TV stars grab fat paychecks thanks to Apple’s spending spree

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Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon could earn a massive payday from Apple.
Photo: HBO

Apple is spending upward of $1 billion on its original TV shows, and it’s not skimping when it comes to star salaries. According to a recent report, Apple is paying out some of the highest salaries to any actors in television shows. It’s even exceeding the amount paid to the stars of shows like The Walking Dead.

It’s another example of how, when you’re a company the size of Apple, you can afford to throw around some serious cash to bring in top talent.

The Variety report is based on newly available public data about how much actors are paid. This is intended to redress wage disparity in acting jobs, particularly when it means that women or minority actors are paid less than their male co-stars.

The report notes that:

“With well-funded players such as Amazon and Apple looking to compete with deep-pocketed adversaries such as Netflix, AT&T and Disney, top-tier salaries in TV are skyrocketing. Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston will each be paid $1.1 million per episode for their upcoming untitled Apple dramedy. Javier Bardem will also make $1.2 million per episode on Amazon and Amblin TV’s untitled miniseries about 16th-century explorer Hernán Cortés. Julia Roberts will make $600,000 per episode for Amazon’s ‘Homecoming.'”

In fact, these actors stand to make even more because — in the case of all four of the actors mentioned above — they will also pocket an addition fee for the role of executive producer. This title can be either symbolic or more of a hands-on role. It can also be a standard part of the deal when an actor brings the property to a distributor using their own production company.

More stars on the Apple roster

In addition to the $1.1 million being paid to Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, per episode, for their roles in the Apple morning news drama-comedy, Steve Carell also stands to make some serious loot. He’s appearing in the same show as a supporting character in what will be his first television role since The Office.

Apple has so far ordered two seasons of 10 episodes of the show. That means that both Aniston and Witherspoon stand to make around $22 million each from Apple, plus executive producer fee. Provided Carrell is in every episode, he should make $12 million.

These aren’t the only big name actors or other talent Apple has recruited for its 20+ original shows. Apple has also hired former Game of Thrones and current Aquaman actor Jason Momoa and Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul to act in its original series. Other talent recruited by the company includes Steven Spielberg, M. Night Shyamalan, Oprah Winfrey, Ron Howard, and others.

Apple has yet to reveal exactly how it will make these shows available. Some reports have speculated that Apple plans to give its TV shows away to iPhone, iPad and Apple TV owners. That would make it an expensive loss leader for the company. However, if it serves to bring more fans into the Apple fold, it could be worth it.