Television has never been better and with more and more online streaming services, greater ad revenue coming in all the time and bigger and bigger syndication deals, acting in a hit show can lead you to pick up quite a few pretty pennies. With global markets increasing, your star can become a big one overnight so being a well-known face can also pay well.
Here, we look at the highest paid actors of 2016 by looking at their earnings pre-tax and agency deals etc. and see who is bringing home the cash and what for.
15. Justin Chambers – $9.5m
Being an original member of the smash-hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy seems to be paying off for Justin Chambers, who fans will more readily recognize as Alex Karev. There from the very first episode, the show is now into its 13th season and still drawing in big, big viewing numbers. Although it has lost many of its cast members down the years and survived, Chambers’ loyalty seems to have paid off.
This year is the first year Justin has broken into the top 15 of this list.
=13. David Duchovny – $10m
Despite his run as the lead character in Californication coming to an end a couple of years ago, his triumphant return to the role that made him a superstar in the 1990s has rocketed him back up the list as he reprised the character Fox Mulder in the return of the massive hit X-Files which now makes him a newcomer to the top 15.
Its popularity has meant it is still running and become one of the longest running sci-fi series in network television despite a 14-year break between its 9th and 10th series.
=13. Michael Weatherly – $10m
His run on the evergreen NCIS as Tony DiNozzo made him one of the most recognizable faces in America and syndication across the globe brought in the big bucks for the show. His recognition and the show’s success landed him a bumper deal as Dr. Jason Bull in new show Bull but whether it will garner him the same success is yet to be seen.
Weatherly will be hoping for another mega-hit on his hands so that he can climb the list even higher in coming years.
12. Kevin Spacey – $10.5m
In earlier years, Kevin Spacey would have been better known for his films with several Oscar wins to his name he also became creative director of the famed Old Vic Theater in London, UK. However, his turn as the notoriously scheming Frank Underwood in the HBO drama, House of Cards, has seen another string to his bow.
Being a highly lauded movie actor means he generates big paychecks anyway but the success of the show has also bumped up his earnings nicely.
11. Eric Stonestreet – $11m
Being one of the stars of Modern Family means that your regular paycheck is not to be sniffed at by any means as the prime-time family comedy continues to run on, winning both critical acclaim and millions of viewers around the world. However, Stonestreet tipped the scales even further with a serious turn in HBO drama Confirmation.
Playing Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff from 1988 to 1989, Kevin Duberstein got to show off his chops as well as bolster the bank account.
10. Ed O’Neil – $11.5m
Ed O’Neil was no stranger to TV success before Modern Family came along and so he was amongst the highest earning members of the cast when it started and now its success has kept him in the big money as aging patriarch Jay Pritchett. He also supplements this income by doing the voiceover for the Zyrtec commercials.
It was as Al Bundy in Married…With Children that made his name and landed him the role of Jay in Modern Family.
=7. Ray Romano – $12m
His own comedy vehicle Everybody Loves Raymond may have come to an end some time ago now but the enduring popularity of the show means its syndication is still a big money spinner whilst his stand-up comedy shows and appearances in newer shows like HBO’s Vinyl has pushed him so high up the list.
Doing more voiceover work for film in recent years, Romano’s star is still bright.
=7. Jesse Tyler Ferguson – $12m
Yet another Modern Family actor on the highest earners list which just goes to show how much money it really does make and yet Ferguson is still not the highest earning actor from the show. His role in Great White Way also helped it all add as well as a one-man theater show on Broadway which he performed in over the past spring and summer called Fully Committed.
With awards for both his stage and screen work Ferguson is a very in-demand actor at the moment.
=7. Nathan Fillion – $12m
A sci-fi fan favorite for his role on the short-lived but much loved Joss Whedon show Firefly and the follow-up film but it was when he became crime writer turned private investigator Richard Castle that he was a mainstream success on TV with the show Castle. Despite its success both at home and overseas, falling viewing figures and the loss of big name stars to the show meant it was canceled this year.
Syndication still makes Fillion serious money but with roles in upcoming Marvel movies, he may no longer be destined for the small screen too often.
6. Ty Burrell – $12.5m
The highest earning actor of the Modern Family family, Ty Burrell makes off with a big loot due to his character Phil Dunphy. Something he tops up due to an advertising campaign with the National Association of Realtors which he does in character as the aforementioned Phil. Voice acting work has seen his tones appear in big films of the year Finding Dory and Storks.
Winning many awards for his work, Burrell is both financially successful and critically acclaimed.
5. Mark Harmon – $20m
The most-watched scripted drama during the 2015-2016 television season , NCIS has made big money for its stars but part of its enduring appeal is Mark Harmon’s portrayal of Special Agent Gibbs on the show and he has become the face of it. What is more impressive, perhaps, is that he also produces as well meaning he takes a bigger slice of the pie.
It is this that sees such a dramatic jump from the position below him.
4. Kunal Nayyar – $22m
Part of The Big Bang Theories cast who are amongst the highest ever paid on a television sit-com, Nayyar has been a part of the show since its inception as he plays astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali. Not just content with being a big TV star, who also happens to be married to a former Miss India, Kunal also released a book last year.
“Yes, My Accent Is Real” was a memoir about his life and work and added to his incredible earnings , becoming a best-seller.
3. Simon Helberg – $22.5m
The best friend of Kunal Nayyar’s character, Raj Koothrappali in The Big Bang Theory, Simon Helberg plays engineer Howard Walowitz in the show that saw its lead stars unionize to all get paid the same amount for each show. Helberg also appeared on film this year in the movie Florence Foster Jenkins alongside Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.
With rumors of the show nearing an end, it is probably wise to branch out, although the cast doesn’t need the money.
2. Johnny Galecki – $24m
The stars of The Big Bang Theory all make around $1m per episode which is a grand sum, even in the world of prime-time television but its syndication across the globe has made it one of the biggest sitcoms of all time. Johnny Galecki, who plays the lovesick scientist Leonard Hofstadter, has made the most of this deal and sits at number 2 for the second year in a row.
Appearing in the film The Master Cleanse this year, he will also be in Rings next year.
1. Jim Parsons – $24.5m
With the incredible earning power of their unified deal, it is little wonder that all of the top 4 from this list come from The Big Bang Theory and it is star Jim Parsons who tops it for his portrayal of socially inept scientist Sheldon Cooper. His, wacky and off the wall comedy has been essential to the shows continued success.
His association with this weird persona has also landed him several endorsement deals and film roles that push him to the No. 1 spot.