clock menu more-arrow no yes

Robert De Niro is TV’s highest-paid drama actor — for a show that doesn’t even have a title yet

Also: NCIS’s Mark Harmon makes more money per episode than anyone on Game of Thrones. Hollywood!

We Stand United NYC Rally
Surprise!
Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images

Despite the narrative that Us Magazine likes to push, Hollywood stars are not, in fact, all that much like us. The latest reminder of this comes courtesy of Variety, which has published a report on the highest-paid stars on television, in three separate categories: actors on scripted dramas, actors on scripted comedies, and hosts of reality, news, and late-night comedy shows.

Per Variety’s Cynthia Littleton, the explosion of original programming on streaming services — much of which is greenlit after particularly sparkling talent signs on — has made it so “stars with brand names are more in demand than ever as dozens of competing outlets search for anything that will help a show stand out from the pack.”

To Littleton’s point, the highest-paid actor in drama, period, is Robert De Niro, who commands $775,000 per episode for an untitled Amazon show that’s still in development. Other streaming stars who appear on the lists — though they still don’t make nearly as much as some broadcast and cable stars — include Jason Bateman and Laura Linney of the (recently renewed) Netflix drama Ozark, Elisabeth Moss of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Billy Bob Thornton of Amazon’s Goliath. On the host side of things, David Letterman’s recent Netflix deal has landed him $12 million total for his six-episode show, whatever it turns out to be.

The least surprising revelations are that the stars of longstanding juggernauts like The Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones, and Modern Family are among the highest-paid stars in the business. Most of The Big Bang Theory’s cast members make $900,000 per episode; the primary cast used to make a solid million but took $100,000 salary cuts earlier this year to bump the rates for their co-stars Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik. Meanwhile, Modern Family’s entire adult cast and Game of Thrones actors Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, and Lena Headey all make $500,000 per episode of their respective series.

And some stars who haven’t been regulars on TV for a while but are looking to make a comeback are sitting pretty on the list before their upcoming projects have even aired. The Will & Grace cast will make $250,000 an episode for NBC’s new revival of the series, as will Roseanne Barr and John Goodman for ABC’s upcoming revisitation of Roseanne.

A few other things of note from the lists include:

  • The second-highest-paid actor in drama — making $25,000 more per episode than the Game of Thrones cast — is NCIS’s Mark Harmon.
  • Ellen Pompeo has been with Grey’s Anatomy since 2005, a decision that makes perfect sense when you realize she’s now making $450,000 an episode.
  • Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel are all listed at making $15 million to $16 million a year, while Fallon’s NBC colleague Seth Meyers is nowhere to be found.
  • Leah Remini, who’s replacing a soon-to-be-killed-off Erinn Hayes on the CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait so that the series can stage a King of Queens reunion with her and Kevin James — will make $125,000 an episode.
  • The cast of This Is Us, NBC’s current pride and joy, makes between $40,000 (Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley) and $80,000 (Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia) per episode, though I imagine they will (or should) quickly get raises if the show continues to be a smash hit.
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson makes $650,000 an episode for HBO’s Ballers, a.k.a. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s favorite show.

You can check out the full lists at Variety.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.