The World’s Highest Paid TV Actors
CBS finished the 2015-2016 television season as the most watched broadcast network, so it may not be surprising that the stars that propelled it to the top of the TV heap have taken the top five spots on FORBES’ 2016 list of television’s highest-paid actors.
Once again, The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons tops the list with $25.5 million take earned between June 1, 2015 and June 1, 2016. As was the case with last year’s list, a lucrative Big Bang contract counted for the lion’s share of Parsons’ earnings, as it did for his fellow casmates Johnny Galecki (# 2 on the list with $24 million in earnings), Simon Helberg (# 3 on the list with $22.5 million in earnings), and Kunal Nayyar (# 4 on the list with $22 million).
Rounding out the CBS-dominated top 5 is NCIS’s Mark Harmon who once again made $20 million thanks to his role as series lead and executive producer. NCIS was the third-most watched television program in the 2015-2016 season, behind the Super Bowl and The Big Bang Theory.
New to the list this year, due in part to the highly-anticipated reprisal of his role as Fox Mulder, is The X-Files’ David Duchovny. His $10 million take was enough to tie him for the 13th spot with CBS’s Michael Weatherly. This cycle, Weatherly’s salary came from his role as fan-favorite Tony DiNozzo on NCIS.
Helping to clear space for Duchovny and Weatherly were Ashton Kutcher, John Cryer, Patrick Dempsey, and Simone Baker. All of whom appeared on last year’s list but did not make repeat appearances due to either their shows being cancelled or their characters being killed. As for the men of Modern Family – Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O’Neil, and Eric Stonestreet – once again benefited from per-episode salaries in the mid-six figures, a cut of the back end profit and varying side projects. Burrell starred in an ad campaign for the National Association of realtors, while Ferguson got a boost from an ad campaign with Voya and Fully Committed.
Other actors repping ABC on the list: Nathan Fillion and Justin Chambers. Fillion’s last season as Castle’s titular character helped him earn a $12 million haul, a figure good enough to tie him at the #7 spot. Chambers, who has played Alex Karev on Grey’s Anatomy since 2005, came in at #15 with $9.5 million.
Consequently, all 15 TV actors earned $225 million, a figure that outpaces the $208.5 million brought in by television’s top-earning actresses. The gender wage gap still persists. As FORBES’ Maddie Berg explains that this is due in part to the beauty of cast-wide salary negotiations, which is common for large ensemble shows. Big Bang’s Parsons and Galecki earn the same per-episode salary as Kaley Cuoco, while Burrell and Ferguson earn the same Modern Family paycheck as co-star Sofia Vergara.