Have you ever wondered how much your favorite soap star is earning per year? Many fans have asked this same question before, but for some reason the salaries of soap stars always seem to remain very private information. Yet, it seems to be no secret for the stars on hit shows such as Two and a Half Men, starring Charlie Sheen, who makes an astonishing $825,000 per episode, or actor William Petersen, who earns $600,000 per episode for his role on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Currently, some of the highest paid actresses in primetime are Mariska Hargitay, who earns a remarkable $400,000 per episode on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and actress Kyra Sedgwick from The Closer, which earns her a whopping $275,000 per show. Talk show host Oprah earns over $385 million per year, and Simon Cowell, best known as a judge on American Idol, earns a hefty $50 million per year for his work. The opposite holds true, however, when it comes to the world of daytime soap stars, where it seems no one really knows for sure what the actors are earning. Gathered below is information collected from an industry insider, and may certainly vary from one soap star to another.
So for starters, let's look at the minimum a soap star can expect to make on daytime television. For someone new to the business and what you could call an "unknown," the minimum would be around $700/per episode or even much less, depending on many different factors. This might initially sound like fairly good day’s pay; however, a newcomer on soaps will be lucky if they work one or two days a week. Typically, all soap stars are only guaranteed 1-3 days of work per week, even for some of the veterans on the show. So although some weeks may be good, others may not. Of course, the longer they are on the show, the more money the actors may make per episode, and the more likely they will be guaranteed more days of steady work. So once a newcomer has been on a show for awhile, they can generally expect to make anywhere from $700 to $1500 per episode.
For soap stars who have been around the block a little longer, typically 5-10 years, their salaries can now be upwards of $1500 to $3000 per episode, which again may only be anywhere from 1-3 days per week of actual work guaranteed. Again, there are a lot of other factors involved here, including how popular they are with the fans, what major storylines they may be involved with, and if they are doing any other promotional work for the studio.
Lastly, for the soap star veterans, those who have been in the business for more than 10 years, the range of salaries can now be found around $2000 to $5000+ per episode. Only a small percentage of soap stars are actually in the $5000 or more range, but it's not unheard of for some of daytime's most popular actors or actresses. Plus, with the growing salaries of many primetime actors, there is no doubt that some daytime soap stars are most likely offered substantial incentives to stay put in daytime. There are also a few exceptions in daytime with those who have been with a show for many years, including daytime actor, Tony Geary (Luke, GH) and actresses Erika Slezak (Viki, OLTL) and Susan Lucci (Erika Kane, AMC) whom are probably more in the range of 7-10 million or more per year, which also includes special privileges including limited work hours and extended vacations.
So for those of you who are considering a career in daytime television, or those whom are just curious what the stars earn, here's a run-down of a typical annual salary for year one, five, and 10 or more years.
1st Year Mark - $72,800 - $156,000/per year
5 Year Mark - $156,000 - $312,000/per year
10 Year Mark - $208,000 - $520,000/per year
These numbers are based on a typical work week of two days per week, times 52 weeks per year, which does not account for holidays, vacations, etc. These numbers are also just estimates, and may or may not be typical of the actual earnings. Also, as mention above there are many other factors which can influence the actor's salary as well, including how much they pay their agent, their current contract status, bonuses, length of contract, and which network they work for. Many soap stars also take time off in the slow months to do movies, commercials or other television projects which certainly adds to their annual take-home pay.
While most soap stars may not earn millions of dollars a week like some of their primetime colleagues may bring home, their work on a soap opera may certainly turn out to be much more steady and perhaps even more profitable in the long run.
© Copyright by Katherine Thurston, and About.com, 2008