How Much Did Meryl Streep Get Paid for ‘Big Little Lies’?

Most fans of HBO’s Big Little Lies thought Season One was the perfect limited series, something that couldn’t be improved upon. Liane Moriarty, the author of the book of the same name, agreed with that assessment. After all, that’s what a limited series does — it ends.

However, executive producer-stars Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon couldn’t let it go. With HBO’s backing, they moved forward to develop a second season. Though she wasn’t interested at first, Moriarty said she only got used to the idea by imagining Meryl Streep joining the cast.

Certainly, it seemed like a long-shot, but Moriarty wrote the vicious character of Mary Louise Wright for the Oscar-winning screen legend anyway. To everyone’s shock and joy, Streep agreed to take the part without even glancing at a script.

Her reasoning was simple: She considered it the best show on TV. At that point, it was a matter of HBO getting together with Streep’s reps to hammer out a deal. As you might expect, she joined at a very high salary for Season Two. However, she won’t make the most on Big Little Lies.

Streep earned more than everyone but Reese and Kidman, who also produce.

Streep lets out a howl in Season 2 of ‘Big Little Lies.’ | HBO

For the first season of Big Little Lies, lead actresses Kidman and Witherspoon earned healthy salaries (around $300,000), but not among the top-paid performers on TV. The second time around, their pay reportedly ballooned to $1 million per episode for acting and producing duties.

That big raise translated across the board, bringing up the salaries of Shailene Woodley (over $500,00) and Zoe Kravitz (over $400,000) by large amounts, too. Given Streep’s status and level of accomplishment, it would seem imperative that she clear both Woodley and Kravitz’s fees for the show.

That meant Streep was set to earn somewhere shy of $1 million per episode yet north of $600,000. At that point, it was simply a matter of math for all concerned. Since Kidman and Witherspoon produced as well, it would make sense she made a little less than them.

According to Variety’s report on Streep joining the show, the per-episode amount sounds exactly right.

Streep’s ‘BLL’ salary amounted to $800K per episode.

Meryl Streep attends the European premiere of Mary Poppins Returns at the Royal Albert Hall in London December 12, 2018. | Matt Crossick/PA Images via Getty Images

Variety reported that Streep agreed to the job for around $800,000 per episode. Over the course of the seven-episode season, that would amount to $5.6 million for the work she put in on the show.

That figure matched what Streep reportedly agreed to a few years back ($825,000) to appear in a J.J. Abrams project titled The Nix. As far as her full BLL salary is concerned, it exceeds what she made on 2015’s Ricki and the Flash ($5 million).

In brief, Streep earned a tidy sum for her work on the seven episodes of HBO’s very popular drama. It may not be what Kidman and Witherspoon took home, but they also had to juggle executive producer duties.

Streep could focus on those fake teeth and everything else she wanted just so to best portray Mary Louise. Given the reception to Streep’s performance after one episode, HBO should already consider every penny well-spent.

Also see: All the Ways Meryl Streep Changed Her Appearance for ‘Big Little Lies’