In the world of peak TV, big-name actors have started to head from movies to television, and as we reported earlier this year, they’re pulling giant salaries in the medium. Variety’s survey of the highest-paid actors on TV reinforces the notion that top talent is getting paid a whole lot more than everyone else, but more interestingly, it shows that a lot of those top earners are women, partially because TV has become a haven for actresses. Claire Danes, for instance, gets roughly $450,000 an episode five seasons into Homeland, but nowadays, some actresses are getting close to as much in their shows’ first seasons. Emma Stone and Drew Barrymore are each earning about $350,000 per episode for upcoming Netflix projects, while Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are both getting approximately the same deal on HBO’s Big Little Lies. A-list actor salaries on pay cable and streaming are equally inflated — Dwayne Johnson gets about $400,000 an episode on Ballers, Kevin Spacey gets approximately $500,000 an episode on House of Cards, Jonah Hill and Joel Kinnaman get roughly $350,000 an episode for their new Netflix projects. So are the payouts on major hits — the leads of Game of Thrones all get about $500,000 an episode. But one pair tops them all: Gilmore Girls’ Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are getting about $750,000 for each episode of the Netflix revival (which, granted, so far consists of only four episodes). That’s just slightly less than the $1 million per episode payouts of The Big Bang Theory’s leads, which are the highest in Variety’s report. Of course, if you divide the Gilmore sum by the number of words per episode, it’s really not that big.
All of the money is going to coffee. Photo: Getty Images