No, we're not talking about George W. We mean The West Wing prez Martin Sheen.
The New York Post reports that Sheen has received a huge raise for portraying President Josiah Bartlet on the Emmy-winning NBC drama.
His pay scale has tripled since last year and will now be $300,000 an episode (President Bush, on the other hand, makes a relatively paltry $400,000 per year), according to the newspaper, which refers to the new contract as "a sweet deal."
And how. In addition to his substantially larger paycheck, Sheen's perk-filled pact reportedly includes an office suite on the Warner Bros. lot, a production deal with the studio, guaranteed days off each week (for his own political activities perhaps?) and a recurring role for his daughter, Renee Estevez.
Estevez has previously appeared on the show as Nancy, a staffer who served as an assistant to presidential secretary Mrs. Landingham, who was killed off in a car crash during May sweeps, apparently jeopardizing Estevez's part.
But, if the Post is correct, Sheen's deal guarantees her return. NBC said Wednesday it has not yet been determined whether she would serve under the new secretary, to be played by new cast member Lily Tomlin, or would get another White House assignment.
A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Television, the show's production company, confirmed that Sheen had negotiated a new deal, but would not discuss any details. However, a source close to the production implied the Post story had exaggerated the terms.
Of course, Warners doesn't want Sheen's raise to make waves on the set of The West Wing, especially since supporting players Allison Janney, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff staged a walkout last year over what they viewed as unfair treatment. They wound up getting substantial raises, each making about $75,000 per episode last season as compared to the approximately $100,000 per pulled in by Sheen and Rob Lowe. There are usually a minimum of 22 episodes per season. (Coincidentally Whitford's real-life wife, Jane Kaczmarek, just got a hefty raise from Fox's Malcolm in the Middle.)
If the Post's source is on the money, then Sheen's pay hike would rank him up there with ER's Noah Wyle as one of the top-compensated stars of a TV drama. Wyle pulls down about $400,000 per episode.
But that's still pocket change compared to the salaries earned by NBC's top sitcom stars. Frasier's Kelsey Grammer makes more than $1.6 million per episode of his sitcom and second banana David Hyde Pierce makes about $1 million per. That's about the same salary the six stars of Friends will earn for their upcoming final season.