Soap Questions and Answers

By Lynda Hirsch

August 17, 2013 4 min read

Soap Questions and Answers

Q: How much do soap opera actors make? — Reggie in Buckhead, Ga.

A: A lot, if you compare them to the president and vice president. The president make $400,000 a year; the vice president, $237,000 a year. Not so much if you compare them to prime-time actors. "NCIS's" Mark Harmon makes $12 million dollars a year — that is not a typo. Neither is this: "Law and Order SVU's" Mariska Hargitay makes $11.5 million a year.

As with most jobs, the longer a star has worked on a daytime drama, the more they earn.

A newbie make around $700 per episode, depending on many different factors. This might initially sound like a fairly good day's pay, but a newcomer on soaps will be lucky if they work one or two days a week. The actors are only guaranteed one to three days of work per week. If they work more, they will receive more pay. If at the end of the year an actor has not met their guarantee, they will be worked so that they earn the money they get.

A popular character can get bumped up to $1,500 per episode. After 5 to 10 years, their salaries can now be upward of $1,500 to $3,000 per episode, which again may only be anywhere from one to three days per week of actual work guaranteed. The upper figure is for fan favorites.

?Actors who have worked more than a decade get into the salary stratosphere and make in the range of $3,000 to $6,000 for a day's work.

Now the big kahunas. Susan Lucci reportedly made over $5 million a year. At one point, her contract also included having her star in two prime-time movies each year. Other heavyweights include Tony Geary. Geary's extra perk is work to three months on and three months off — that is why his "General Hospital" character Luke is out of town so often.

Others with a big payday include David Canary, Erika Slezak and Eric Braeden and many more.

Years ago, an actor who played a psychiatrist on "General Hospital" was let go because he would not agree to having fewer play or pay days. Executive Producer Gloria Monty told him there was not enough days a psychiatrist can be used on the show. The actor, Craig Huebing (Dr. Peter Taylor), who died a few years ago, gave up acting.

Acting contracts are fairly one-sided. Most actors sign for three years. They can be let go during any 13-week cycle. They cannot get out of their long-term contract.

In the past few years, the actors have been asked to take major pay cuts. Braeden and "Young and Restless" had quite a battle when he was asked to take a pay cut. It took months to iron it out and lots of press until a contract was signed. He did take a pay cut, but not what the studio initially asked for.

There are no figures on how much the actors on the "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" Internet reboots earn. No need to cry for them, but they are making much less money than they raked in when the shows were on the broadcast network.

When an actor goes from contract player to non-contract, he is paid only for the episodes he tapes.

To find out more about Lynda Hirsch and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators web page at

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