If only Tinseltown salary negotiations were as smooth as a presidential election. Kiss a baby here, shake some hands there. Get creative with the ballot configuration.
Four West Wing staffers--Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and John Spencer--have approached Warner Bros. and John Wells Productions and demanded significant pay hikes, reports Variety.
It's estimated that the Emmy-nominated actors, who currently earn about $80,000 per episode, want their paychecks raised to roughly $150,000 per episode, or at least just over a third of what their commander-in-chief, Martin Sheen, reportedly pulls in per episode of the NBC drama.
The demand comes two years after the quartet joined forces and strong-armed the studio into doubling their respective paychecks--in exchange the foursome agreed to stick around through the show's seventh season in 2005-06.
At that time, the disgruntled West Wing four refused to show for work until their demands were met, while the studio threatened to declare them in breach of contract for their tactics.
Negotiations are reportedly more civilized this time around, with no walkouts or lawsuits threatened. But the constituency has changed since President Bartlet's first term.
Since then, fellow staffer Rob Lowe has been pushed out of his role as White House deputy communications director Sam Seaborn following his salary dispute with the show's producers.
Then there was the sudden May departure of creator Aaron Sorkin and director Thomas Schlamme for reasons unknown. Finally, the series saw a rating dip last season after ABC began counterprogramming the Wednesday night time slot with The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
Indeed, studio execs are allegedly shocked by the new demands given the turmoil the show experienced last season. But those upsets could also work in the actors' favor.
Despite its dip in the polls, the show generated a respectable 13.5 million average viewers this past season in the enviable young and affluent demo. And it could be argued that with the departure of Lowe, Sorkin and Schlamme, the regular cast members have become more vital to the series this year.
Plus, there could be more money to go around this year. In January, Warner Bros. inked a new licensing deal with NBC, in which the Peacock net reportedly agreed to pony up close to $6 million per episode, while a Bravo syndication deal promised to net an additional $1 million per ep. The original salary deals were made while the studio was losing money on production.
At least one source notes in Variety that the studio may have already offered to bump the thesps' salaries to $100,000 per episode each. In addition, the White House staffers showing up for work on the series' fifth season suggests progress is being made.