In just a few short months, Westworld went from being known as a slightly cheesy 1970s sci-fi flick to one of the most popular names in television. Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s powerful adaptation of Michael Crichton’s robot theme park movie has captured the attention of millions of viewers and managed to revitalize HBO‘s faltering original programming line-up.
Westworld‘s success is thanks, in large part, to its incredible and diverse ensemble of actors. And, indeed, the accolades and attention that the series has received would likely be any performer’s dream. The show has already been renewed for a second season, set to debut in 2018, and it’s racking up some impressive accolades, including recent wins for Best Actress and Supporting Actress for Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton at the Critics’ Choice Awards. It was also HBO’s most-watched first season — ever.
Given its record-breaking run, it would be easy to imagine that Westworld‘s stars are receiving a pretty hefty payday for their work. But that may not be the case, at least not by today’s TV salary standards.
These days, being an actor on a popular TV show can be akin to winning the lottery. That’s because networks have proven they’re willing to pay top dollar to keep a successful series going, and they know that fans are more likely to tune in when their favorite characters stay on board. It’s not uncommon for actors on top-rated series to negotiate for seven or even eight-figure salaries.
On The Big Bang Theory, for example, each of the three stars make a million dollars per episode. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright make $500,000 for each episode of Netflix’s flagship series, House of Cards. That figure is also close to what many of Game of Thrones cast members see for their work on HBO. And the Gilmore Girls themselves — Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel — each raked in $750,000 per episode for their recent revival.
Sometimes, seasoned actors are also able to ask for hefty fees for their television roles, even if the series aren’t overwhelmingly popular. Tim Allen makes $250,000 an episode for his newest ABC sitcom, Last Man Standing. It’s significantly less than the $1.25 million he made for his last season of Home Improvement, but still an exorbitant amount by most standards.
Westworld‘s ensemble has an interesting mix of actors. There are Oscar-winners and nominees like Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris in the fold, and perpetually under-the-radar talents like James Marsden, Jimmi Simpson, and Jeffrey Wright. Then, there are up-and-coming actors and actresses with far less name recognition, including Creed‘s Tessa Thompson and Raising Hope‘s Shannon Woodward.
Each of these actors were vital to bringing Westworld‘s complicated and riveting story to life. But they also represent a wide range as far as bargaining power is concerned, so it’s easy to see how their salaries could run the gamut. Despite this, there’s one thing we know for sure about the cast’s salaries: they’re pretty low, given the series’ widespread success.
According to Variety, Westworld‘s cast members make approximately $175,000 an episode. That’s not to say that each person in the ensemble makes that — some could make more, and others significantly less. But given the higher salaries that cast members in similarly high-profile series are making, it seems like quite a bargain for HBO.
At least, it is right now. As Season 2 approaches, it’s quite likely that many of Westworld‘s key players will be negotiating for a pay raise — and it would be hard to argue that they weren’t entitled to one. Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton, especially, gave top-notch performances and have led the ensemble as far as accolades are concerned.
It’s too soon to guess how the financial aspect of Westworld‘s future will shake out. But it’s easy to assume that HBO will make investing in the series a priority — even if that means ponying up to keep the core characters around for a while.
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