Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer Earned More From ‘Friends’ Compared to Their Co-Stars
The cast of Friends are known for sticking together in real life, and years later Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, and Lisa Kudrow are all still close. While the hit show was on air, the six main cast members famously insisted that they all have the same salary. However, this did not go into effect until Season 3 of Friends, so overall Aniston and Schwimmer still earned more.
Jennifer Anison and David Schwimmer made more at the beginning of the TV show’s run
Friends is an ensemble show, and at its premiere each of the six main cast members were paid the same. Reportedly, they were all paid $22,500 per episode during the first season.
During Season 2 of Friends, Ross and Rachel’s romantic story line took center stage. For this reason, Aniston and Schwimmer’s salaries were increased. This was the only season that the main cast were all paid different salaries. The lowest salary paid remained around $22,500 per episode, while the highest salary paid was $40,000 per episode. Because of this one season where Schwimmer and Aniston were paid more, they earned more overall.
The ‘Friends’ cast negotiated to be paid the same
After the pay inequality of the second season, Aniston and Schwimmer took a pay cut so that all six of the main cast members could be paid the same. It was Schwimmer’s idea for the cast to all band together and create a union among themselves after his agents suggested that he renegotiate his contract with NBC due to his rising fame and incoming job offers.
At the time the cast negotiated their contracts, LeBlanc was earning the least of the six cast members.
“He initiated the idea that if we stick together, nobody can rattle us,” LeBlanc said of Schwimmer. “And it worked out, especially personally, for me. I was earning the least amount.”
In the third season, the cast all earned $75,000 per episode. This was raised to $85,000 per episode in the fourth season of Friends, $100,000 per episode in Season 5, and $125,000 per episode in the sixth season. For the seventh and eighth seasons, the main cast members earned $750,000 per episode. During the last two seasons of Friends, Season 9 and Season 10, all six cast members earned $1 million per episode.
Marta Kauffman found the salary negotiations on ‘Friends’ to be ‘ridiculous’
Kauffman is the current showrunner of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie. During a 2015 interview, the co-creator of Friends commented on the famous salary negotiations.
“A million dollars an episode is kinda ridiculous,” she said. “Let’s be honest, that’s a lot of money… I think it’s inflated. And there’s something unrealistic about it. Not everybody is going to get a million dollars an episode.”
Payment per episode is not the only thing the cast negotiated while the show ran on NBC. The six main cast members also negotiated for syndication royalties. Nowadays, each main cast member from Friends earns $20 million annually from their 2% syndication income.