Highest-paid TV Actors
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Even though the Hollywood movie industry is a multi-billion-dollar money-making machine, the television department can’t be left out when it comes to eye-popping earnings and paydays. Many television stars have begun to earn millions annually from their shows, as Forbes’ lists for the highest-paid TV actors and actresses in has shown.

And while the figures may change for some actors — for instance, the Modern Family cast agreeing to fixed pay for the series final season and the main cast of The Big Band Theory taking pay cuts—the numbers still show that the small-screen can definitely hold its own when it comes to raking in the big bucks.

Top 20 Highest Paid TV Actors

20. Pauley Perrette

Series – NCIS

Earnings – $8.5 million

Net Worth – $25 million

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Fans of police procedural dramas will no doubt be very familiar with Pauley Perrette, best known as Abby Sciuto in CBS’s NCIS. Perette, who is also a singer, writer, and civil rights advocate, played Abby on the show as a lead character for 15 seasons of the show, totalling 352 episodes. She also made guest appearances in NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans. After her exit from NCIS, Perrette starred as Jackie Dixon on CBS’s 2020 sitcom, Broke, for one season before the series was cancelled.

19. Claire Danes

Series – Homeland

Earnings – $9 million

Net Worth – $30 million

Bringing up the rear on the highest-paid TV actors is none other than Emmy-award winning actress, Claire Danes. Danes is best known in the television world as Carrie Mathison, the role she portrayed in Showtime’s spy-thriller series, Homeland. Carrie Mathison is a CIA officer with bipolar who believes a congressman has been turned into a terrorist after being held hostage by al-Qaeda for eight years before his rescue. The role earned Danes two Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards.

18. Ty Burrell

Series – Modern Family

Earnings – $9 million

Net Worth – $26 million

Highest-paid TV Actors

Ty Burrell, whose real name is Tyler Gerald Burrell, is an actor and comedian who gained prominence with his Broadway performances and has also appeared in such movies as Dawn of the DeadMuppets Most Wanted and Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk. He is of course best known as Phil Dunphy in ABC sitcom Modern Family. The role has earned him two Primetime Emmy Award wins and five Screen Actors Guild Awards.

17. Julie Bowen

Series – Modern Family

Earnings – $9 million

Net Worth – $20 million

Julie Bowen

Julie Bowen has had her fair share of television appearances, having roles in Dawson’s Creek, Ed, Boston Legal, Lost, and Weeds to name a few. But the role she’s very well known for is Claire Dunphy, the wife of Ty Burrell’s character, Phil Dunphy, in ABC’s sitcom, Modern Family. Her role in the series earned her six Primetime Emmy Award nominations, two of which she won in 2011 and 2012.

16. Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Series – Modern Family

Earnings – $9 million

Net Worth – $25 million

No. 16 on the highest-paid TV actors is another Modern Family cast member. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell Pritchett, Claire’s brother and Cameron’s husband, is part of the five cast members who penned a new deal to earn $500k per episode for the ending of the series. His role as Mitchell earned him four Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Primetime Emmy Award nominations. Besides his on-screen appearance, Ferguson has also made off-screen appearances in Broadway and theatrical productions.

15. Eric Stonestreet

Series – Modern Family

Earnings – $9 million

Net worth – $25 million

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Eric Stonestreet, who is a comedian, in addition to being an actor, first became popular, thanks to his recurring role on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He has also starred in the movies Bad TeacherIdentity Thief, and Confirmation. His international fame was born when he was cast as Cameron Tucker, the husband of Mitchell in ABC sitcom, Modern Family. For the role, Stonestreet earned three Emmy Award nominations, two of which he won.

14. Ed O’Neill

Series – Modern Family

Earnings – $9 million

Net worth – $70 million

Highest-paid TV Actors

Ed O’Neill’s character in Modern Family is Jay Pritchett, the patriarch of the show whose interrelations link the three families whose stories are shown in the series. For his part in the series, O’Neill earned a nice half a million per episode of the ABC sitcom—and this was before the other cast members signed new deals to earn the same figure. He has been nominated thrice for a Primetime Emmy Award and has won four Screen Actors Guild Awards for being part of the show’s cast.

13. Kerry Washington

Series – Scandal

Earnings – $11 million

Net Worth – $50 million

Kerry Washington

Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope made big waves in the television industry, making the term ‘gladiator in a suit’ become a thing. A crisis management expert, Olivia Pope was the main character in ABC’s drama series, Scandal—which ran for seven seasons from 2012 to 2018. Washington has earned two Emmy Award nominations and a Golden Globe Award nomination for her role. Thanks to the role, she has also snagged an NAACP Image Award, an ACE Awards, and a SAG Foundation Award.

12. Melissa Rauch

Series – Big Bang Theory

Earnings – $12 million

Net Worth – $20 million

Next on the list of highest-paid actors on TV is Melissa Rauch, who is mostly known for playing Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on the sitcom series, The Big Bang Theory. Starting with a low salary of $200k per episode, Melissa’s salary bumped up in latter series after the five original co-stars took pay cuts to support the recurring cast. Melissa’s role in the series earned her a Critics’ Choice Award nomination in 2013. Since The Big Bang ended in 2019, she has appeared in guest roles for other series and two movies in the same year.

11. Mayim Bialik

Series – Big Bang Theory

Earnings – $12 million

Net Worth – $25 million

Highest-paid TV Actors

Mayim Bialik is an American actress, scientist, and author who played the titular character on NBC sitcom, Blossom, from 1991 to 95. What she’s really known for is being neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s The Big Band Theory. Just like Rauch, Bialik’s pay per episode shot up after the five main cast members each agreed to take a pay cut. Her role as Amy has earned her four Primetime Emmy Award nominations and two Critics Choice Awards.

10. Andrew Lincoln

Series – The Walking Dead

Earnings – $13 million

Net Worth – $18 million

Andrew Lincoln

Up next on the highest-paid actors on TV is Andrew Lincoln, whose real name is Andrew James Clutterbuck. Getting his debut major role in the BBC drama series, This Life, Lincoln gained worldwide fame when he began starring as Rick Grimes in AMC’s post-apocalyptic horror series, The Walking Dead. Lincoln left the show after nine seasons of playing the small-town sheriff’s deputy. The role has earned him critical acclaim for years and several award nominations and wins, including a Satellite Award and People’s Choice Award wins.

9. Mariska Hargitay

Series – Law and Order

Earnings – $13 million

Net worth – $50 million

Actress, executive producer, and director Mariska Hargitay comes in at no. 9 on the highest-paid TV actors, thanks in no small part to her role as NYPD Captain and Commanding Officer of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, Olivia Benson. Starring in NBC’s police procedural drama, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Hargitay has had the role since 1999 and is one of the longest-running cast members on the show. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and a People’s Choice Award. She is the founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, a non-profit outfit providing support to victims of sexual abuse.

8. Mark Harmon

Series – NCIS

Earnings – $20 million

Net worth – $100 million

Highest Paid TV Actors

Mark Harmon takes the spot at no. 8, thanks to his long-running role in the CBS police drama, NCIS. First introduced in two episodes of the series, JAG, Harmon has been portraying Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs since 2003. With the success of the show and the acclaim to his acting, Harmon has also been an executive producer on the show since 2008. Thanks to the role, he has been nominated for a People’s Choice Award four times, finally winning the honour in 2017.

7. Kunal Nayyar

Series – Big Bang Theory

Earnings – $21.6 million

Net Worth – $50 million

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The Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar comes next on the highest-paid TV actors list. Nayyar, who originally earned $1 million for each episode on the sitcom, accepted a pay cut close to the series’ end to help bolster the salaries of co-stars Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik. Portraying the role of Rajesh Koothrappali, Nayyar was nominated as part of the ensemble for five consecutive Screen Actors Guild Awards. Besides his acting on-screen, Nayyar has also made appearances in theatre productions like Huck and Holden and The Spoils.

6. Simon Helberg

Series – Big Bang Theory

Earnings – $21.6 million

Net Worth – $50 million

Simon Helberg

Comedian, musician and actor Simon Helberg portrayed Howard Wolowitz on CBS’s sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Alongside his co-stars, he accepted a pay cut of $100k from his $1 million per episode salary to bolster Rauch and Bialik’s salaries. Helberg won a Critics’ Choice Television Award in 2013 for his role in The Big Bang Theory and got several other nominations for the role, including four Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.

5. Ellen Pompeo

Series – Grey’s Anatomy

Earnings – $22 million

Net Worth – $70 million

Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama series that follows the life of Meredith Grey, played by Ellen Pompeo, who starts her residency at the Seattle Grace Hospital, later named the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. One of the world’s highest-paid actors since 2017, Pompeo has received and also been nominated for, numerous awards, including two People’s Choice Award wins and a Satellite Awards win. She is also a director and producer, having directed a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. It’s no wonder she’s up so high on the list of highest-paid TV actors.

4. Kaley Cuoco

Series – The Big Bang Theory

Earnings – $22.1 million

Net Worth – $55 million

Highest-paid TV Actors

Before Kaley Cuoco entered the hearts of TV lovers as Penny on The Big Bang Theory, she got her breakthrough role in the early 2000s when she starred as Bridget Hennessy on ABC sitcom, 8 Simple Rules. She has appeared in over twenty movies, and won Critics’ Choice, People’s Choice, and Satellite Awards for her role in The Big Bang Theory. She’s also a producer, serving in that capacity (and also lending her voice to the titular character) for the DC animated series, Harley Quinn since 2019.

3. Johnny Galecki

Series – The Big Bang Theory

Earnings – $22.6 million

Net Worth – $100 million

John Mark Galecki is known for his roles as David Healy in ABC’s sitcom, Roseanne, and most especially as Leonard Hofstadter on CBS The Big Bang Theory. Leonard, an experimental physicist, shares an apartment with Sheldon Cooper. Galecki also accepted a $100k pay cut from his $1 million per episode salary to help his co-stars earn more in salaries. For his role as Leonard, Galecki received several nominations, including a Primetime Emmy, a Golden Globe, and two People’s Choice Awards. He did win a Satellite Award for the role in 2012.

2. Jim Parsons

Series – The Big Bang Theory

Earnings – $24.6 million

Net Worth – $160 million

Jim Parsons

Jim Parsons graced screens for years as the lovable and socially awkward Sheldon Cooper, a theoretical physicist with genius-level IQ. Parsons took a pay cut from $1 million to $900k per episode to help his co-stars earn a bigger pay by the last few seasons of the sitcom. For his role, Parsons received a Golden Globe, a TCA Award, two Critics’ Choice Television Awards, and four Primetime Emmy Awards. A prequel spinoff of the show, titled Young Sheldon, began in 2017, with Parsons serving as the series’ narrator.

1. Sofia Vergara

Series – Modern Family

Earnings – $44.1 million

Net worth – $180 million

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Taking the number spot on the highest-paid TV actors is none other than Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara. An entrepreneur through and through, Vergara’s high payday comes from her various streams of income, besides what she earned on the sitcom. Vergara was among the five cast members who inked a new deal for $500k per episode, but her other ventures like her commercially successful perfume line and Sofia Jeans collaboration with Walmart have given her an over $20 million difference in pay when compared to Parsons.

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