Millions of fans tune in to popular TV shows each week, keeping ratings high and solidifying the programs’ places in network lineups for years. And working on high-profile shows often enables cast members to become top-paid TV actors.
Many of your favorite television shows of past and present likely star at least a few of the top 10 highest-paid actors and actresses. Find out who wins the titles of television’s highest-paid actor and highest-paid actress of all-time — and what these TV stars earn.
1. ‘Modern Family’
Since joining the ABC lineup in 2009, “Modern Family” has become one of the most popular TV shows on the air. Co-created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, both of whom serve as executive producers, the sitcom was renewed for seasons nine and 10 in 2017.
Some of the highest-paid TV actors in history — Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Ty Burrell — each earn nearly $500,000 per episode, according to Variety. When the series started, former “Married With Children” star Ed O’Neil had a higher profile than the rest of the cast, which worked out to him being the highest-paid actor on the show, but his salary has not been revealed. Younger TV actors Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez earn more than $100,000 per episode, according to Deadline.
2. ‘The Big Bang Theory’
Created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, another executive producer duo, “The Big Bang Theory” has been on CBS since 2007. In 2017, it was renewed for seasons 11 and 12.
Its original stars — Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar — started earning $1 million per episode in 2014, according to People magazine. The top-paid TV actors took a voluntary pay cut to $900,000 per episode to support co-stars Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.
Bialik and Rauch became full-time cast members in season four, but had only been earning $175,000 to $200,000 per episode. Now two of the highest-paid actresses on television, they will each earn $500,000 per episode, according to Variety.
CBS scored a major hit with “NCIS,” which has been entertaining fans since 2003. Created by Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill, also executive producers, it was renewed for seasons 14 and 15 in 2016. A handful of “NCIS” cast members have been with the drama since its first season, including Mark Harmon, David McCallum, Pauley Perrette and Sean Murray.
Unlike many other popular TV shows, “NCIS” has been tight-lipped about cast salaries. Harmon, who doubles as an executive producer for the show, is the highest-paid actor on the series with a total of $20 million in earnings for 2016, according to Forbes. Harmon’s salary per episode is unknown, but in 2013, it was possibly more than $700,000, according to Deadline.
4. ‘The Simpsons’
In 2016, Fox renewed “The Simpsons” for two more seasons, which will take the animated series to a record-breaking 30 seasons. It was created by Matt Groening, who also serves as executive producer, along with James L. Brooks and Sam Simon.
Several original cast members have lent their voice to every single episode, including Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith and Harry Shearer. Part of the cast since the beginning, Hank Azaria has also been in nearly every episode.
In 2016, Variety listed Cartwright, Castellaneta, Kavner and Smith’s salaries at $315,000 per episode, ranking them among the highest-paid cast on television. Shearer and Azaria weren’t listed in the Variety article.
Slated for a 2018 debut, the upcoming Netflix dark comedy “Maniac” nabbed A-listers Emma Stone and Jonah Hill. Top-paid actors don’t come cheap — Stone and Hill are both earning approximately $350,000 per episode, according to Variety.
Stone leads Forbes’ 2017 list of top-paid actresses, so it’s probably not surprising that she’s also part of a high-paid television cast. She and Hill both snagged executive producer credits, along with Patrick Somerville, Cary Fukunaga, Michael Sugar and Doug Wald.
“Maniac” is currently filming in New York City. Justin Theroux was confirmed as a guest star in August 2017, but the details of his role are currently unknown.
It’s been off the air for more than a decade, but the “Friends” cast still ranks among the highest-paid TV stars in history. One of the most popular TV shows of its time, the hit NBC sitcom entertained viewers from 1994 to 2004. It was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, who shared executive producer duties with Kevin Bright.
In its early days, the show’s ensemble of stars — Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer– earned $22,500 an episode, according to People. As ratings surged, the six stars evolved into top-paid actors, earning $1 million per episode for seasons nine and 10.
In 1997, “Seinfeld” became the highest-paid cast in television history. Still one of the highest-earning actors of all-time, Jerry Seinfeld earned $1 million per episode, according to Entertainment Weekly. He reportedly turned down an offer of $5 million per episode –$100 million total — for a 10th season, according to Fox News.
Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander reportedly tried and failed to match Seinfeld’s pay, but still ended up with $600,000 per episode — a 300 percent increase from the $150,000 per episode they previously earned.
The hit NBC sitcom ran from 1989 to 1998. It was created by Larry David and Seinfeld, who also served as executive producers in addition to George Shapiro, Howard West and Peter Mehlman.
8. ‘Two and a Half Men’
Before he was fired from “Two and a Half Men” in 2011, Charlie Sheen was the highest-paid male actor on television, earning a salary of $1.8 million per episode, according to Reuters. He was replaced by Ashton Kutcher, who led Forbes’ list of top-paid TV actors in 2012. Kutcher was paid $700,000 per episode, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
After getting a raise in 2013, Jon Cryer earned approximately $620,000 per episode. Angus T. Jones made $350,000 per episode in 2012, according to TMZ.
“Two and a Half Men” was created by Chuck Lorre and Lee Aronsohn, who both snagged executive producer credits, along with a slew of other professionals including Kim and Eric Tannenbaum. The CBS show ran from 2003 to 2015.
9. ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’
The CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” was one of the most popular TV shows during its 1996 to 2005 run. It was created by Philip Rosenthal, who served as executive producer, along with David Letterman, Rory Rosegarten, Stu Smiley, Lew Schneider and Ray Romano.
In 2003, Romano’s salary surged to $1.8 million per episode, according to People magazine. Because Romano was making so much, Brad Garrett –who was earning $160,000 per episode, according to the Los Angeles Times — went on strike. He landed a new contract that paid him an estimated $250,000 per episode, plus a cut of syndication fees, according to The Washington Post.
Still one of the highest-paid female actresses, Patricia Heaton earned $450,000 per episode, according to People. Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle each commanded $250,000 per episode.
One of the most popular TV shows of its time, “Frasier” graced the NBC lineup from 1993 to 2004. It was created by David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee — who also served as executive producers — and Kelsey Grammar.
In 2001, Grammar reached a deal to earn $1.6 million per episode, which made him the highest-paid actor in television history at the time, according to People. Costar David Hyde Pierce was paid from $750,000 to $1 million per episode.
Jane Leeves garnered roughly $400,000 per episode, which doesn’t make her the highest-paid TV actress of all-time but earned her a spot near the top of the list. Peri Gilpin, John Mahoney and Moose the dog also starred on the show, but their salaries aren’t publicly available.
11. ‘Game of Thrones’
Now in its seventh season, “Game of Thrones” has been a huge hit for HBO since its 2011 debut. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who also serve as executive producers, the series finale is slated for season eight.
The show’s top five stars, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, renegotiated their contracts for seasons seven and eight to earn up to $2.5 million per episode. These figures make them the highest-paid cast in television history.
12. ‘The Walking Dead’
When it premiered in 2010, “The Walking Dead” became a major hit for AMC. Developed by Frank Darabont, David Alpert, Gale Anne Hurd, Robert Kirkman, Tom Luse, Greg Nicotero and Scott M. Gimple, the show is going into season eight.
Season eight starts Oct. 22, but despite its success, Andrew Lincoln earned just $90,000 per episode and Norman Reedus only $80,000 per episode until recently, according to Screen Rant. The actors renegotiated their contracts in season seven to earn $550,000 per episode, rising to $650,000 per episode in season eight, according to Uproxx.
13. ‘Stranger Things’
A Netflix original series, “Stranger Things” debuted in 2016 and was an instant success. Created by the Duffer brothers, who are also executive producers, season two starts Oct. 27. A third season has already been confirmed and potentially a fourth, which could be the finale.
The salaries of much of the “Stranger Things” cast — including Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobbie Brown and Matthew Modine — haven’t been revealed. Noah Schnapp, who plays vanished boy Will Byers, earned $10,000 per episode for season one, which increased to $20,000 per episode for season two, according to TMZ.
Inspired by the movie “Westworld,” season one of HBO’s sci-fi drama by the same name premiered in 2016. Created by Jonathan and Lisa Joy Nolan, J.J. Abrams serves as executive producer. The season two premiere date hasn’t yet been revealed, but HBO released the first official teaser at Comic-Con 2017.
“Westworld” has a star-studded cast, including Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Talulah Riley and Luke Hemsworth. Most of their salaries have been kept under wraps, but Hopkins and Harris earn a rumored $175,000 per episode, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
HBO’s ‘Westworld’ Cast: Net Worths and 9 Other Things You Need to Know
15. ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
Creator and executive producer Shonda Rimes hit the jackpot with the ABC hit medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” which has been on the air since 2005. A handful of cast members has starred since the beginning, including Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr.
Recent salaries haven’t been revealed for most cast members, but Pompeo’s salary was $400,000 per episode in 2016, making her the highest paid actress on the show, according to Variety. She earned $14.5 million in 2016 and Chambers brought in $9.5 million, according to Forbes.
Before his character Dr. Derek Shepherd was killed off in 2015, Patrick Dempsey earned approximately $400,000 per episode, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
16. ‘This Is Us’
An instant smash success, NBC drama “This Is Us” debuted in 2016 and was renewed for seasons two and three in January 2017. Created and executive produced by Dan Fogelman, season two of the hit show premieres Sept. 26.
The talented cast of “This Is Us” is paid well. Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley each earn $40,000 per episode and Sterling K. Brown brings in $75,000 per episode. Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore each command $85,000 per episode, according to Variety.
Learn How Teachers’ Salaries Compare: Here’s How Much Teachers Make in Every State
17. ‘Breaking Bad’
Created by Vince Gilligan — who served as executive producer — “Breaking Bad” was a major success for AMC. Starring Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris and Betsy Brandt, the drama ran from 2008 to 2013. Salaries of the entire cast weren’t made public, but a TV Guide report revealed Cranston got $225,000 per episode and Paul made $150,000 per episode.
Now on the brink of its fourth season, “Empire” debuted on Fox in 2015. Created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, the drama stars Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard.
Henson and Howard each earn $175,000 per episode of the hit drama, according to a 2016 Variety report. Bryshere Y. Gray, Jussie Smollett and Trai Byers — who play the Lyons kids — make $20,000 per episode, according to the same report.
19. ‘Better Call Saul’
“Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul” debuted on AMC in 2015. The dark drama was created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, who also serve as executive producers.
Starring Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks, season four is slated to premiere in 2018. Odenkirk commands $150,000 per episode and Banks earns $100,000 per episode, according to a 2017 Variety report.
The upcoming, seventh season of “Scandal” will be its last, but the ABC drama has enjoyed a spectacular run. Created and executive produced by Shonda Rimes, the show has been entertaining fans since 2012.
“Scandal” stars Kerry Washington, Katie Lowes, Bellamy Young, Tom Verica and Tony Goldwyn. Most of the cast’s salaries haven’t been publicly revealed, but Washington’s pay is at $250,000 per episode, according to a 2017 Variety report.
21. ‘The Blacklist’
Entering its fifth season this fall, “The Blacklist” premiered on NBC in 2013. Created and executive produced by Jon Bokenkamp, the drama stars James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff and Harry Lennix.
Only Spader’s salary has been made public. In addition to starring in the show, he serves as an executive producer and earns $300,000 per episode, according to a 2017 Variety report.
22. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
Adopted from the Margaret Atwood novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a Hulu original series that premiered in 2017. Created and executive produced by Bruce Miller — Atwood served as a supervising producer — the series will return for season two in 2018.
Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Max Minghella and Amanda Brugel star in the series. Moss earns $200,000 per episode, according to a 2017 Variety report. None of the other cast members’ salaries has been revealed.
23. ‘How to Get Away With Murder’
Starring Viola Davis, Billy Brown, Alfred Enoch and Matt McGorry, “How to Get Away With Murder” has graced the ABC lineup since 2014. Peter Nowalk created the show and serves as executive producer with Shonda Rimes.
Davis earns $250,000 per episode for her work on the drama, which launches its fourth season in September, according to a 2016 Variety report. Salaries for the other cast members have been kept under wraps.
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ vs. ‘How to Get Away With Murder’: Who Has the Richest Cast?
24. ‘The Mentalist’
A CBS drama that premiered in 2008, “The Mentalist” ran for seven seasons until it wrapped in 2015. Created and executive produced by Bruno Heller, the series starred Simon Baker, Robin Tunney, Tim Kang, Amanda Righetti and Owain Yeoman.
In 2011, Baker — who also served as a producer — had a deal worth more than $30 million, according to Deadline. He was reportedly earning $350,000 per episode in season four, a number that was expected to rise each season. Tunney was expected to earn nearly $200,000 per episode by the end of the series, and Righetti, Kang and Yeoman were each slated to bring in $150,000 per episode in season seven.
Long-running ABC sitcom “Roseanne” premiered in 1988 and ran for nine seasons until wrapping up with a series finale in 1997 — but it’s back. In 2017, ABC announced the revival of the beloved show, which is slated to air in 2018.
Original cast members Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Fishman and Lecy Goranson are all reportedly on board for the reboot. Sarah Chalke, who stepped in as Becky in later seasons, will appear as a different character. Only Barr and Goodman’s salaries have been revealed, and they’re earning $250,000 per episode, according to a 2017 Variety report.