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'Breaking Bad' star Aaron Paul, 'Orange Is the New Black' cast member Kimiko Glenn, and more actors are revealing how little money they make as the SAG-AFTRA strike rolls on

A group of protestors wearing hats and sunglasses hold up signs while walking down a hedge-lined street on a sunny day.
SAG-AFTRA union members went on strike Friday.CHRIS DELMAS/Getty Images
  • SAG-AFTRA actors have stopped working on TV and film productions following the decision to strike.

  • One of the reasons the actors are striking is to demand fairer compensation for their work.

  • Some actors are speaking out about how little they were paid for appearing on popular shows.

Hollywood actors in the SAG-AFTRA union are opening up about just how little they were paid to appear in hit TV shows and movies, either upfront or in residuals.

Residuals are royalties earned when a TV show or movie is screened again after its initial release. SAG-AFTRA says: "For TV work, residuals begin once a show starts reairing or is released to video/DVD, pay television, broadcast TV, basic cable, or new media. For film work, residuals begin once the movie appears on video/DVD, basic cable and free or pay television, or new media." (New media in this context means streaming.)

Here's what Mandy Moore, "Matilda" star Mara Wilson, Sean Gunn, and more have said.

The former child star Mara Wilson said she hadn't "made enough to qualify for SAG-AFTRA healthcare" since she had started acting again as an adult.

Mara Wilson posing with her hand on her hip while wearing a pink sleeveless pink and white dress.
Wilson is best known for starring in "Matilda" as a child.Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Shorty Awards

Wilson began acting as a child and starred in hit movies, including "Matilda," "Miracle on 34th Street," and "Mrs. Doubtfire." In 2000, she took a break from acting but returned years later to guest star in shows such as "Bojack Horseman" and "Big Hero 6: The Series."

In July, Wilson tweeted that she had not made enough "to qualify for SAG-AFTRA healthcare" despite acting in these shows.

Numerous actors have said that the minimum an actor must earn to qualify is $26,000 a year.

"I haven't acted much as an adult, but I WAS on a recurring character on one of the most critically acclaimed animated shows of all time, as well playing an actual Disney villain," Wilson tweeted. "But thanks to streaming, I have never once made enough to qualify for SAG-AFTRA healthcare."

Kimiko Glenn reshared a TikTok video from 2020 showing her meager residuals for "Orange Is the New Black."

Kimiko Glenn posing while wearing a black strapless dress with a large pink bow at the front.
Glenn was a recurring character in "Orange Is the New Black" and appeared in 44 episodes.Matt Winkelmeyer/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images

In July, The New Yorker reported that some cast members from "Orange Is the New Black" were paid very little — despite appearing on the Emmy award-winning hit Netflix show.

The article referenced a TikTok video Glenn posted in 2020. In the video, Glenn showed a letter notifying her of the residuals she received from appearing in 44 episodes of the show. The total was $27.37.

The article also reported that Emma Myles, another actor on the show, was paid less than $900 for each day of filming.

However, in an Instagram post, Glenn said that half of that pay didn't actually go to the actors.

"We don't make $900/day. $900 per day of shooting. That happened about twice every two weeks. So take away taxes, commissions – that nets you about $450 for that one day of shooting," Glenn wrote. "And assuming you work four days a month – we're talking $1800 for a months work, and you live in New York City. That doesn't make rent."

She continued: "Also, once we started getting paid a little more, we started getting taxed as if we made that episodic rate in one day, often taking away 55% of our paycheck. 20% for agent/manager commissions. Some people have lawyers (5%), some people had to pay publicists ($2-6k/month no guarantee for any press coverage). There's a lot of misplaced outrage in these comments. $900 for one day of shooting is epically low for someone who is recurring on a hit television show, where they are contractually obligated to stay available 6 months out of the year."

Matt McGorry, who also starred in "Orange Is The New Black," also said he had to have a day job while filming the show.

Matt McGorry smiling while wearing a black suit and tie.
McGorry played a corrections officer on the show.Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

In response to Glenn's video, McGorry commented, according to the New Yorker: "Exaccctttlllyyy. I kept my day job the entire time I was on the show because it paid better than the mega-hit TV show we were on."

McGorry starred in 25 episodes of the hit show.

Another star from the hit Netflix show, Beth Dover, said it cost her more to work on seasons three and four than what she was paid.

Beth Dover smiling while wearing a green blazer and a white shirt.
Dover played a manager who took control of the prison on the show.Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images for SCRAP Film LLC

Dover also responded to Glenn's TikTok video, per the New Yorker: "It actually COST me money to be in season 3 and 4 since I was cast local hire and had to fly myself out, etc. But I was so excited for the opportunity to be on a show I loved so I took the hit. Its maddening."

Dover was in 36 episodes of "Orange Is The New Black."

Dover told the New Yorker that the cast "have not been fairly compensated by any stretch of the imagination."

"They're telling us, 'Oh, we can't pay you this much, because we're pinching pennies,'" she said. "But then Netflix is telling their shareholders that they're making more than they've ever made."

Emma Myles said that her residuals from "Orange Is The New Black" were about $20 and that she received $600 a year from "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Emma Myles wearing an animal-print dress across her shoulders.
Myles starred in "Orange Is The New Black" as the prisoner Leanne Taylor.Arturo Holmes / Getty Images

Myles told the New Yorker that she earned about $20 this year in residuals from appearing in 54 episodes of "Orange Is The New Black" and about $600 a year from guest spots on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Myles also said she had to work for a financial firm while filming the show, acting in live simulations for aspiring financial planners.

She recalled one financial planner telling her over the phone: "You sound exactly like the Amish meth head on 'Orange Is the New Black.' Has anyone ever told you that?"

Raeden Greer said that she has also received negative numbers in her residual checks for "American Horror Story."

Raeden Greert
Raeden Greer starred in five episodes of "American Horror Story."Greg Doherty / Getty Images

Raeden Greer also responded to Glenn's TikTok post with her own video discussing how little she receives from residual checks for starring "American Horror Story."

"This is so real," Greer said in the video. "I was on five episodes of 'American Horror Story' and my foreign royalty checks are always just like this. In fact even less, like 10 or 12 bucks usually. Kimiko was in 44 episodes of 'Orange Is The New Black.' If these are the kind of checks she's getting, imagine what the rest of us are getting."

She added: "Also we don't ever know when we're getting foreign royalties checks. You just know when you open the mailbox and you see an envelope from SAG with a pink letter in it. And we don't know how these numbers are calculated."

In a follow-up video, Greer showed residual checks that she had received that have come to negative amounts. In a third video, she said at one point a production company canceled a check after she had deposited it.

She said that check was for "few hundred dollars," which she needed at the time.

"I had got the check, deposited it in my bank. And a couple days later, the production company canceled the check and they took the money back out of my account. And they were like, 'Sorry, we didn't actually owe you that. We're taking it back. We're canceling it,'" she said in the video.

Sean Gunn slammed Netflix for the lack of residuals he has received following the success of "Gilmore Girls" on the platform.

Sean Gunn wearing a light grey jacket and a white turtleneck in front of a black background with an Enterprise Rent-A-Car logo.
Gunn starred as Kirk in the seven seasons of the hit show.Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Gunn slammed Netflix in July for the lack of residuals he has received for his role in the show as the series continues to be a success on the streamer.

Gunn told The Hollywood Reporter on the first day of the SAG-AFTRA strike: "I was on a television show called 'Gilmore Girls; for a long time that has brought in massive profits for Netflix. It has been one of their most popular shows for a very long time, over a decade. It gets streamed over and over and over again, and I see almost none of the revenue that comes into that."

While Warner Bros., which produced the show and licensed it to Netflix, is responsible for residual payments to those who qualify, Gunn clarified on Twitter that he thought the cast should get a "share" of the "millions of dollars in profits" the streamer has made from the show.

Aaron Paul said he doesn't "get a piece from Netflix" despite the success of "Breaking Bad" on the platform.

Aaron Paul joining the SAG picket line.
Aaron Paul on the SAG picket line on August 29, 2023.Chris Delmas / AFP

While protesting on the picket line in August, "Breaking Bad" star Aaron Paul also complained about the current residual system.

"I don't get a piece from Netflix on 'Breaking Bad,' if we're being totally honest, and that's insane to me," Paul told Entertainment Tonight Canada. "Shows live forever on these streamers, and it goes through waves. I just saw the other day that 'Breaking Bad' was trending on Netflix."

He added: "It's such common sense and I think a lot of these streamers, they know that they have been getting away with not paying people a fair wage, and now it's time to pony up. And that's just one of the things that we're fighting for."

Like "Gilmore Girls," currently Netflix does not have the responsibility to pay residuals to those who qualify, since the company licensed "Breaking Bad."

Stephen Kramer Glickman, who played Gustavo on "Big Time Rush," said he received no residuals while the show was on Netflix and Paramount+.

Stephen Glickman wearing a light pink blazer, a black button-down shirt, and a pair of glasses while holding up his fingers and exclaiming
Glickman starred in 73 episodes of the series.Kayla Oaddams / WireImage

Glickman, who starred in "Big Time Rush" tweeted that he had received no residuals from the show's streaming deals with Netflix and Paramount+.

"For those of you trying to understand the SAG strike…here is a little info for you. BIG TIME RUSH played on Netflix for two years and then got moved to Paramount +," Glickman wrote. "Any guesses on how much I was paid by Netflix and Paramount + in residuals? I'll give you a hint. It's $0."

Constance Marie also shared what she got paid in residuals for "Switched at Birth."

Marie smiling while wearing a white dress with shoulder straps.
Marie starred in 104 episodes of the show.Rodin Eckenroth / Getty Images

Marie said in a TikTok video that the industry needed to update the residuals system to fit the streaming model so that actors could get paid enough to sustain a living.

Marie then shared part of her residuals from "Switched At Birth," which she starred in across 104 episodes.

"I did that show for five years. Great cast. Great writing. So the studio is still showing my show, my work, my likeness, and this is what I get paid for it," she said in the video. "3 cents, 4 cents, 74 cents."

Marie did not give a full total but added: "I can't make a living. They're still making money but I can't make a living and pay my rent and pay my insurance off of these residuals."

Kamil McFadden, one of the main actors on "K.C. Undercover," said he earned only $2.77 in residuals.

Kamil McFadden smiling while wearing a grey coat and a light blue button-down shirt at the premier of "Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse."
McFadden starred in every episode of the show, which lasted three seasons.Paras Griffin / Getty Images for Sony Pictures

McFadden, one of the lead actors on Disney Channel's "K.C. Undercover" tweeted a video showing that he made minus figures in residuals from some episodes of the hit show.

"Wanna see something crazy? Y'all ever seen negative amounts on your residuals? The full video is almost two minutes long and I'm only netting $2.77. The math ain't mathing," he tweeted.

Luke Cook said he was paid $7,500 per episode of "Dollface" before taxes and commissions.

A closeup of Luke Cook in front of a white background.
Cook appeared in four episodes of season two as a character called Fender.Amanda Edwards / WireImage

In July, Cook responded to a complaint on TikTok that the strike was just "millionaires striking to be even bigger millionaires."

The star of "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" said that 95% of union members were not big stars making millions of dollars and that the strike would ensure that those people got a livable wage.

Cook said in the video that he was paid $7,500 for each episode of Hulu's "Dollface" and that the episodes each required "two weeks of work."

"Then it's taxed. Then a manager takes 10%, an agent takes 10%, and a lawyer takes 5%," he added. "Now, I am one rung below a series regular, who is making maybe $100,000 per episode. They're very wealthy, and they're worth it, too. They're usually very talented people."

"I shouldn't have to have two side jobs just in order to survive," Cook continued.

Mica Burton, who starred in "Star Trek: Picard," said she was paid almost the same fee that her father, LeVar Burton, got for "Roots" in 1977.

Mica Burton posing with her father, LeVar Burton, while wearing a black jacket and a necklace.
Burton starred in five episodes of the latest season of "Star Trek: Picard."Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images

Burton, the daughter of the "Star Trek" star LeVar Burton, tweeted about how little she got paid when she appeared in five episodes of "Star Trek: Picard" earlier this year.

In response to a thread regarding misconceptions about the union, Mica wrote: "Please read this thread. I said before, there is no way I could survive as a working actor if I didn't have my 100 other side hustles. Yes, I was on Star Trek. I also do not qualify for SAG health insurance and was paid almost the same fee my dad was paid for Roots back in 1977."

Heather Matarazzo shut down a TikTok commenter for calling her part of the elite by showing some of her residuals.

Heather Matarazzo smiling while wearing a black top and standing in front of a light blue background.
Matarazzo is known for movies such as "Scream" and "The Princess Diaries."Jason LaVeris/ Getty

In her latest TikTok video, Matarazzo shared a screenshot showing some of her recent residuals, which included earning just 6 cents and 9 cents for certain projects.

"Really? Really?" she said in the video. "Do those look like elite numbers? I am a working-class actor, sir, as are the majority of the actors that are in the fucking union."

Desmond Chiam said his residuals for streaming shows were a "fraction" of what he got paid for the network show "Bones."

Desmond Chaim leaning his head to his right while wearing an open-front shirt and a cream-colored jacket.
Chiam has appeared in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" and "Partner Track."JC Olivera / Getty Images for Prime Video

Chiam, who appeared in one episode of "Bones," tweeted in July that he was paid a lot more for a nonspeaking role on the show than most of the streaming shows he had worked on.

"Let me put it this way: my first gig was a non speaking, $2k role on Bones, a network show, and in residuals I'd say I've made close to 3x that amount," he wrote. "On any other streaming gig I've made fractions of my pay. We're talking a few hundred, maybe."

Chiam has had recurring roles in popular Disney+, Amazon Prime and Netflix shows, including "Partner Track," "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," and "With Love."

Kendrick Sampson said he received $86 from 50 residual checks this year.

Kendrick Sampson adjusting the cuffs of his golden jacket while posing at the premier of "NOPE"
Sampson on the red carpet during the premiere of "NOPE."Unique Nicole/WireImage

Sampson has appeared on several hit shows, including "The Vampire Diaries," "Insecure," "The Flash," "How to Get Away with Murder," and "Supernatural."

However, in a post on Threads that he later shared on his Instagram, Sampson said he had received $86 dollars from 50 of his latest residual checks.

"Story time: Goin through a tough time like so many people in our industry and everywhere right now," he wrote in the post. "Last week, I get news that I've received 56 residual checks. I prayed that these are HEALTHY checks to get me through this time. But lo and behold - 50 (yes FIFTY! FIVE, ZERO) checks into counting, I had to take a break because… the total was $86. This is that bullshit."

He added: "And I KNOW people are struggling much more than me! Shit has to change - This is why we strike."

Brock Powell said he was once paid a "negative penny" for one of his shows.

Brock Powell kneeling with his hand until his chin in a contemplative pose while wearing a bright blue and navy blue striped button-down shirt.
Powell has voiced characters in "Milo Murphy's Law" and "Mickey Mouse Funhouse."Irvin Rivera / Getty Images for IMDb

Ahead of the strike, Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that striking actors and writers' demands were "not realistic."

In response, Powell, who has been a voice actor on numerous Disney shows, tweeted that he was paid $53.49 in residuals for appearing in 48 episodes of a Disney show.

"THIS is my grand total for 48 episode airings for a show produced during the early pandemic. We kept the industry going when no other productions could," Powell wrote. "Animation actors, writers and artists deserve a fair share & better treatment."

He added a day later: "Update: while we're talking about residuals for streaming/physical media. Found out I was 'paid' a NEGATIVE PENNY on a check… taking the measly one cent I was previously given for a full episode airing BACK."

Kylie Sparks, who appeared on the latest season of "I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson," said they were set to receive nothing in residuals from the show.

Kylie Sparks wearing a black leather jacket and a bright shirt while standing in front of a window.
Sparks appeared in one episode of the show's third season.gotpap / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images

Sparks also responded to Iger's comments about the actors' strike.

In their response, they wrote: "I'm on one of Netflix's most loved series this season and I will receive zero dollars in residuals and I was paid a tenth of my guest star quote that didn't even cover my rent, Bob, so GFY."

Mandy Moore said she received "81-cent checks" in residual payment for "This Is Us."

Mandy Moore with a Sag-Aftra on strike sign
Mandy Moore was one of the main leads of "This Is Us," starring in all six seasons.Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter while on the picket line in July, "This Is Us" star Mandy Moore said she received "very tiny, like 81-cent checks" for working on the hit family drama, which is available to stream on Hulu.

The actor and singer called residuals a "huge" issue for SAG-AFTRA members during contract negotiations. She said she knows she's "fortunate" to have been on a successful show for many years, but added that there was a time in Hollywood when actors were "able to live off of residuals or at least pay their bills."

 

Tommy Dorfman said she "barely qualified for insurance" with her earnings for the first season of "13 Reasons Why."

Tommy Dorfman posing for a photo at the met gala in 2022
Dorfman played one of the supporting cast of the hit Netflix show.Arturo Holmes/MG22/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Tommy Dorfman, who starred in the hit Netflix show "13 Reasons Why," also protested about how little she was paid by the streamer.

"My earnings for the entire first season of 13 reasons why were $29,953.24 prior to agency and manager fees (20%) and taxes," she wrote in a post on Threads. "8 episodes over six months. I did all of the promo and had KEY ART for this show, flew round trip from NYC to SF to shoot for every episode, was kept for days without pay/working."

She continued: "I barely qualified for insurance. Within the first 28 days of release, the show's season 1 garnered a total of 476 million view hours. this is why we strike."

William Stanford Davis, a supporting cast member in "Abbott Elementary," shared that he got a residual check for just three cents.

William Stanford Davis
William Stanford Davis is best known for his role as Mr. Johnson in "Abbott Elementary."Jerritt Clark / Getty Images for Busta Rhymes

In new videos shared on TikTok and Instagram, "Abbott Elementary" star William Stanford Davis shared two residual checks. He refused to name which company sent him the checks but one was for only three cents, while the other was for five cents.

In the video posted to TikTok, the actor said: "I've been a member of the Screen Actor's Guild for 32 years, and for those 32 years, my wages haven't increased at all. I want to give you an example of what a residual check looks like. I showed this to my brother and he fell over laughing… it ain't fucking funny."

In the video posted to Instagram showing the five-cent check, Davis said: "The postage, the paper, everything costs more than that. That's what they think of us as actors. This is why we're on strike for better wages, for better residuals, for a piece of the subscription and to not give in to AI."

Noëlle Renée Bercy said she received 14 cents in her most recent residual paycheck for Marvel's "Cloak & Dagger."

Noëlle Renée Bercy
Noëlle Renée Bercy starred in 14 episodes of the Marvel show before it was canceled.Araya Doheny / WireImage

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, conducted while participating in the strikes across Los Angeles, Noëlle Renée Bercy said that she only received 14 cents from Disney for her supporting cast role in the two seasons of the Marvel series "Cloak & Dagger."

"AI isn't the only problem. It's greed," Bercy said. "Human greed is the problem."

Bri Collins said that she's barely received any money from residuals for her role in Amazon's Emmy-nominated limited series "The Underground Railroad."

Bri Collins
Bri Collins starred in two episodes of the mini-series.Suzi Pratt / Getty Images

In the same article from Rolling Stone, Bri Collins said that she has not received a lot of money in residuals for "The Underground Railroad," despite it being nominated for Emmys.

"I'm a part of an Emmy Award-nominated TV show and I haven't seen a dime in over a year," Collins said. "I hope that they're able to start paying us because there are so many people who sign up for Amazon, they make billions of dollars every month. Netflix, too, and all of the major studios."

Jana Schmieding, who starred in "Reservation Dogs" and "Rutherford Falls," also revealed the low amounts of some of her residual checks.

Jana Schmieding
Jana Schmieding starred in five episodes of "Reservation Dogs" and 18 episodes of "Rutherfold Falls."Unique Nicole / Getty Images

Jana Schmieding tweeted that she receives three cents "each quarter" in residuals for her role in "Reservation Dogs." She appeared in five episodes of seasons one and two of the critically acclaimed show.

"To fans of my character Bev on Reservation Dogs, here's a peek behind the IHS counter at what part of my residuals looks like for acting on a show that I love," the actor wrote. "I pull in $.03 each quarter for UNLIMITED world wide streams on fx/hulu/DISNEY. & Iger is yachting. #SAGAFTRAstrike."

When fans asked about her residuals for Peacock's "Rutherford Falls," another popular show in which Schmieding played a lead character, she tweeted another screenshot of a residual check for $33.15.

Sarah Sokolovic said that the money she makes from the residuals has "dropped" since 2015.

Sarah Sokolovic.
Sarah Sokolovic has starred in "Big Little Lies" and "Homeland."C Flanigan / Getty Images

In a recent interview with Deadline, Sarah Sokolovic said that the money she has received in residual checks has decreased in recent years.

"I can tell you the money I made from residuals dropped in 2015 to less than half in 2018. And the funny thing about it was I was on two Emmy-award winning shows. It's not on the side of the individual producers, of course," Sokolovic said. "It's really about the studios making sure that the basic contract has things in place so that actors like me benefit from their work residually over time."

She continued: "There was a time when I was traveling out of the country, so I had to have my mail forwarded to my mother. She was helping me with deposits, physical checks at the time. She opens a check and she goes, 'Sarah, it's three cents.' I said 'Yes.' She said 'It actually costs more to mail it.'"

Natasha Rothwell said her residual checks for "Insecure" and "The White Lotus" were for "pennies."

Natasha Rothwell attends the "Here Lies Love" Broadway Opening Night at Broadway Theatre.
Natasha Rothwell attends the "Here Lies Love" Broadway Opening Night at Broadway Theatre.John Nacion / Getty Images

"Insecure" and "The White Lotus" actor Natasha Rothwell told Page Six reporter Nicki Gostin about how little she has received in residuals for the two projects.

In a video posted on Gostin's TikTok account, she said: "I have checks that are pennies on 'Insecure' and 'The White Lotus.' And again I'm fortunate enough that I can be able to be here today and support but there are so many more members of my union that cannot eat and cannot live off of the work that they're doing. And I think that is unacceptable."

Rothwell starred in all episodes of the first season of "The White Lotus" and 32 episodes across five seasons of "Insecure."

Read the original article on Insider