Black TV Actors Still Earn Considerably Less in Hollywood Despite Success Of Empire and Power

It is common knowledge that all that glitters in Hollywood is not gold for black actors. Period. While we have seen the likes of Will Smith and Dwayne Johnson rake in big bucks for majority of black actors the struggle is real — even when they have 'made it'.

Last week US magazine Variety published a list of Hollywood actors and their respective per-episode salaries — and the results will shock you!

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is lauded as the highest male film star at the moment by Forbes. It would also appear his move to television has equally been lucrative for him. The former wrestler commands an impressive $400,000 per episode for HBO’s ‘Ballers’. Nice. 

Unfortunately, his fortune is not shared by other non-white actors on television or even film. Shockingly even with the worldwide success of shows led by black cast such as Empire, Power and Blackish, lead black actors are not balling like their white counterparts. 

Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Grey earn way below that $400 000 per episode Dwayne commands. 

The glaring disparity between the sitcom stars of ABC’s comedy programming is particularly notable. Depsite Black-ish being recognized at the Emmy Awards with nominations for Best Comedy, Best Actor for Anthony Anderson and Best Actress for Tracee Ellis Ross, both Anderson and Ross —who are industry veterans, earn less than the stars of Modern Family, The Middle and Last Man Standing.

Anderson gets $100,000 an episode, while Ross’ pay is $80,000; comparatively, the core Modern Family cast, The Middle ’s Patricia Heaton and Standing ’s Tim Allen all earn $250,000 an episode. This despite the fact that 'Standing' is not nearly as beloved as 'Black-ish' by critics, nor does it match it in the ratings. 

The pattern doesnt change much for our beloved dramas. With drama actors, there’s a big gap between the $750,000 per episode earned by Gilmore’s Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel and the highest-paid black actors. 

Viola Davis, the Emmy Award-winning star of How to Get Away with Murder, and Kerry Washington, the Emmy-nominated star of Scandal earn just $250 000.  Both actors, form a key part of Shonda Rhimes’ TGIT-branded Thursday night lineup in the US, along with Grey’s Anatomy, but Ellen Pompeo commands $400,000. 

Critics in the US lamented that the fact that Davis, in particular, isn’t commanding more is frankly perplexing—she won the Best Actress Emmy in 2015 and was nominated again in September, and she splits her time between television and a successful movie career (including the recent summer hit Suicide Squad). Why is she not getting the same power as Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson?

Further down the list still are Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, previous Oscar nominees, and the stars of the highest-rated drama on television, Fox’s Empire. They are said to be earning $175,000 an episode—less than the stars of some dramas that could only aspire to achieve half of Empire’s ratings. 

Sadder are the salaries of Empire's Lyons kids Trai Byers, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Y. Gray. They are paid just $20,000 per episode — despite being on network television’s top-rated scripted drama. 

This then begs the question; how is this allowed to happen?

We can not just blame white supremacy in Hollywood for this. Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and Grey's Anatomy are owned by a black woman while Empire is owned by a black man.

Why are Shonda Rhimes and Leigh Daniels not paying their actors more?

The shows are successful. Worse for Shonda who pays Ellen Pompei almost twice as much as she pays Viola Davis and Kerry Washington. 

How is it that Drew Barrymore earns $350 000 per episode for a show very few people know exists?

Full salaries list:

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