Jennifer Lopez, Kerry Washington, 5 Other TV A-Listers Reveal How They Spent Their First Paycheck

Drama Actresses
Emily Berl

Lopez snapped a selfie behind the scenes at the roundtable.

In every successful actor's life there was a moment at which he or she saw a few zeroes in his or her paycheck for the first time. For some, that "I've made it" moment comes early on; for others, it follows years of failed auditions and plenty of heartache. 

But rather than focus on the latter, The Hollywood Reporter asked seven of television's top actresses who gathered for the 2016 Drama Actress Roundtable to recount what they did with that first paycheck of note. Their first splurge, if you will.

Below is an edited version of that discussion:

Jennifer Lopez, (NBC’s Shades of Blue) I was driving a Honda hatchback that Keenen Ivory Wayans had given me when I moved out here when I was a Fly Girl [dancer on In Living Color]. And I had been driving it to every audition. And when I got, I think it was a regular series, I bought a car — a Mercedes. And it was a huge deal, though I was signing the lease to the car and breaking up with my boyfriend the same week. We were in the dealership and I was crying.

Sarah Paulson (FX’s American Horror Story and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) I bought a lot of stuff at the Gap because I was 19. I was still living at home and I was understudying Amy Ryan on Broadway in The Sisters Rosensweig and my check was substantial. I had never had a job before, ever, anywhere. I was a waitress for two seconds but I couldn’t spell "parmesan" and I quit, promptly. So, I got a big, big weekly check from understudying and I went to the Gap, like every day. And I would give Gap presents to all my friends. That and there were some flaming Dr. Pepper drinks down on 11th Street and Third Avenue. That was my big splurge. I should have gotten a car!

Constance Zimmer (Lifetime’s UnrealI bought an eight-person dining room table, which I still have.

Paulson Were you married? Did you have kids?

Zimmer No. No. I don’t know why [I bought it], but I still have that table. I refuse to get rid of it because every time I look at it I remember that was a big deal, like, "I can buy an eight-person dining room table with acting." So, I have had it for over 20 years — I don't even know if the style works with this house. And by the way, I don't think I've splurged on anything else since.

Kerry Washington (ABC’s Scandal and HBO’s Confirmation) This is so Bronx girl of me. My first movie was a crazy guerilla filmmaking, independent movie, so our transpo department was a Metrocard. Save the Last Dance was my second movie, and we had a per diem. I couldn’t believe somebody was handing me cash and I literally used to hide it under my mattress for the whole movie. I put myself on a tight budget of what I could spend. And at the end of it, I used all the cash from the three months and bought my first laptop.

Regina King (ABC’s American Crime and HBO’s LeftoversI bought a car. I was 16 …

Julianna Margulies (CBS’ The Good Wife) I got my first movie and they flew me out to L.A. and I remember thinking, "If they had just told me it was a first-class ticket I would have traded it in and gotten cash" because I was so broke. So I got to L.A. and at the hotel was a wad of cash, per diem, for the two weeks that I was going to be there. And I had hair down to here [points to waist], and my heart started pounding and I ran to the drugstore and I got Flex conditioner. I’m dating myself now, but Flex shampoo and conditioner were a [big deal] at that time. I was 22, and I just I remember sitting there in the hotel room with the conditioner on my hair for hours.

Kirsten Dunst (FX’s Fargo) I started acting so young, all my money just went into a college fund. And then I probably bought my mom a house. 

Washington And all of our parents are now jealous.