One of the more fascinating salary negotiations in TV history involved the Friends cast, when Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc chose to negotiate their salaries together, having decided that no one actor on the cast was worth more than the other. That pleased Warner Bros. TV to no end, of course, because it meant they could say, “Pay everyone LeBlanc money, not Cox money!” Even today, former execs from that era brag about how the actors left money on the table at the expense of keeping things harmonious on the set. (That might be true, but the cast’s friendships sure remained intact.)
Cut to 2010, when another salary renegotiation is winding its way through the halls of Warner Bros. TV. It just so happens to involve a comedy that’s pretty much replaced Friends in terms of popularity, critical praise, and its ability to generate millions in revenue: The Big Bang Theory. As is customary for any successful show approaching its fifth and sixth years (Bang is currently in its fourth season), the core ensemble of five have jockeyed for more money. Interestingly, three of those castmembers — Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki — initially decided to follow in the footsteps of the Friends actors by negotiating as one but, as first reported by Deadline, the Emmy-winning Parsons made the decision to break away and negotiate on his own. Lucky for Cuoco and Galecki, his strategy didn’t work, and now all three are earning roughly $200,000 per episode this season — up from $60k last year — and will see $50,000 bumps each year over the next three years, as well as a piece of the comedy’s rich syndication profits.
That left Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, who negotiated separately. Though it can be argued that Parsons, Cuoco and Galecki are lead material, both Helberg and Nayyar are certainly integral to the show’s success. Indeed, some of the comedy’s best moments are when Parsons, Galecki, Helberg and Nuyyar are together. But clearly, the studio wasn’t looking to follow a favored nations strategy because Helberg, who plays Howard Wolowitz, just closed a deal to earn north of $100,000 per episode, EW has confirmed. That’s up from around $40,000, but nowhere near what Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco are making.
Though Nayyar (Raj) has yet to sign a new pact of his own, it doesn’t appear that he was offered the same amount as Helberg or else he would have signed by now. Reportedly, Nayyar is expected to close a deal shortly; if not, the negotiations could be postponed to season’s end and he’ll have to continue earning around $25k per episode under his current, six-year contract. But it would be wrong to assume this was a contentious negotiation, said one interested party. “Granted, no one was skipping to the mailbox and cashing a check — there was some teeth pulling — but in the end, everybody is going to make a ton of money,” the source said.
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