Leaked TV Star Salaries Show Just How Much More White Actors Make Than Minorities
Variety published a list of Hollywood actors & their respective per-episode salaries — and in what probably isn’t a shock to anyone, minority actors make considerably less than white actors.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson commands an impressive $400,000 per episode for HBO’s ‘Ballers’ — but he’s also the highest paid actor in Hollywood.
Other actors and actresses of color — including Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Grey — aren’t so lucky.
On the list of comedy salaries, the lowest paid star is Gina Rodriguez, whose role inJane the Virgin won her the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy in 2015, over multi-time Emmy winner and fellow nominee Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Yet Rodriguez, according to Variety ’s data, earns $60,000 an episode, while Louis-Dreyfus earns more than quadruple that figure: $250,000 an episode. Rodriguez is a relative newcomer to the industry compared to Louis-Dreyfus, so one cannot expect her to command the same fee, but her awards credentials should count for something.
The disparity between the sitcom stars of ABC’s comedy programming is also notable. In September, the sitcom black-ish was recognized at the Emmy Awards with nominations for Best Comedy, Best Actor for Anthony Anderson and Best Actress for Tracee Ellis Ross. However, both Anderson and Ross—who are industry veterans and in Ross’ case, practically Hollywood royalty as the daughter of Diana Ross—earn less than the stars of Modern Family, The Middle and Last Man Standing.
Anderson gets $100,000 an episode, while Ross’ pay is $80,000; comparatively, the core ModFam cast, The Middle ’s Patricia Heaton and Standing ’s Tim Allen all earn $250,000 an episode. Sure, Tim Allen was great in Home Improvement in the 1990s, but Standing is not nearly as beloved as black-ish by critics, nor does it match it in the ratings. (black-ish got a 2.0 rating in adults 18-49 on September 21,Standing did 1.1 two days later.)
Another lauded actor, Andre Braugher, who has earned three consecutive Emmy nominations, the latest of which came in September, for playing police captain Raymond Holt in Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine is also in the same boat as Anderson with $100,000 an episode, although he is considered a supporting actor in that show.
For drama actors, there’s a big gap between the $750,000 per episode earned byGilmore’s Graham and Bledel and the highest-paid minority actors: Viola Davis, the Emmy Award-winning star of How to Get Away with Murder, and Kerry Washington, the Emmy-nominated star of Scandal. Both actors, who form a key part of Shonda Rhimes’ TGIT-branded Thursday night lineup, along with Grey’s Anatomy, earn $250,000. Grey’s lead Ellen Pompeo commands $400,000. That Davis, in particular, isn’t commanding more is frankly perplexing—she won the Best Actress Emmy in 2015 and was nominated again in September, and she splits her time between television and a successful movie career (including the recent summer hit Suicide Squad).
Further down the list still are Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, previous Oscar nominees, and the stars of the highest-rated drama on television, Fox’sEmpire. They are said to earn $175,000 an episode—less than the stars of some dramas that could only aspire to achieve half of Empire’s ratings. (Their on-screen sons, Trai Byers, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Y. Gray, are paid just $20,000 per episode.)
So — you mean to tell us that the ‘Lyon’ brothers only make $20,000 per episode on network television’s top-rated scripted drama? That doesn’t seem fair, does it?