Variety has released its annual list of the top-earning TV stars.
When it comes to the top dramatic actors on TV, Robert De Niro, Mark Harmon and the cast of “Game of Thrones” have topped the list. De Niro is set to make a whopping $775,000 an episode for the still-untitled Amazon drama series from David O. Russell.
Harmon came in second for his work on Global’s “NCIS”, earning $525,000 an episode. The cast of “Game of Thrones”, including Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington and Lena Headey earn $500,000 an episode.
In the comedy world, the cast of “The Big Bang Theory”, including Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar and Jim Parsons are the highest-earning actors on TV, earning $900,000 an episode. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson follows as the top-earning actor not on “The Big Bang Theory”, earning $650,000 an episode for his HBO show “Ballers”.
And when it comes to the top-earning reality, news and host personalities, Ellen DeGeneres tops the list with a $50-million salary. Judge Judy is a close second with $47 million and in third is Matt Lauer with $25 million.
For the issue, Variety spoke to several actors about the ongoing pay equality issue between men and women in Hollywood. Former “Community” actress Yvette Nicole Brown revealed that she once earned just a bit more than a guest star on a show she was a series regular on.
“I found out that as a series regular I was making just a smidge over what a white man was making as a GUEST star. Dude was just visiting,” she said.
“I was like, ‘That’s five dollars less than me’. It’s not like this was Tom Cruise. If Tom Cruise comes, back up the Brinks truck. This was a journeyman actor. He wasn’t performing a series-regular role,” Brown continued. After this incident, she learned she was making even less than her other series regulars on the unnamed show. “I’ve been a series regular now for eight years on network television and I’m making what a guy coming for a week is making,” Brown revealed. “And it’s because I’m a black woman.
“Your quote goes up when you book pilots. Minorities don’t have as many opportunities to book pilots. I’ve been in the running for four pilots in my life and I’ve booked three of them. There are some white actresses who go out for four pilots on a Tuesday morning.”
For Brown, she speaks out because other actors cannot and she wants them to know they have a voice. “It’s so someone who’s just starting out can say ‘I know you said you’d pay me $5 and a chicken sandwich this week, but someone else is getting $1,000. Could I possibly get that thousand?’ Because if you don’t get it coming in, you’re always behind.”
According to NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt, the network has become more conscious of pay equality over the years. “Whether they’re overall deals or acting-fee deals or producer deals, yes. At the same time, you can’t ignore experience, and you can’t just say that because someone is of a specific diversity, they’re going to make 10 times more. You have to take all that into consideration,” Greenblatt said.
“Hawaii Five-O” star Daniel Dae Kim spoke to Variety about his recent departure from the show over contract negotiations. Kim said that while he’s made a “very good living” from acting, he’s in a position to either accept or decline an offer based on it being sufficient or appropriate enough.
“Any time you talk about equality in general,” Kim said, “it has a lot of implications. It has implications about race, about gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion — so many things. To spark a conversation about that is not such a bad thing.”