The Highest Paid TV Actors Are Largely From Three Shows

Getting to the point where you're making money on television takes a lot of hard work, talent, and some luck as well, and once it all clicks, some actors are pretty much set for life. The list of the top 15 highest-paid TV actors of 2016 has been released, and nearly every one has played the role for at least seven years. And there's a monopoly going on here! A whopping ten of those money-printing actors come from just three different shows: The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and NCIS. Check out the whole list below.

15. Justin Chambers (Grey's Anatomy) - $9.5 million14. David Duchovny (The X-Files) - $10 million13. Michael Weatherly (NCIS) - $10 million12. Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) - $10.5 million11. Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) - $11 million10. Ed O'Neill (Modern Family) - $11.5 million9. Ray Romano (Vinyl) - $12 million7. Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) - $12 million (tie)7. Nathan Fillion (Castle) - $12 million (tie)6. Ty Burrell (Modern Family) - $12.5 million5. Mark Harmon (NCIS) - $20 million4. Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory) - $22 million3. Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) - $22.5 million2. Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) - $24 million1. Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) - $25.5 million

A lot of familiar faces are on that list, since all of these actors are at the head of some highly popular shows. The exception to that latter part is Ray Romano, whose HBO series Vinyl got axed after one season, but part of his loot comes from his role as an executive producer, as is also the case with others.

But let's talk about those big earners. The Big Bang Theory is always in the most-watched shows of any given year, as is NCIS, not only giving CBS the biggest ratings in the broadcast network world, but also making them the network with the biggest payouts. NCIS is already locked down for another season beyond this one, so it's guaranteed that we'll see Mark Harmon's name on this Forbes list again next year - though possibly not post-NCIS Michael Weatherly.

big bang theory sheldon

The Big Bang Theory, on the other hand, has been at the center of many financial-based conversations about its next season, due to the cast's contracts being up. It's up in the air whether or not the show will go on after its current tenth season, and while common sense would say it absolutely will, that central quartet of actors - Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helbert and Kunal Nayyar - is already bringing in almost $100 million, without even counting the high-paid actresses and other male actors. Fans should hope that no one decides to get extremely greedy this contractual go-around.

Modern Family, while not always a Top 10 show of the year, is easily one of the most dependably popular comedies on the small screen, and a large part of that is the big and expensive ensemble cast, which includes the comedy vibes of Ty Burrell, Ed O'Neill, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. (Last year, star Sofia Vergara earned over $28 million, partially due to non-Modern Family projects.) There's no telling how long ABC & Co. will keep footing these bills, but cancellation isn't imminent in the slightest.

The outliers on the list this year include Nathan Fillion, who won't be making any acting money from Castle any time soon, given that sticky predicament's resolution. Kevin Spacey is raking in the dough as the crooked POTUS on Netflix's House of Cards, which likely won't ever get cancelled. And then there's Justin Chambers, who has been a big part of Grey's Anatomy since the very first episode back in 2005. And let's all give a big round of applause to David Duchovny's return, with The X-Files' shortened revival giving him a well-received return to primetime on Fox.

Well done, everyone! Can I borrow a quick $50? I'll get you back next week, I promise.

The Big Bang Theory airs Monday nights on CBS, NCIS airs Tuesday nights on CBS, and Modern Family airs Wednesday nights on ABC. To see when all your favorite not-paid-quite-as-much actors will be back on the small screen, check out our fall premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.