Following the second season of Friends, the entire cast — Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer — entered collective contract negotiations. They demanded that everyone receive the same per-episode salary. It was a risky gamble — especially for Aniston and Schwimmer, who, as the show’s central couple, made more than their co-stars — but the move provided long-term job security and it paid off. Literally. The Friends cast went from earning $75,000 per episode in season three to $1 million per episode in seasons nine and ten.
That “one for all and all for one” mentality is currently being felt on the set of The Big Bang Theory, where original stars Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar offered to take a pay cut to give newer cast members Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik raises. The long-running CBS sitcom was recently renewed for season 12, and part of the deal was that Nayyar and Helberg would start making the same money — $1 million per episode — as Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco. Now everyone makes $100,000 less in what Variety calls an “extraordinary gesture.”
Bialik and Rauch both joined Big Bang in season three and thus have to date earned significantly less than their co-stars. Both actresses are in the $200,000 per episode range this season, the show’s 10th, compared to $1 million per episode for the original five.
In the renewal talks that began late last year, the original cast members agreed to take a $100,000 cut in salary for the prospective 11th and 12th seasons to free up $500,000 to fund raises for Bialik and Rauch. If Bialik and Rauch split the $500,000 from their co-stars, both would rise to nearly $450,000 an episode, or more than $21 million for the two-year, 48-episode deal. (Via)
It’s a noble action from the original five — even if $100,000 is a drop in the bucket when you’re making $22 million per season — but somewhere out there, Gunther, who appeared in more episodes than any non-friend on Friends, is steaming. He and Marcel tried to co-negotiate, to no avail.