Why is the Modern Family cast seeking a raise? Isn't Sofia Vergara already the highest-paid TV actress?
—B. Hastings, via the inbox
She sure is—to the tune of $19 million a year in earnings. But let's be fair, here. Vergara has to split that money with her two girls, who are almost as famous as the rest of her. She also gets some of that money from other ventures, including films and endorsements.
Besides, she's not the first high-salary actor to demand a big hike in pay, and if she gets the $140,000-per-episode raise she apparently wants, she won't be the first actor to triumph, either.
Actors have a history of seeking more money at just the right time, regardless of their income bracket. In a way, the title of "highest-paid" and a bid for a raise are totally unrelated. After all, you can be the most expensive person in your field and still be underpaid; just depends on how much your bosses are making off of your talent back, right?
And that may be the mentality among the Modern Family cast. After all, since its birth three seasons ago, the show has become a darling among Emmy voters, viewers and critics alike.
"The salaries and [raises] they initially negotiated are likely seeming unfair in the eyes of the talents," suggests Ron Dolecki, attorney at Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman who regularly handles contracts between producers and talent. "On a percentage basis, the salaries paid to the cast compared with revenues has likely dropped, and the cast wants salary increases to at least keep pace with such revenue."
Actor Ed O'Neill already gets $100,000 an episode, E! News learned on Tuesday. The other five adult actors on the show get $60,000 each. Now they're all seeking, according to sources "somewhere in the neighborhood" of $200,000 per episode.
It may sound like a big leap, but not the world of TV production, Dolecki says. It's not uncommon for an actor's salary to increase 100 percent if a show is successful enough, Dolecki says; that would, at least, explain the number O'Neill is now seeking.
If you still think the cast may be getting too greedy, consider: During his eighth and final season of Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen raked in a record $1.8 million per episode. That made him, at the time, the highest-paid actor on TV, and he still demanded more. He didn't get the $3 million he said he wanted—he got replaced by Ashton Kutcher instead—but you see my point.
Other actors have been more successful in their negotiations. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's, Mariska Hargitay has reportedly been able to scale back her workload on the hit show while making the same cash—a raise, of sorts. She now makes a reported $500,000 per show and $10 million per year in total.
Of course there's always the chance that the show could return to the screen with a whole new main cast—a very small, but very real, possibility. General Lee fans will know exactly what I'm talking about.