ZOMBIES AND CAPITALISM – Answering the questions you would have asked if you knew there was a question to be asked: why are the stars of “The Walking Dead” getting paid spare change compared to actors of other hit shows?
Zombie drama The Walking Dead is officially the most-watched series on US television — and yet the show’s cast earn a fraction of the massive paycheques commanded by actors on other top-rated shows.
The show’s two biggest stars, Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus, until this year earned US $90,000 and $80,000 per episode respectively — pocketing between 1.44 and 1.28 million per 16-episode season.Crazy money for anyone not in Hollywood, certainly, but consider this: It’s a remarkably low figure compared to the salaries pocketed by many of their TV peers.During their most recent season, the three main stars of The Big Bang Theory earned $22 million apiece, while NCIS star Mark Harmon earned $16.5 million. Even Gilmore Girls stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel were paid $3 million each for that show’s brief four-episode Netflix reboot.
The (likely) answer? On the set, just like in the show itself, life is cheap. All characters are expendable, even the major, much loved ones. Hence, should anyone get too big for their boots and demand a pay rise, they can be easily killed off and replaced with a newcomer. “Game of Thrones” is even deadlier for its characters, but since the show reasonably closely follows George R R Martin’s books, people can’t be written out of the series willy-nilly, which gives them a far greater negotiating advantage.
If “The Walking Dead” now reminds you of a 19th century British coalmine, albeit one where the miners are still paid several times the average yearly wage per episode, you’re not alone. By comparison – and only in that regard – “Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” might seem like the House of Lords.
The entertainment industry, for all its long-standing cultural hostility to business and free market (noting these two aren’t necessary the same, except for Hollywood), ironically tends to exhibit all the same behaviours and excesses it decries through its output everywhere else. To paraphrase Trotsky, you might not be interested in the economic laws but the economic laws are certainly interested in you. It’s called the entertainment industry or business because it is; artists remember that before you mouth off against the evils of greedy money makers on Wall Street and Main Street alike.
The pro-tip, therefore, for any young actor – not that you will have much choice at that stage of your career, but if you do have two roles to decide between, go for the one in a non-violent show with a stable cast ideally based on preexisting material.