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The Highest Paid Stars on TV: Who Is Raking in Millions for Their Small Screen Work

It used to be that the silver screen was the goal of most actors, where television was a secondary choice. Now with the vast array of streaming services, there are plenty of projects providing quality options that challenge stars … and are paying them handsomely!

The lure of small screen projects providing both long and short-term work with a great salary is enough appeal to such stars as Oscar winner Kevin Costner to try television work. When the Paramount Network was casting for their ranching drama Yellowstone in 2017, they were happy to pay the rate that movie star Kevin wanted to portray Montana ranching patriarch John Dutton. Fast-forward four years later, and it is now one of the most-watched cable shows, raking in 8 million viewers for its November 2021 season four premiere.

“The statement we wanted to make was that we’re open for business and we’re willing to pay top-tier actors whatever their quotes are,” network chief Kevin Kay told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, adding, “It sends a message and that’s what we want to do.” It’s been widely speculated that Costner has been handsomely rewarded for his show’s success with pay bumps since his initial $500K per episode signing four years ago.

While Kate Winslet is one of the biggest female stars of the silver screen with a Best Actress Oscar to her name, she took her talents to HBO Max’s murder-mystery Mare of Easttown. Not only was she given some of the grittiest material she’s ever worked with, Kate also took home a $650,000 per episode salary.

The police drama also gave Kate a new fanbase of viewers thanks to her exposure on the gripping seven episode run. In all, she earned $4.5 million for the series, as well as a 2021 Prime-Time Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Limited Series. While it was meant to run one season, the series was such a hit that producers are looking at bringing it back for a second season with Kate likely getting a nice pay bump.

Other stars from the big screen taking TV jobs with massive paychecks include Robert Downey Jr., who is pulling in a stratospheric $2 million per episode for the HBO Max’s Vietnam War thriller The Sympathizer, according to Variety. He’s currently believed to be at the top of the small screen pay scale at the moment. But with the amount of quality projects attracting big name stars these days, it’s only a matter of time before he’s knocked off the top.

Click down to see whom the highest paid stars on TV are.