The entertainment world is filled with men of all stripes and backgrounds. We have shows that follow police officers, doctors, government agents, and crime bosses. And we watch because they are interesting — either we’re interested in how individual characters take on the task of balancing their unique jobs with the rest of their lives (a la The Sopranos), or because a unique character trait makes these men somehow perfectly suited for their otherwise boring and bland job (like The Office).
But it’s always fun to try and discern just how these guys are getting by. Sure, Tony Soprano had a nice house in the Jersey suburbs — but could he have had a much nicer place? He had to have been pulling in some serious cash, after all. Or how about Walter White? How much money could a methamphetamine kingpin pull in over a relatively short amount of time?
In a world in which people are typically dissuaded from discussing salaries and earnings, getting some insight into the lives of our fictional heroes and villains is damn interesting. Read on to see how much some of your favorite television characters make in regards to their fictional jobs, and how that equates with the real world.
1. The X-Files – FBI Agent Fox Mulder
Fox Mulder, one of the main protagonists on the now-resurrected Fox show The X-Files, is more than just an FBI agent. He graduated at the top of his class from Oxford and built a reputation profiling serial killers — talents that eventually led him to work full-time on spookier assignments with his partner, Dana Scully.
Mulder lived in a rather modest D.C. apartment, and spent most of his time flying to and fro about the country chasing extraterrestrials. Of course, he was spending ‘the Bureau’s’ money while doing this (thanks, taxpayers!), so it wouldn’t have come from his own pockets. Still, how much would Special Agent Fox Mulder actually be pulling in as of today? Not much. The starting salary is right around $43,000.
That Oxford education, along with many years of service, probably had him earning considerably more — but not as much as you might think.
2. The Office – Regional Manager Michael Scott
Compared to the other guys on this list, The Office’s Michael Scott — portrayed for seven seasons by Steve Carrell — has a pretty simple, carefree life. And throughout the show, many jokes center around Scott’s poor earnings. As a “regional manager at a failing northeastern Pennsylvania paper company,” there’s probably a fairly low ceiling on what he could have been making, when you think about it.
Though we never get an actual figure from the show itself, a PayScale article pegs Scott’s annual compensation at right under $80,000 per year. Not too shabby for a man who describes himself as a “friend first, boss second, and probably an entertainer third.”
3. The Sopranos – organized crime boss Tony Soprano
Tony Soprano — the main character from the much-beloved and revered HBO series The Sopranos, had to have been making a lot of money. Though he officially was in “the sanitation business,” Soprano controlled a portion of an organized crime empire, with several lieutenants and captains working under him, bringing in weekly quotas to fill the organization’s coffers.
We’ve covered how much money organized crime can bring in previously, but how much would a boots-on-the-ground boss like Soprano be pulling in, operating in an area like northern New Jersey? It’s really, really hard to know for sure. Especially since all of that money is laundered and hidden through intricate, systematic ploys. Some estimates have put it at between $830,000 and $1.5 million annually. Other than that, we have no clear indication as to what Soprano’s earnings could have been.
4. Mike and Molly – Chicago Police Officer Mike Biggs
If you’ve seen the CBS sitcom Mike and Molly — starring Billy Gardell (who was kind enough to chat with The Cheat Sheet a while back) — it may be clear that Chicago police officers earn a rather modest living. Gardell’s character, Mike Biggs, is a standard CPD officer, as far as we can tell, so we’ll assume that he has no special assignment or high rank within the department.
Where does that put his estimated earnings? Brand-new officers in the CPD ranks earn just over $46,000 per year, and salaries top out at $95,544 after 30 years on the force. So, Biggs makes enough for a solid, middle class existence. Certainly enough to support the lifestyle shown on Mike and Molly.
5. Breaking Bad – methamphetamine producer Walter White
Though he lived a meager life as a high school chemistry teacher, Walter White‘s story took a very dark turn when he was diagnosed with cancer — and subsequently started producing methamphetamine to pay for his treatment and help his family get by after he had passed away. Of course, during that time, he also became one of the most well-known and fiercest antiheroes in television history.
But how much money could White have been bringing in through his Albuquerque-based meth operation? Much like with the Sopranos, it’s very hard to tell. But one CNN dissection of the show puts the number at around $80 million. And according to experts, that number is probably fairly accurate.
6. Empire – entertainment CEO Lucious Lyon
One of the hottest and most talked-about new shows currently on the air, Fox’s Empire tells the story of how a one-time gangster and entertainment CEO Lucious Lyon deals with the fallout of a bad diagnosis. Lyon will be out of work for a considerable period of time as he deals with his health issues, and as a result, must choose someone to run the business in his stead. Cue the drama.
Lyon’s character has many real-world counterparts, with comparisons being drawn to Jay-Z and Diddy. If we take those comparisons at face value, then Lyon’s probably worth several hundred million dollars.
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