After seven seasons on the air and becoming one of the most popular series in the world, you'd think that the stars of AMC's The Walking Dead would be absolutely raking in the cash. However, a glance over Variety's 2016 list of highest paid actors list would prove otherwise.
While stars of shows like Gilmore Girls, NCIS and Game of Thrones are estimated to be pulling in anywhere between $500,000 and $750,000, according to Screenrant, The Walking Dead's Andrew Lincoln earned $90,000 per episode during Season 6, with co-star Norman Reedus pulling in $80,000. Of course over a 16 episode season, this doesn't exactly amount to chump change, coming in at $1.44million for Lincoln and $1.28 million for Reedus, but the question remains: why are the stars of the hottest show on TV being paid so much less?
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As Uproxx points out, the answer is rather simple, while most TV shows absolutely need their lead characters to stay on the series, The Walking Dead has the option of simply killing a main character off.
As brutal as it may sound, killing off a character to curb exorbitant negotiations from an actor is not uncommon in the entertainment industry, not to mention that the death of a main character would also probably be a ratings boon for the show. And when you've got a show about the zombie apocalypse and crazed villains you've got many opportunities to simply write a character out of the show and cash in off the viewers.
But if you're thinking that Lincoln and Reedus seem too integral to the series to be killed off over pay disputes, then it seems that AMC agrees. Going into Season 7 Lincoln and Reedus managed to renegotiate their salaries to a whopping $550,000 per episode in Season 7 and $650,000 per episode in Season 8, for a season take home of $8.8 million and $10.4 million respectively. This increase puts the stars in league with the stars of Game of Thrones and NCIS, though still far out of reach of the cast of CBS darling The Big Bang Theory, whose main cast each earn $1 million per episode.
But don't go feeling too bad for the cast of The Walking Dead, even when their salaries weren't quite as high as other TV actors, they still would have been raking in the cash thanks to opportunities outside of The Walking Dead. Along with their other film and TV projects, stars of series like The Walking Dead and superhero franchises can also make into six digits just by showing up for a weekend at a fan conventions. Not a bad little side hustle, right?
The Walking Dead returns to AMC with the mid-season premiere on February 12.