10:00am PT by Bryn Elise Sandberg
'Westworld' Stars Score Big Raises Ahead of Third Season (Exclusive)
HBO is doling out raises to its Westworld stars.
The leading actors of the Emmy-nominated HBO series have scored salary increases in advance of the sci-fi drama's third season, often the point in a successful show's cycle when contracts are reevaluated. Like many other series with ensemble casts, the Westworld actors are divided into multiple pay tiers, with only the first grouping — made up of Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton — said to be part of these contract negotiations.
According to sources, the foursome are each making roughly $250,000 an episode for the upcoming third season. The newly negotiated pacts represent generous bumps to their previous salaries, which were rumored to be varied amounts in the $100,000 to $150,000 range. A second tier of actors are likely to renegotiate as well. What's notable is that James Marsden and Tessa Thompson — both of whom have been prime players in the drama — are not a part of the first tier that renegotiated, which sources suggest may point to an unclear future for the pair on the series. "HBO does not and would never comment on talent negotiations," a rep for the network said in a statement.
The raises come months after HBO programming president Casey Bloys, prompted by Time's Up and one of the movement's leaders, Reese Witherspoon, proactively went through the network's roster of shows and remedied pay parity issues between male and female co-stars. "If we found any, we corrected it going forward," Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year. Though he declined to provide specifics at the time, both Newton and Wood later spoke up about getting equal pay on Westworld.
There's a lot riding on Westworld, as HBO's crown jewels, Game of Thrones and Veep, are both ending their runs next year. The series created by husband-and-wife duo Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy has more than its fair share of fans among critics, but is one of the more divisive shows on television. The drama's second season ended in June with less of an audience than it began with, and an increasing number of critics voicing their frustration over the show's complicated storylines. Even so, the drama has managed to rack up 43 Emmy nominations over two years, with Newton taking home a trophy this September for her standout role in the series. And despite a drop in audience between the first and second seasons, a solid 10 million viewers still watched the recent season.
The Westworld raises put the leads of the J.J. Abrams-produced drama on par with the central five This Is Us actors and the kid stars of Stranger Things, who are all pocketing around $250,000 an episode after intense renegotiations heading into their respective third seasons. Even though each of the castmembers ended up at the same number, the raises for the Stranger Things kids represent a much bigger bump than those for the other stars, as the child actors were said to be making less than $30,000 an episode in the first two seasons. The This Is Us stars, in comparison, were making anywhere from $40,000 an episode (Chrissy Metz) to $115,000 (Milo Ventimiglia), per sources.
Of course, the new Westworld pacts are nowhere near the amount the Game of Thrones stars are pocketing eight seasons in. The fantasy drama's five core actors — Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau — are said to be each making around $1.2 million an episode for the final season, which is expected to bow this spring. The stars secured the bumps when they all banded together for raises ahead of the seventh season of the show to notch up to the $500,000 to $600,000 range, and then redid those deals midway through that penultimate season when they signed on for an eighth and final installment. Up until that point, the Thrones stars had been pulling in roughly $150,000 an episode after their first set of contract renegotiations in 2013.
HBO also recently paid top dollar for the A-list Big Little Lies cast to return for the series' surprise second season. Sources say that Witherspoon used the $1.25 million an episode payday she's getting on her Apple morning show drama to leverage a massive raise for Big Little Lies season two. She and co-star Nicole Kidman were said to be getting between $250,000 and $350,000 an episode for the first season, and now sources peg them in the $1 million-an-episode ballpark for the second season. Insiders say it's just more evidence that talent salaries have shot though the roof in recent years as deep-pocketed streamers like Netflix, Apple and Amazon have driven up prices in their arms race for talent.
Wright is repped by CAA and Jackoway Austen; Wood is with CAA and Ziffren Brittenham; Newton is repped by WME; and Harris is with CAA.