While many may think TV actors make loads of cash every year, that isn't always the case, especially for soap-opera stars. As with other actors and even professional recording musicians, the pay range for soap-opera acting varies greatly, depending upon experience and the amount of work. The overall annual salary average is $57,100.
New to the Biz
A supporting actor or actress just starting out in a soap opera can make around $400 for an episode, on average. This is for a potentially recurring role, but with only a few lines and limited face time. An unknown soap actor with more lines and a more important role in the day's episode may make around $700. There is no specific pay chart that applies to all soaps; it can vary greatly from one show to another. There's also no guarantee that one day or week's work will lead to more down the road for the same show. After all, what would a soap opera be without the drama of the occasional character disappearance?
Soap-opera actors with five to 10 years' experience make a bit more than newcomers, as is the case in just about any industry. These actors can expect to make at least $1,500 per episode, but this doesn't necessarily translate into a calculable weekly or annual salary. There's no guarantee of five days of work per week, or even of steady work for the entire "season" of the show, but an experienced actor working two episodes per week all year can make $150,000 to $300,000 annually from the show.
Big Names, Bigger Pay
Well-known veteran actors and actresses draw much larger paychecks per episode, earning several thousand per episode and potentially more. A lead role in a long-running soap opera can pay more than $500,000 per year, based on a couple days of work per week for an entire year. Again, the pay varies greatly based on the show's popularity and longevity, the popularity of the character and even on contract negotiations.
Some of the highest paid soap stars earn considerably more than other veterans in the field. Some big-name actors have earned $18,000 to $25,000 per episode on long-running shows such as The Young and the Restless. The longer the actor has been on the show, the greater the potential for high per-episode pay and for guarantees to work in a certain number of episodes per week. Such negotiations allow veteran actors the chance to schedule time for other professional and personal commitments. The more well-known the actor, the more personally tailored the pay contract for any given show that has a sizable budget.