Since The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family are two of television’s most popular shows, it’s no surprise the series’ lead actresses — Kaley Cuoco and Sofia Vergara — both ranked high on the Forbes list of top-paid stars last year. But because of her side deals to endorse coffee machines and a long list of other products, one actress made more money than anyone on television, male stars included.
Sofia Vergara’s earnings between June 2015 and June 2016 were a cool $43 million, before management fees and taxes, widely outpacing Cuoco in second place at $24.5 million, almost all from her Big Bang Theory salary. Vergara’s savvy business sense also resulted in more money than anyone on the Forbes list of top-earning television male actors. Cuoco’s co-star Jim Parsons is top of that list with earnings of $25.5 million.
Johnny Galecki was No. 2 on the list of highest paid actors ($24 million), followed by Big Bang co-stars Simon Helberg ($22.5 million) and Kunal Nayyar ($22 million). While the television salaries were largely accountable for the lucrative take home pay for all of the actors, Helberg also got a boost from his role in Florence Foster Jenkins and Nayyar from authoring a book.
So how did Sofia Vergara skyrocket to the top of the earnings pile? By adopting a “business-first mentality,” according to Forbes. Vergara has earned 60 percent of her money through licensing and endorsements since 2011. She appears in ads for oatmeal and even has her own line of furniture. Forbes estimated she’s the face of two dozen brands.
Vergara’s business acumen is well-known and hardly new. Back in 2012 Forbes reported that Vergara and her partner Luis Balaguer had grown their company Latin World Entertainment into a licensing and marketing player with notable clients. The actress and entrepreneur had revenue streams before Modern Family started and will have them long after the series ends.
As The Big Bang Theory limps through its tenth season, there is continuing speculation as to whether the program will be around for another year. The stars’ hefty salaries will likely be a key factor in deciding whether to keep the stories of the scientists and their relationships going. Kaley Cuoco confirmed as much during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in September, when she called the prospect of a Season 11 “a very expensive question,” according to a clip posted by Vulture.
The cast of Big Bang, after all — at least its core three players Cuoco, Parsons, and Galecki — reportedly make $1 million per episode. While that is a startling sum, it is not the highest network television has ever paid its stars. According to a list at Screen Rant, the staggering sum of $200 million was paid to Charlie Sheen once he completed 100 episodes of Anger Management. That $2 million per episode pay day was even higher than the $1.8 million Sheen was making before he was fired from Two and a Half Men.
Sheen’s successor, Ashton Kutcher, made a mere $750,000 when he took over on the Chuck Lorre-helmed sitcom. It was eventually canceled after 12 years on the air, with a final episode that teased Sheen’s possible return after his very public ouster four years before. As Entertainment Weekly reported at the time, Lorre’s vanity card at the end of the episode explained Sheen was offered a spot in the finale but disagreed with producers about the details of the scene.
Lorre is also the producer behind The Big Bang Theory. While that show’s future remains uncertain, Modern Family continues to have a presence on Wednesday nights and in reruns. The show is also getting older, however, as it’s well into its eighth season on the air.
The Big Bang Theory airs on CBS and Modern Family airs on ABC.
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