Big Bang Theory cast willing to take pay cuts for Bialik & Rauch to have parity

We’ve heard for some time that Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik get paid significantly less than all their male costars, plus Kaley Cuoco, earn per episode on The Big Bang Theory. I assumed that the salary details which were leaked were never confirmed, which is that Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki each make a whopping one million an episode while Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg get $750k and Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik make just $100k per. Those numbers seem to have increased somewhat in that the four male stars plus Kaley, who were all there since the beginning of the show in 2006, all make $1 million per episode now, according to Variety, while Bialik and Rauch get $200k. Of course these are large numbers, of course no one is hurting for cash, but when you consider that Rauch and Bialik are making 20% of the salary of the next highest paid male stars it’s a problem. Rauch and Bialik came on in the third season and this seems to have been used as justification for their lower pay. Judging from the few episodes I’ve seen they’re as central to the plot as the other characters. So as the cast negotiates for the last two seasons of the hit show, the five at the top of the pay scale are each volunteering to take a $100k pay cut an episode to pass the wealth along to Bialik and Rauch. That’s really nice actually, but why is it even necessary?

The last hurdle to Warner Bros. TV and CBS clinching a two-season renewal of “The Big Bang Theory” is setting a new contract with actresses Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

According to multiple sources, the five original cast members on the show – Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg — made the extraordinary gesture of taking a small pay cut to free up money for raises for Bialik and Rauch. The move is evidence of the strong camaraderie among the key players on the show that remains primetime’s most-watched comedy. The general harmony behind the scenes has also contributed to the show’s enduring creative strength, bolstered by the comedic chops of the core ensemble.

But as the dealmaking for what might be the final two seasons of “Big Bang” hits the home stretch, reps for Bialik and Rauch are said to be pressing for the studio to add some more coin to their paychecks as well.

Bialik and Rauch both joined “Big Bang” in season three and thus have to date earned significantly less than their co-stars. Both actresses are in the $200,000 per episode range this season, the show’s 10th, compared to $1 million per episode for the original five.

In the renewal talks that began late last year, the original cast members agreed to take a $100,000 cut in salary for the prospective 11th and 12th seasons to free up $500,000 to fund raises for Bialik and Rauch.

If Bialik and Rauch split the $500,000 from their co-stars, both would rise to nearly $450,000 an episode, or more than $21 million for the two-year, 48-episode deal. The question now is whether the two will hold firm for parity, or at least closer to parity, with the other stars. Negotiations on Bialik and Rauch’s deals are just beginning in earnest this week.

[From Variety]

I don’t understand how there’s no enough money in that hugely popular show to pay Bialik and Rauch more without dipping into their costars salaries. Like I get that this is a show of solidarity from the higher paid stars who were there longer, and that’s really wonderful of them, but couldn’t the network and producers just up the pay for Bialik and Rauch? It seems cheap and sexist of them to pay them so much less, especially when the male stars are making so much more. Variety has a bunch of analysis about how Big Bang isn’t as profitable as it used to be and how costs are up for the show, but it seems like they set Bialik and Rauch up to have low salaries and they don’t want to give them pay equity. It’s telling there’s room for four men but just one woman at the top of the pay scale.

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48 Responses to “Big Bang Theory cast willing to take pay cuts for Bialik & Rauch to have parity”

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  1. original kay says:

    I read about this last night. Well done, to the cast.
    Shame on the show for not recognizing how integral Amy is to the entire show. She gets a lot of screen time and without her the show would not be at all the same.

    I can’t stand Bernadette though, and I wish they’d end her character.

    • Mke says:

      I think the economics of the show has something to do with it. Yes they could pay more to the remaining cast members but they have already made their syndication deal and any additional costs will have to come out of that (billion dollar) profit. Also CBS is not paying the production costs in full for this show any longer so the per episode cost is already about $7 million dollars per week.

      Not saying they should not pay Mayim and Melissa the same as the other stars, just saying that it is going to come directly out of the show owners pocket to do it.

      • original kay says:

        Yes that was my understanding as well. Something about they won’t make any money off the next 2 seasons, in syndication. ?

      • Bridget says:

        And Chuck Lorre is known as a very generous soul.

    • Rachel says:

      See, I love Amy and Bernadette, and have always believed they could get rid of Penny or replace her with another actress and it wouldn’t make any difference to the show at all. I cannot stand that character and feel Kaley Cuoco isn’t even a mediocre actress.

      • HookedonCoffee says:

        Rachel–Kuoco is absolutely a less than mediocre actress. She is the definition of one-note, in fact.

        However, she is damn talented at scoring attention for herself. I assume she leverages her off-screen histrionics into her negotiations.

        Yeah, it pays to be a big attention whore sometimes.

      • LA Elle says:

        I could understand why they initially cast her, but her lack of talent has hampered the character in recent years. That she earns more than Kunal and Simon – especially Simon, who is incredibly talented – boggles my mind.

        I was really hoping for a while that they’d write her out, as I think Amy and Bernadette bring much more to the show.

      • Bee says:

        They could easily get rid of Penny and no one would care. Amy and Bernadette are infinitely better characters (and actors).

    • Nicole says:

      This just makes TPTB look even worse. The costars are willing to give up the salary they earned because you’re too cheap to pay two major players more money

      • Jess says:

        Amy is central to the show and I enjoy Bernadette. Kaley is not a good actress but she handles the Penny role well (which she should after all of these years). It is BS that Amy and Bernadette get paid so little. Total sexism.

  2. manda says:

    I stopped watching awhile ago, but mayim bialik was great!!!! Much funnier than kaley cuoco!

    • HookedonCoffee says:

      Not to mention, an actual PhD in her on screen field. So she absolutely brings so much more to the role and doubtlessly behind the scenes to the show than Kuoco, with her doctorate in attention whoring, could hope to.

    • Whaaaaaaatttt? says:

      Agree! I still watch it when it pops up on my DVR, but Amy has saved that show. Her and Sheldon are so great on it.

  3. robyn says:

    The original cast pushed for a gigantic amount of money a couple of years ago I think … their demands seemed to have increased those never-ending annoying commercials and the stories suffered a bit imo. I think them sharing the loot is a good thing … particularly since there might no longer be a show had these two brilliant women not brought their skills into the series and helped the characters grow in such interesting ways.

  4. Bridget says:

    First off, with the way that show is syndicated none of the performers should have to take a pay cut. I could turn on my TV right now and find that show on at least 2 channels. But these two ladies share a huge amount of the comedic load. It’s why they became regulars in the first place, and in a movie that’s supposedly about awkward science dudes they’ve carved out their own spot. They deserve to be paid accordingly.

    • Bridget says:

      I meant for that to say “shouldn’t have to take a pay cut” but apparently without coffee I can’t read.

  5. minx says:

    This show has become stupid and redundant, but the actors are talented.

    • lallyvee says:

      It has gone way down hill the last few years. Frasier started strong and then had bad years before coming back in it’s last two years. Hopefully, Bang will do the same.

  6. Jess says:

    That buffalo sweater though… ❤

  7. LadyT says:

    Bialik is my absolute favorite character in the show. She should be be paid more equally- and by the studio, not by her co-stars. That’s ridiculous.

  8. lucy2 says:

    I loathe this show, I don’t find it at all funny and I don’t understand it’s popularity – but it is hugely popular, and profitable. It’s ridiculous they were paid so much less to begin with, and insane that a show raking in cash like this can’t raise their pay without the costars taking a pay cut.
    Kudos to the cast willing to take the cut though, that is an awesome thing to do.

    • BengalCat2000 says:

      I think this is one of the dumbest shows on tv (which is saying a lot), but everyone should be compensated fairly.

    • Erinn says:

      I don’t like it, either. I watched the first season, I think, and then the odd episode here and there if nothing was on. I liked Bernadette and Amy a hell of a lot more than Penny though. I kind of get why people like the show – but at the same time I work in a particularly nerdy field (web development) and seeing their portrayal of nerds gets really annoying really quickly. Then seeing all the people who are like “oh I love Sheldon. I’d want to hang out with him” annoys me too, because it’s BS. Sheldon has a lot of Asperger’s type characteristics – and often times those are the kids who get shunned by the same people now claiming to think he’s amazing.

      I think Jim Parson’s is a talented guy, and I think Mayim (while I don’t agree with a lot of things she stands for) has a good rapport with him. Kaley really isn’t a good actress, and REALLY lucked out on landing this gig. I remember watching her on 8 Simple Rules – and I found her obnoxious on purpose character on that show still more likable than Penny.

  9. Manjit says:

    I really like this show, it tickles my funny bone. I think it’s great that the cast realise it’s a team effort. Maybe the producers will do the right thing and give Bialik and Rauch the financial recognition they deserve.

  10. littlemissnaughty says:

    I stopped watching a few seasons ago but even then I thought the two ladies were integral to the appeal of the show and the chemistry of the cast. Especially Rauch, I love her. I’m not sure Howard would work without Bernadette at this point.

    I don’t understand why they didn’t all negotiate together. I know that’s rarely done but that show has been a hit for so long, there’s no reason to not pay them all equally. And it seems like a terrible idea to say “Oh we’ll pay you more, if your co-stars take a cut.” Yes, let’s make room for possible tensions.

  11. Clare says:

    I’m one of those losers that watched more than their fair share of this show (hey! it’s literally ALWAYS on), and i disagree that Melissa and Maylim are as central to the show as the original 5 characters. I do think they could successfully be written off…

    Either way it is nice (if a bit bizarre that they have to?) that the older cats members are willing to take the pay cut.

    • Darla says:

      Maybe Rauch, though I thought the person who said Howard would no longer work as a character without her, made a very good point…but not Bailik IMO. Amy is the best, and the show really suffers without her, for me anyway.

  12. Darla says:

    I love this show, and when they run the earliest episodes I realize it’s just not the same without Amy. So, that pay differential is ridiculous IMO. Bernadette is probably my least favorite, but I think the actress is lovely. It’s nothing against her, it’s the character. I do think this cast is very close, and it shows onscreen, and is a big part of the success of this sitcom. And really, putting aside the attitude of the suits, this is a very nice story. Isn’t it nice to hear about people who respect and enjoy each other, and stand together?

  13. Margo S. says:

    This is how it is in every industry…. as long as we keep talking about it and calling companies out, they will be forced to make changes.

    • Danielle says:

      I agree. And I think the other actors publicizing that they are willing to take a pay cut to help really upset the pressure on the people who are making decisions. It publicly calls them out.

  14. me says:

    I still can’t believe how much these people get paid. I don’t think this show is as popular as it once was. I still watch it, but it’s not as funny now.

    • aenflex says:

      It’s gotten pretty stale, I agree with you.
      I know it’s terrible to say, but I’ve always found all the foremost female characters on this show, Emily and Claire included, completely replaceable. If I could choose, I’d keep Amy though, old Amy, not new Amy. I loved her when she was stiff and dry and no-nonsense. I also think Raj and Howard could easily be replaced based on their boring, redundant characters. Although I love Simon Helberg’s delivery, he does crack me up. But I hate Howard.

      I’m old and nostalgic, so I would’ve loved to see Sara Gilbert be the lead female for Johnny’s Leonard. And more of Sheldon and Leonard’s mothers. They’re where it’s at.

      • KiddVicious says:

        I had read that the writers didn’t know how to write for Sara Gilbert’s character so they let her go. I really liked her character and would have loved to see Darlene and David back together again. lol

        And I love Sheldon’s and Leonard’s mothers. Christine can do no wrong, IMO, and Laurie does that character really well.

  15. Harryg says:

    Hideously overpaid! And so are the producers of these crap awful shows.

  16. Tx_mom says:

    It is generous that the male actors are willing to chip in, but even with that they’ll still out-earn these actresses by more than two-EO-one!

  17. kimbers says:

    The show was getting stagnant when the came aboard and they definitely had a added a better quality to the show. If the network didnt want to pay them a salary, why couldn’t the ladies havr gotten a bigger percent of royalties, download income, dvd box money?

  18. KiddVicious says:

    At this point it’s just a remake of Friends, a lot of the same storylines. Still makes me laugh, though.

  19. Kat says:

    Poor Stewart. He got left out again!

  20. LA Elle says:

    I saw this last night and while I figured Melissa and Mayim were earning less given they weren’t regulars until Season 4, I cannot believe they make one-fifth of what Kaley makes. That’s ridiculous.

  21. booRadley says:

    just cancel this show already so we can all move on with our lives.

    • rosalee says:

      No one’s stop you Boo…move on and change the channel.

      I am baffled by people who complain for the sake of complaining.

  22. Mimz, says:

    I agree that the show has seen better days but it’s still pretty enjoyable. I’ll take 5 MORE YEARS of BBT over one single episode of 2 Broke girls which makes me grind my teeth, and makes me feel stupid.
    I hate-watched it for two seasons (a friend convinced me to) and i quit.
    At least I learn a thing or two on BBT.
    The pay disparity is astounding, Amy is great (although lately not so much), and Bernie is funny with her dry humour and feisty attitude. Love Raj, he was funnier when he couldn’t talk to girls sober, and Howard was also funnier when the mother was alive.
    Anyway I think most shows lose its spark in the final years, I remember even HIMYM got irritating in the last few seasons (try watching it today from s1 till the end – the sexism and gross barney stinsonesque storylines are really… unacceptable!). I hope they get better pay! Go girls!

  23. Chelly says:

    Wat still confuses me is how the hell Kaley ever got a star on the walk of fame

    • meow says:

      it’s easy. you just have to pay like $30,000 or something. stars on the walk of fame are not very exclusive.

  24. eliza says:

    Seriously HOW do people make this much money for acting. It blows my mind. Like completely off its brain stem. I think they should earn an equal amount but why are they earning money like there’s no hardship in the world??

  25. j says:

    so…women should wait around hoping that their male colleagues/coworkers will feel generous and give a charitable handout to them? this is not how we demand equal pay – cast should have threatened to leave the show until the studio bucked up. no reason for this other than sexism and greed at the executive level.