Television salaries are rapidly changing, according to a new report from Variety. Thanks to a new California state law, employers cannot ask prospective employees about their salaries from previous jobs, and Hollywood is not exempt from this rule.
Now, rather than offer an actor a quote that leaned on a prospective employer’s knowledge of the actor’s salary at previous gigs, performers and producers are hoping to achieve parity across genders, races, and ethnicities when it comes to offering an actor a salary that does not depend on however much money they made from his or her last project. These new guidelines have also increased the budgets of executives looking to hire top talent for premier content. As a result, some actors are making roughly a million dollars per episode of their respective television series.
Some of the usual suspects—Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead, Elisabeth Moss from The Handmaid’s Tale, even Kelly Clarkson on The Voice—make the list of television’s top 10 highest earners in Hollywood. Reedus and Moss are hitting the $1 million per episode mark for their participation in their respective television series, while Clarkson clocks in at about $560,000 per episode (and $14 million total per season) for the reality singing competition.
In recent years, audiences have been pleasantly surprised that many performers we have come to know as primarily film actors have pivoted to prestige television. Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman may be the most well-known examples of that phenomenon thanks to their roles on Big Little Lies. Even Cate Blanchett is reportedly set to star in a new FX series about Phyllis Schlafly, a deeply conservative American lawyer. America’s silver-screen sweetheart, Julia Roberts, will do the same with the upcoming Amazon series Homecoming (for which she makes $600,000 an episode).
Other performers scheduled to appear on the small screen, which made them big, are Jennifer Aniston, who is set to star in Apple’s untitled drama about a morning talk show (along with Witherspoon and Steve Carell as her costars, both of whom make the top-ten list of earners due to their respective roles on this project). Yet the highest-paid actor on television, according to this new Variety report, is actually Javier Bardem, who received $1.2 million per episode to appear in an untitled series produced by Amazon and Amblin TV.
Looking at the breakdown of television’s highest-paid actors, four out of ten top earners are making big bucks for shows that haven’t even been released yet or don’t even have titles attached to them, and this list doesn’t even take into consideration the executive-producer-credit earnings tacked on to some actors’ salaries like Witherspoon’s—she is now essentially a producing mogul—Aniston’s, Roberts’s, and Bardem’s. With salaries like theirs, it makes sense that some of Hollywood’s most well-known big-screen players have transitioned to the small screen (or streaming service) of their choice.