12 Highest Paid American TV Stars

highest paid stars

You want to know who leads the list of highest-paid TV actors and actresses? This is the list of highest paid TV actors. Find out the life-changing stories that helped these actors and actresses to earn millions.

Pauley Perrette, $8.5 Million


When most people think of pauley perrette, Abby Sciuto comes to mind. A forensic NCIS scientist notable for her gothic appearance. The Louisiana born perrette has NCIS to thank for her overwhelming fame but it wasn’t just the show that earned her legions of fans. Before she impressed millions of viewers with her acting talent, she was working in New York City as a bartender. The job wasn’t glamorous but it earned her enough money to sustain her rent while she searched for her big breakthrough, eventually she found it. When a friend introduced her to a director from an ad agency.

Although it was hardly going to be smooth sailing, before NCIS pauley spent almost a decade playing small parts on TV and in films. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that Polly really started to be noticed and eventually joined the NCIS team. Fans found it tragic when Polly left the show without even revealing her reasons for doing so. All she did was write these mysterious emotional tweets. Anyhow, nowadays Polly spends most of her time with her lovely dogs and in support of a range of different anti-bullying programs.

Andrew Lincoln, $11 Million

andrew lincoln

One of the reasons the Walking Dead earned its success is Andrew Lincoln. His role as Rick Grimes catapulted the actor into the list of the highest-paid TV actors, but he also had to start somewhere. Lincoln only agreed because he thought it would help him get girls as he once admitted in an interview. So, he started in his school’s production of Oliver and won the role of The Artful Dodger. Lincoln made his first on-screen appearance on the sitcom Drop¬† ‘The Dead Donkey.’ In its 1994 episode titled births and deaths. It is a show set at a fictional TV news company and in the UK, the show was a hit and ran for six seasons.

Lincoln’s first major breakthrough in the United States came when he starred in the romantic comedy ‘Love Actually.’ You probably remember his character Mark who was secretly in love with his best friend’s wife played by Keira Knightley. After only a couple more films and the huge success of Walking Dead, a real life of luxury has opened its doors for Lincoln. When the main star of The Walking Dead left the show, the news broke the hearts of fans. “He will return in a trilogy of movies based on his character with the first exploring the story of where Rick is taken and what he faces in a New Corner of The Zombie Apocalypse”, according to AMC. Andrew commented on his leaving The Walking Dead series by saying that Rick Grimes as final episode is not the beginning of the end, it’s the end of the beginning.

Ty Burrell, $12 Million

Ty burrel

Everyone’s favorite TV dad Ty Burrell from Modern Family also worked as a bartender during his college years and for a period of time in graduate school, he lived out of his van to save money. In high school, he was a popular hunky football player. Transitioning into an equally cool undergrad at Southern Oregon University but after seeing ‘Death of a Salesman’ at the age of 20, he transferred to the University of Oregon and decided to major in theater studies. He did not have a clear path for a while, coasting along on a sea of uncertainty for much of his teenage years.

“I’m very lucky that I came from a stable home, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until acting sort of landed in my lap when I was in my 20’s.” he shares. Adding, “Acting, to me, was a bit like the latter I used to climb out of feeling lost.” His road to great acting success was not a quick one but after many years and many roles, he finally landed the iconic role of Phil Dunphy. Today, Ty sounds like a man that has it all, a fact he’s well aware.

Burrell knows that Modern Family has afforded him the luxury to do what he loves and indulge in his favorite things. Iconic TV dad Ty Burrell has announced that when the series ultimately comes to an end, he’ll probably step away from the acting world all together. “Honestly, I’ve been taking my lumps as a producer and really enjoy learning how to do that” he reveals in the new issue of Haute Living Los Angeles. “I think I’m not really willing to travel very much anymore, or miss too many dinners away from my kids, so there’s a possibility that I’m a step away from performing all together when the show is over.”

Mariska Hargitay, $13 Million


For almost 20 years, Mariska has been playing the iconic TV detective, Olivia Benson. Now, Hargitay has a happy home life with her husband, actor Peter Herman and their three children. Having one of the highest paying jobs ever but it didn’t come easily. She’s had her share of tragedies, starting when she was just three years old. Mariska’s mother, actress Jayne Mansfield was killed in a car accident in the middle of the night. She said that losing my mother at such an early age is the scar of my soul and added that this tragedy made her into the person she is today.

“I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I did to be here.” The same tragedy almost hit her twice as in 1973, her stepmother nearly died because of horrible injuries she received during turbulence on a flight. Due to all the stress she endured in her childhood years, Hargitay struggled with anxiety and low self-esteem in her 20’s. Hargitay acutely felt the pain of not really having known her world-famous mother. It took a long time for Hargitay to become a big star. She didn’t get the role on Law & Order SVU until she was 35 years old. So that meant, a lot of rough moments financially as she tried to make her way in the world on her own.

“I had a house and car I didn’t want to lose and I had a lot of credit card debt” she said. So now that Mariska finally has it all, she celebrates every moment she can. “I realized that you have to show up for your life.”

ED O’Neill, $14 Million


Ed O’Neill is already a television veteran who has portrayed iconic roles such as, Edie Bundy in Married… With Children, Glen in Wayne’s World, and Jay Pritchett in Modern Family. It’s difficult to imagine O’Neill anywhere else besides on TV, he was actually a student at Ohio University with a scholarship in football. Truth was, ED spent more time playing football and partying rather than focusing on his degree.

Before becoming an actor, O’Neill worked as a social studies teacher at his high school. However, he was also involved in the theater program and was among the first few students to get enrolled in it. Later, he started featuring in Red Lobster commercials. At the same time, ED made his breakthrough with an appearance in the equalizer. From then on, O’Neill went through many TV roles and eventually landed his most iconic one as the hilarious Jay Pritchett. Today, he gets paid one hundred five thousand dollars for each episode a modern family.

Mark Harmon, $19 Million


All-american hunk and people sexiest man alive in 1986 with the acting chops in charmed a boot has been on the Hollywood radar since the 70’s, and it would not have been so if he had not shied away from a career in football and started working in film and television. Even more so, Mark only felt the calling for acting after he’d tried out some other careers that he ultimately failed at and hated.

Harmon said he’d have been a carpenter. “I tried to do that, but I just couldn’t get hired. I enjoyed getting up and doing that in the morning. For me, it was about materials and doing right” Harmon said. After that, Harmon said he moved on to what he called being a shoe salesman, but the job required a fair amount of travel and it was then that he realized, he had to get out and so, he chose to try a TV career.

Most seasoned actors that are veterans of the venerable medium of television don’t attained that status with just one hit show that seemingly lasts forever.¬† Casting agents love to book Harmon as the lead of TV shows but his gigs up until NCIS were almost always short-lived flops. Nevertheless, he persistently settled into a career of seemingly never being too far gone from a TV screen and so, he became one of the most successful TV actors of all time having starred on the top-rated CBS military crime procedural NCIS for well over 15 years.

Simon Helberg, $2.3 Million


The Big Bang Theory star unlike his wealthy colleagues was already part of a prestigious Hollywood family, being the son of sandy Albert. In his early years, he was very interested in television. As he told USA Today, “I would come home and make sure I finished my homework every night by 8 o’clock, generally so that I could sit down and watch TV from 8:00 to 10:00.”

As a teen, Helberg became involved in playing music. He explained to Conan O’Brien that he joined a rock band because I thought it would make me cool but the group had one problem, only Helberg was a skilled musician, the rest of the band couldn’t really play. Understanding that music career wasn’t really working for him, Helberg later made the switch to acting, enrolling at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Despite his connections to the industry, he also had to start within a few small TV roles before becoming a cast member of MADtv in 2002. His next big break came with a part in Aaron Sorkin’s studio 60 on the Sunset Strip in 2006. The following year, Helberg joined the cast of Big Bang Theory as Howard Wolowitz and now the guy is earning twenty three point five million dollars a year.

Ellen Pompeo, $23.5 Million


“My life started out with tragedy” says one of the most in-demand actresses on TV. One of Pompeo’s earliest memories is of her older siblings trying to revive their mom after she suffered a fatal overdose. Growing up in a big family of six in an Italian Irish neighborhood, Pompeo realized that “you can’t get out of where I come from if you’re a Wallflower” as she later told. The transition wasn’t entirely seamless, “I was pathetically insecure, she said. I didn’t have a mother to tell me how amazing I was.”

Pompeo knows a bit about being a badass, while to our knowledge she’s never performed an abdominal wall transplant or held a bomb in place with her finger like Meredith has. The actress did have the will to pull herself up by those proverbial bootstraps. As her brothers and sisters were smoking pot, she was being shuffled amongst babysitters and various relatives. Once her aunt took her to a Rockettes performance in New York and it was then when she settled on her future career.

After years of small roles, her agent approached her with the script for a half procedural, half rom-com pilot penned by event unknown rhymes and she was not pleased by that. “I was like, I’m not gonna be stuck on a medical show for five years, she recalled. Are you out of your mind? I’m an actress.” Well, we know she certainly doesn’t think that anymore being among the top five of the highest-paid actresses on TV.

Kaley Cuoco, $24.5 Million

Kaley Cuoco

The actress famous for being America’s bubbly sweetheart penny on the Big Bang Theory. The actress has been named in the top 20 of Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 women list twice. Kaley Cuoco started her career earlier than any of her actor colleagues. At the age of six, she had already modeled for commercials like Barbie dolls. A year later, she appeared in her first TV movie, Quicksand No Escape.

She was an athletic child and started playing tennis at the age of three. She later became a regionally ranked amateur tennis player but left the sport at the age of 16 to pursue acting seriously. And soon, her beloved television roles followed including Brigitte Hennessy on the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules and fans may remember her as Billy Jenkins on the original charmed series. Kaylie is the one who has built her career steadily with regular appearances in movies, telefilms and on television and after some years, she made her breakthrough with the Big Bang Theory.

Johnny Galecki, $25 Million

Johnny Galecki

Cuoco’s Big Bang Theory co-star and ex-boyfriend Johnny Galecki has also made his way to stardom. He’s no experimental physicist like Leonard, but every move Johnny Galecki made led him to this colossal opportunity on one of the most popular shows in history. Acting on the small screen since age 12, Galecki established himself as a prominent actor with his sitcom role in Roseanne, on which Galecki played Darlene Connors awkward but devoted beau David Healy.

Galecki credits the sitcom for honing his acting craft, “In many ways, Roseanne was my college” the actor said in a People magazine interview. After the series ended, Galecki continued to land minor acting gigs. The actor wanted to leave behind the whole song and so he played a male prostitute into play, The Little Dog Laughed which required a full frontal nude scene by Galecki. While risque, the role garnered the actor praise as well as a theatre world award for an outstanding debut. Afterward Galecki returned to his TV roots, playing geeky physicist Leonard Hofstadter.

Jim Parsons, $26.5 Million


The second highest on the list of the highest-paid TV actors is also one from the Big Bang Family. Jim Parsons put in more than a decade of paying his dues before finally becoming a household name. Just like many other actors, he started off his acting career by working in off-broadway productions and appearing on TV commercials. However, it was a small role as the colo-colo bird in a school production of Rudyard Kipling’s, The Elephant’s Child when he was just six years old that gave him the acting bug, and from then on Parsons was determined to become an actor.

It’s hard to believe now, knowing that he is one of the most sought out actors in world television, that Jim Parsons is actually the veteran of no less than 15 failed television pilots. 15 closed projects before the breakthrough a Big Bang Theory, that must have been tough. Jim is often credited as the significant factor that contributed to the show’s great success. Parsons salary on the show increased from a couple of thousand to almost 1 million dollars per episode in the last season.

Sofia Vergara, $42.5 Million

sofia vergara

Growing up in a traditionally large family in Colombia with five brothers and sisters, Sofia Vergara made her way to success despite all of life’s ups and downs. Young Sophia firstly started out studying to become a dentist but fortunately for your TV screens, she quit. Like many other young girls, she shot her first commercial at the age of only 17. she was able to be cast in an ad for giant company Pepsi which was a very prestigious achievement at the time. Soon after her success in modeling, she was discovered for television. She started her first serious job on the TV channel Telemundo.

Vergara had her first baby right after graduation and after a breakup with her partner she had to raise her son alone, whilst trying to make a career out of acting at the same time. On top of all that she was also fighting cancer and helping her brother quit drugs. Just imagine, how strong and highly motivated she had to be to get through all of these life challenges. After years of being on TV and struggling through personal issues, she finally got her big break both in her career and her family life.

The year 2009 was a dramatic turnaround for her as she was selected for the sitcom Modern Family, and today, she is one of the top television actresses in the world, with the perfect job and a loving marriage to actor Joe Manganiello.