This year has brought a lot of progress in TV, at least going by this year’s record-breaking Emmy Awards where racial boundaries were broken in multiple categories and, now, Forbes‘ list of the top paid actresses in television. Sofia Vergara still sits at the top, for her sixth year in a row, having raked in $41.5 million before taxes and fees in 2017 for her work on Modern Family. Trailing in her wake are actresses like Mindy Kaling of The Mindy Project on Hulu, who earned nearly $13 million tying for the third spot with Grey’s Anatomy‘s Ellen Pompeo, and Scandal‘s Kerry Washington, who came in seventh with $11 million, and Quantico‘s Priyanka Chropra who took home $10 million. Compared to this year’s list of top-earning film actresses like Emma Stone, Jennifer Aniston, and Jennifer Lawrence, TV’s top-earners are made up of more diverse ethnicities and race.
That’s not the only difference between TV and film’s top-earners though. The gender pay gap also appears to be less in TV than in film, according to Forbes because “small-screen casts often negotiate as a group.” For example, Sofia Vergara’s Modern Family co-stars Julie Bowen to Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ed O’Neill all pull in equal amounts. Though, there are exceptions. Robin Wright, for example, had to fight against Netflix’s House of Cards to earn as much as her co-star Kevin Spacey. Even with a Golden Globe and equal screen time, she was still making $500,000 less than Spacey, as she later revealed during a talk at the Rockefeller Foundation, according to The New York Times. “I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public,'” she said. “And they did.”
Still, there’s plenty of progress that still needs to happen, especially considering only 11 percent of TV shows consist of casts where females outnumber males and only 42 percent of speaking characters on TV are females, according to San Diego State University’s recent study, as Forbes points out. Not to mention, somehow, the cast of Big Little Lies — one of the biggest TV breakout moments of the year — reportedly only took home an estimated $350,000 per episode, which is low in comparison to the estimated $1 million per episode that stars on major network hits can make. As Nicole Kidman said at the Emmys, “Now, more great roles for women please.”
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