Cha-Ching! Actors Still Cashing Checks from Older Films and TV Shows
Some films and television shows are so overwhelmingly popular that their stars could essentially retire after the release, secure in the knowledge that initial paychecks and future residual checks are sure to provide all the money they would ever need. Of course, most actors love what they do and go on to enjoy their fame and ongoing careers — and those residual checks just keep coming.
Everyone has their favorite movies and TV shows to binge and watch on repeat. See if your favorite stars made our list of actors who are still cashing some nice residual checks from productions that wrapped long ago.
Cast of Friends
Friends is one of the most popular television shows to ever air on any network in the world, and the cast includes several actors who went on to do very well for themselves long after the show wrapped. From Jennifer Aniston to Matthew Perry, the cast has starred in many popular movies, but it’s probably still safe to say that Friends was the best career choice they ever made.
Why would that be true? Well, those residual checks from Friends are known to be quite lucrative — with no sign of stopping. To this day, Friends generates as much as $1 billion each year, and the actors are entitled to 2% of that. That’s $20 million per year!
Fans of the American version of The Office may have forgotten — or may be completely unaware — that there was a massively popular version of The Office that originally aired in the United Kingdom. Ricky Gervais starred as David Brent, the character who inspired Michael Scott in the American version.
Gervais wasn’t just an actor on the show — he was the mastermind behind it all. For that reason, he continues to rake in a lucrative sum each year, both from the American version of The Office and the British version. Although the figures aren’t public, you can bet it’s in the multiple millions.
Tom Hanks rakes in fat checks for several movies, including Big, The Polar Express, The Da Vinci Code, Saving Private Ryan and many others. However, there is likely no residual film check that puts a wider smile on Tom Hanks’ face each time he opens the envelope than Forrest Gump.
You can probably find Forrest Gump playing on television on some network most days of the week if you look hard enough, and that means the lead actor is making some steady income off those viewings. Hanks made $60 million from the box office sales, and he has continued to make millions since then.
Cast of The Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption is another one of those films that seems to be on television almost constantly, and the cast is probably receiving annual residuals that would be more than enough to take to the bank and retire. Actor Bob Gunton, who played the menacing warden of Shawshank prison in the film, told The Wall Street Journal in 2004 that he received nearly $100,000 from the film.
Whether that figure was an annual amount or in total is unclear — the film was nearing its 10th anniversary when he said it. Either way, it’s clear that the cast is still seeing good money from the movie.
You may be more familiar with the name Chris Pine than Robert Pine, as one is a modern movie star while the other made his living primarily acting in television shows between the mid-1960s and the late 1990s. With that said, Robert Pine’s prolific nature as a TV actor may just make him the King of Residuals.
He has said that his residual checks alone were enough to pay for his daughter’s tuition at UCLA, which is not cheap. With more than 500 TV show credits to his name, Pine proves that it pays to be prolific.
It seems true that Everybody Loves Raymond, because Ray Romano remains one of the highest-paid television actors around, despite not having a show on the air for a long stretch. Of course, that all changed in 2017 when the TV version of Get Shorty premiered on Epix.
The last episode of Everybody Loves Raymond aired in 2005, yet several years after the final episode, Romano remained one of the highest-paid television actors. How did he earn an estimated $18 million per year, you ask? Most experts agree that Everybody Loves Raymond residual checks get most of the credit.
If the stars on this list teach us anything, it’s that you need to create an eternally popular television show if you want to be eternally wealthy. That’s precisely what Jerry Seinfeld did, and he and his grandkids and their grandkids and their grandkids — you get the idea — are sure to live with an endless money tree as a result.
That money tree comes in the form of Seinfeld reruns, of which there is no shortage on TV. Seinfeld reportedly takes in around $90 million per year, most of which comes from Seinfeld residual checks.
Cast of Frasier
John Mahoney wasn’t even the lead character in the television comedy Frasier that aired from the late 1990s through the early 2000s. That would be Kelsey Grammer, who played the titular character, Frasier Crane. Mahoney played Martin Crane, Frasier’s father, who also happened to share an apartment with his son.
However, despite not being the leading man, Mahoney once wrote that he had enough money in the bank from residual Frasier checks that he would never have to take a job he didn’t genuinely want to pursue. You would have to imagine that Kelsey Grammer’s residual checks are even more substantial.
Tim Allen and the Home Improvement Cast
While Tim Allen has been in some big-name films, such as The Santa Clause and Wild Hogs (don’t sleep on Wild Hogs), he remains best known for his role as Tim “The Toolman” Taylor on the show Home Improvement. According to one of Allen’s co-stars, the entire cast continues to see some nice residual checks from ongoing airings.
There is no word on the precise amount that each star gets, but co-star Richard Karn once told an Australian newspaper that his residual check was “a nice little annuity.” And why not? Home Improvement was one of the ’90’s most popular TV shows.
Larry David does a lot of double-dipping when it comes to television residuals. He is the creator of Seinfeld, perhaps the most successful television comedy ever made. You can find Seinfeld episodes running practically every day on TBS and other networks. As the creator of the show, David certainly gets an impressive cut of each showing.
On top of his Seinfeld residuals, he is the creator and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm, an HBO comedy based on his real life. The network is still producing original episodes, but David already cashes in on all those reruns.
Charlie Sheen made out incredibly well financially, thanks to his role on the show Two and a Half Men. Sheen eventually had a falling out with the show’s management during his “winning” phase, and he was very publicly fired from his role, despite helping the show lock in strong ratings.
Some speculated at the time that Sheen could still draw hundreds of millions of dollars in residual checks over the years from massively popular reruns of Two and a Half Men. It ultimately surfaced that Sheen actually sold his royalty rights for $27 million, which is still a lot of money but certainly not what he could have made.
Creators and Cast of The Simpsons
The Simpsons is the most successful animated television series ever created. It’s in its 31st season in 2020 and shows no sign of slowing down. The show has international brand recognition, with the character of Homer Simpson being immediately recognizable to most Americans today, despite the show being less popular than it once was.
Tracey Ullman hosted the show that The Simpsons originally appeared on as a segment. She says the residuals “aren’t bad.” By “not bad,” Ullman clearly meant that receiving residuals from the most popular animated comedy ever is a pretty sweet arrangement.
The seventh season of The Walking Dead will air in January 2020, and the show’s popularity is as high as it has ever been. The Walking Dead takes a human-first approach that goes beyond stale zombie tropes, and it’s known as a massive moneymaker beyond television, spawning video games and significant memorabilia sales.
Andrew Lincoln is the actor who plays Rick Grimes, the lead character/zombie hunter in the show. He gets the most screen time, and he makes a reported $11 million per season. That means that Lincoln definitely gets a nice cut of rerun fees too.
Cast of Roseanne
Roseanne is one of the most popular comedies in television history, and it was reported that, at one point, networks had to pay $1 million per episode to air reruns of Roseanne. While that number is impossible to verify, it would make sense considering the star power of the younger John Goodman and Roseanne Barr.
The reboot of Roseanne — which eventually became The Conners after Roseanne Barr’s exit — could be a sign that the actors wanted more of those sweet, sweet residual checks. They are definitely enough to pad a bank account long after retirement.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
When you’re a main character on a long-running TV show, you have a better chance than most actors of receiving residual checks that take you all the way through the later years of your life. When you’re a main character on a show as massively popular and culturally impactful as Modern Family, that statement expands to a whole new level.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson is one half of the most lovable same-sex couple on comedy television, and he has played a prominent role in the show throughout its 10 seasons. You can bet that residuals will be a big part of his earnings stream going forward.
Mayim Bialik has become an increasingly popular actress, and her role on The Big Bang Theory is undoubtedly her most significant — and likely lucrative — to date. Some fans may not remember that Bialik made a cameo on the Neil Patrick Harris-led show Doogie Howser, M.D. in September of 1990.
Would you think she would still be seeing money from that cameo appearance all these years later? If you said yes, you would be correct. Bialik shared on her Instagram in 2016 the image of a residual check for her role on the show. The sum: one cent. All joking aside, her residual checks for her childhood show Blossom are probably much larger.
Okay, Sherwood Schwartz isn’t actually an actor, but he was the creator, producer and mastermind behind Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Both shows are among the most iconic television shows ever created, and anybody who watched TV Land during the ’90s and early 2000s got a heavy dose of these family shows.
Schwartz must have known that the real money was in the reruns, because the shows were on television a lot, and their popularity meant that he charged a pretty penny to networks airing each episode. He made an estimated $90 million in residual checks before he died of natural causes in 2011.
If you have a mother, girlfriend, wife, sister or daughter — if you have any female in your life — then odds are good that you at least know about the show Grey’s Anatomy. The show is full of hunky guys and good old network television drama in a high-tension hospital setting.
But don’t think the show is just for the ladies. Thanks to talented, good-looking women who also populate the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, it has plenty of male fans. Ellen Pompeo is the eye-catching lead actress in Grey’s, and she’s going to be cashing hefty residual checks for quite some time.
Most residual payments aren’t public knowledge, which means we can only speculate about amounts in many cases. To understand which films and TV shows earn their stars the greatest royalty payments, we can start by looking at the stars’ salaries. After all, negotiating a high salary is a fair indicator that you also negotiated a strong residual deal.
Leonardo DiCaprio earned a reported $25 million for playing the role of Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s likely that DiCaprio sees a nice chunk of change each time the movie airs on a TV network.
The Rock reportedly fetches around $15 million for each starring role — which pretty much accounts for all his roles these days. You can bet that he structures some lucrative residual deals into every contract that he signs as a take-it-or-leave-it condition.
He has a reputation as a truly nice guy, so it’s nice to know that every time Jumanji, San Andreas or any of his other blockbuster films appear on a network like TBS or FX that The Rock is cashing in. He is also the star of the HBO sports dramedy series Ballers, for which he also takes a cut of each episode.
Bradley Cooper is another star that pockets some impressive residual checks. The biggest names in Hollywood rarely divulge the intimate details of their contracts, residual agreements included, but we do know the approximate salaries for some of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. In general, Cooper makes a reported $10 million per film.
That number could be even higher now, as he has starred in several major hits recently, including A Star Is Born and Avengers: Infinity War. You better believe that each time a Bradley Cooper movie plays on TV, he gets an unbelievable piece of the pie.
The Big Bang Theory ran for 12 seasons, and it consistently placed near the top of the television charts in terms of ratings and fan loyalty. The final season of the show aired in 2018, despite its ongoing popularity. (It was the second-highest rated show of the year.)
Jim Parsons played Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, and his estimated earnings in the penultimate year of the show were more than $27 million. You can watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory every day, and it’s very likely that Parsons gets a cut of those residual fees as well as a portion of any streaming deals.
Modern Family was a mainstay on the TV rating rankings throughout the show’s run. Between 2009 and 2019, Modern Family was a must-see network comedy, with the Dunphys representing the often dysfunctional type of family the audience could easily relate to in one way or another.
No actor on Modern Family has drawn more attention than Sofia Vergara, and she is believed to be among the highest-paid actors on television. Modern Family is one of those rare shows that started airing reruns before the show ended, and Vergara certainly had a nice royalty agreement built into her later contracts.
It became rapidly apparent after the show aired in 2007 that The Big Bang Theory would become one of the most popular shows on television. Like its predecessors Seinfeld and Roseanne, network comedies that start with a bang — pun intended — usually have some staying power.
As expected, Big Bang ran for 12 seasons, and the stars of the show negotiated contracts that placed them among the highest-paid actors on television. Although numbers haven’t been published, the cast of the show likely negotiated lucrative residual deals similar to the cast of Friends.
The stars of The Big Bang Theory could all make this list — and many did — as they are known to be among the highest-paid television actors on the planet. Residuals for television shows often exceed movies simply because there are more episodes, which increases potential viewing frequency. Many shows air multiple reruns every day.
The Big Bang Theory is syndicated, and reruns are abundant. That means that if Kaley Cuoco worked out even a modest residual agreement in her lucrative Big Bang Theory contract, then she will be taking in fat royalty checks for quite some time.
Like virtually every part of the entertainment industry, salaries for television stars have risen significantly in the past decade. That means the highest-earning television stars today, including Modern Family’s Ty Burrell, make much more than stars in the early 2000s (even after adjustments for inflation), with the exception of unbelievably successful shows like Friends.
As Phil Dunphy, Burrell helped drive Modern Family’s astronomical ratings since 2009, and he reportedly made more than $13 million in 2017 alone, thanks almost exclusively to his role on the show. It would be shocking if he doesn’t get a huge check each year for Modern Family reruns.
Mindy Kaling has been a part of at least two massively successful television shows: The Mindy Project and The Office. The former saw her as the main star of the show, which boosted her to become one of the highest-paid actors on television throughout its six seasons. Kaling reportedly took in $13 million in salary in 2017, due in part to The Mindy Project.
While she played a smaller role in The Office, she likely receives some residual checks from the immensely popular comedy that airs reruns nearly every day. She undoubtedly receives money for The Mindy Project reruns too.
Mark Harmon may not be a household name if you aren’t an NCIS fan, but you don’t have to be a household name to make what is likely to be a killing from residual checks. NCIS has been on the air since 2003, and with 16 seasons in the bag, Harmon remains the face of what has been one of the most consistently popular shows on television.
He made a reported $19 million in 2017, primarily from his role on NCIS, and he undoubtedly has set up a nice royalty agreement for himself. If he isn’t making some bank for all that hard work, then he should find a new agent.
Jennifer Lawrence is one of the preeminent actresses in the business, with hits such as The Hunger Games, American Hustle, Silver Lining’s Playbook and Red Sparrow to her credit. She has also deftly leveraged her cultural cool to achieve even greater celebrity, and she fetches top dollar for pretty much any role that she takes.
Lawrence reportedly made a mere $500,000 for the first Hunger Games film, but that figure jumped to the $10 million mark by the next movie. She certainly has lucrative royalty deals built into every contract that she signs.
At last count, Chris Hemsworth ranked second to only The Rock in terms of how much money he commands per film. He took in a reported $76.4 million in 2019, due in large part to his role in the latest Avengers film as well as Men in Black: International.
The momentum of Hemsworth’s Thor series is sure to continue, as will his general appearance as action hero du jour. He likely will have residual checks rolling in for quite some time. He could easily retire based on his Thor and Avengers royalties alone — but we sure hope he doesn’t!