Top TV Stars' Salaries Revealed: Who Makes $900,000 Per Episode and Who Makes $40,000?

Ellen DeGeneres, meanwhile, earns $50 million annually to host her daytime talk show

By Zach Johnson Aug 22, 2017 4:00 PMTags

It pays to be on TV—especially if you're part of an ensemble cast.

Variety revealed Tuesday how much TV's biggest actors and actresses earned per episode in 2017. Worth noting: In some instances, an actor or actress' episodic fee reflects additional compensation for his or her work as TV producers, or for his or her profit participation stakes.

So, who's raking it in on the small screen?

The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar and Jim Parsons negotiated a $900,000 per episode fee. The original five stars of The Big Bang Theory took slight pay cuts to so their co-stars Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch could get raises; the actresses now command $500,000 per episode. And Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington and Lena Headey receive $500,000 per episode.

Shameless' William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum earn $350,000 per episode each (after some negotiating on Rossum's behalf), and Dwayne Johnson makes $650,000 per episode for Ballers.

E! Illustration

The principal stars of Modern FamilyJulie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O'Neill, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara—earn $500,000 per episode, while the four leads of Will & GraceSean Hayes, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally—earn $250,000 per episode. Some leading ladies, like Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Scandal's Kerry Washington, receive $250,000 per episode—more than any other cast member on their respective TV series.

Cast paydays come on a sliding scale, of course.

The paydays for the cast of This Is Us range in terms of star power, with established leads Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia raking in $85,000 per episode, followed by Sterling K. Brown with $75,000 per episode, and Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz with $40,000 per episode. The same is true of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, as Ellie Kemper—formerly of The Office—earns $150,000 per episode, while rising star Titus Burgess earns $90,000 per episode.

Unlike actors and actresses, anchors, hosts and judges receive annual salaries; Ellen DeGeneres out-earns them all with an estimated $50 million a year. Kelly Ripa receives $22 million to co-host Live With Kelly and Ryan, compared to Ryan Seacrest's $15 million. (Don't feel too bad for the hardest working man in show business, as he also earns $12 million to host American Idol.)

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In the world of late-night comedy, The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon receives the heftiest sum of all with $16 million per year, followed by The Late Show's Stephen Colbert ($15 million), Jimmy Kimmel Live!'s Jimmy Kimmel ($15 million) and Conan's Conan O'Brien ($12 million). Figures for Full Frontal's Samantha Bee, The Late Late Show's James Corden, Late Night's Seth Meyers, The Daily Show's Trevor Noah and Last Week Tonight's John Oliver were not provided, but David Letterman will get $12 million for his untitled Netflix series (or $2 million an episode).

To see the complete list of paydays, read Variety's full report.

Women and minorities are, by and large, still earning less than white men.

"The issue of pay parity looms large in our industry," says SAG-AFTRA president and former Beverly Hills, 90210 star Gabrielle Carteris. "I've seen it for years in my own career, but it was surprising in talking with members and people within the industry to see how pervasive it really is."

NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt says his studio division, Universal Television, is especially conscious of pay equality when it's negotiating talent deals. "Whether they're overall deals or acting-fee deals or producer deals, yes," Greenblatt tells Variety. "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."

(E! and NBC are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)