Non-Comparative Money Arguments in Hollywood

One type of article that really bugs me is "Women actors get paid less than male actors in Hollywood!"

There is a minuscule truth to this argument. Do I think, for instance, that Cote de Pablo should have been  paid more by CBS for her work on NCIS?

Yes, actually, I do. I thought it was appallingly short-sighted of CBS not to pay her more. NCIS attracts both male and female viewers, and female viewers across the board liked her. Sexy, killing tomboys are a hit! (In fact, Cote de Pablo's salary was so low, I wonder if she simply didn't care that much.)

The problem with "women actors get paid less than male actors" is not that higher salaries aren't nice but that the argument (1) doesn't take producer thinking into account; (2) makes faulty comparisons.

Hollywood producers are all about saving money. Caring so much about money (versus art) is kind of soul-destroying--and thank goodness Michelangelo's pope didn't seem to have that particular problem!--but it is a producer's job. Which means--producers are never going to pay actors and actresses what they should get; rather, they are not going to pay them what they don't have to pay them.

NCIS can survive with Ziva. Personally, I doubt it survived well--I stopped watching it several seasons ago. But it can survive. It can, eh, sort of survive without Michael Weatherly.

It cannot survive without Mark Harmon.

So Cote de Pabo earned $125,000 an episode (when she left). Michael Weatherly earned approximately $250,000 an episode (when he left), and Mark Harmon earns $525,000 an episode.

In my Murder Mystery course, as many male
students as female students will write about Hargitay's
Olivia Benson. Like Ziva, Benson is a tough, sexy
tomboy who inspires both genders. Female viewers
specifically often get tired of too sexy-to-be-real
female heroines; giving such heroines tomboy
qualities makes them more relatable to women.
As I say, de Pablo's wages were too low. She was earning the same as Pauley Perrette and frankly, was a more integral part to the show.

However, keep in mind that Friends' co-stars (male and female) negotiated their contracts together and were earning $1 million per episode in the final seasons (a decade before Cote de Pablo left NCIS). Also keep in mind that Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloniper both earned $400,000 per episode on Law & Order: SVU.

Nobody on NCIS earns as much as the Friends' co-stars and nobody on NCIS except Harmon has ever earned as much as Hargitay and Meloniper.

The studio will pay what the studio can bear. And if it can dump the actor/actress and pay someone less, it will.

The other point has already been addressed but I'll re-emphasize it here:

Comparative statements are pointless. 

Sure, in fairness world, Kate Mulgrew would earn as much as a starship captain as Patrick Stewart on their respective Star Treks. But that's a terrible comparison because The Next Generation was massively more popular and earned massively more money (for ALL its co-stars) than Voyager. I like Voyager, and I like Mulgrew. But my personal likes and dislikes make no difference to what Hollywood determines people should and can be paid.

The smile of a man who says, "I earn way
more money than you!"
In tangent-ville, I happen to think that Stewart is a better actor than, well, everybody on Star Trek, but truthfully, acting ability isn't on the table here. What's on the table is what a single show--not Hollywood generally--can handle. 

Kyra Sedgwick deservedly earned $350,000 per episode on The Closer (over $250,000/episode more than Mulgrew). She was the lead. The show was a cable success. The money was there. And she's a decent actress if that matters (which it only kinda does).

But there would be no point in comparing her salary to salaries of actors and actresses on a popular network show. Or to Mark Harmon.

Because, really, in the end, nobody should be comparing themselves to Mark Harmon.

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