasons but was fired when he made disparaging remarks about the show and the series’ creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre. He went into drug rehabilitation just before that, and producers decided to terminate his contract.
Sheen was replaced by Ashton Kutcher, who played the role of a billionaire who purchased Harpers property after he died.
The new series ran until 2015. Sadly, Berta – played by Conchata Ferrell – died in October of 2020. Berta was many viewers favourite part of the series, and she will be missed.
The Morning Show – Jennifer Aniston & Reese Witherspoon – $2 Million / Episode
Inspired by the book, “Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, by Brian Stelter, The Morning Show was released by Apple.
A stellar cast and a strong, current storyline were all that was needed to make The Morning Show a huge success. It was nominated for 3 Golden Globe Awards and the second season was signed off for, before the first was even released – that’s how much confidence was put in the show being a success.
The second season was set for release November 2020, but there have been serious delays due to the pandemic. It’s possible we might have a new season nearer the end of 2021, or early 2022.
As they say, “All good things come to those who wait.”
Aluxers, which of these series starring the top-paid actors was your favourite? We’d love to hear from you!