Top 10 Highest-Paid TV Actors and Actresses

James Ryan Jonas

Comedy and drama shows are almost always a hit on TV, which means the actors and actresses who star in those shows stand to earn a lot of money. True enough, the highest-paid TV actors and actresses of 2012 are stars of either a comedy or drama show.

Ashton Kutcher, who replaced Charlie Sheen in the popular TV comedy Two and a Half Men, is the highest-paid TV actor this year, earning an estimated $24 million from May 2011 to May 2012. It’s interesting to note that in 2011, Charlie Sheen owned this top spot, earning $40 million. In 2012, Kutcher replaced Sheen on the show and displaced him as well in Forbes magazine’s list of the “Highest-Paid Actors and Actresses on TV”. Sheen is nowhere in this year’s Forbes list.

As for highest-paid TV actresses, this title is owned by Columbian star Sofia Vergara of Emmy-award winning comedy Modern Family. In 2012, it was estimated that Vergara earned around $19 million. Not all of those were from Modern Family. Vergara scored multi-million dollar endorsement deals with Cover Girl, Diet Pepsi, Burger King, and Comcast, among others.

The top 10 highest-paid actors and actresses on television are listed below.

2012 Top 10 Highest Paid TV Actors

#1. Ashton Kutcher

  • 2012 Earnings: $24 million
  • TV show: Two and a Half Men

Kutcher took over for Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men and quickly became one of the highest-paid men on television. Ratings have slipped a bit but the show is still a bona fide hit for CBS. In addition to acting, Kutcher is an active Silicon Valley investor. He got in early on Skype, Spotify and Airbnb which is now worth $1 billion.

#2. Hugh Laurie

  • 2012 Earnings: $18 million
  • TV show: House

Everyone’s favorite misanthropic, pill-popping physician has hung up his stethoscope. Hugh Laurie’s long-running Fox hit drama House finished after its eighth season in April. The Cambridge-educated Brit, one of TV’s best-paid actors through the show’s finale, is now free to focus on his second love: music. His 2011 album Let Them Talk topped the Billboard blues charts for the year.

#3. Ray Romano

  • 2012 Earnings: $18 million
  • TV shows: Everybody Loves Raymond; Men of a Certain Age

Ray Romano’s return to the small screen was short-lived. With ratings struggling for Men of a Certain Age, TNT closed down the set earlier this year. While he hasn’t found success with his newer shows, the New York City-born actor and comedian is still making plenty off his old work, with syndication of classic Everybody Loves Raymond making up the bulk of Romano’s fortune. He also takes home a hefty paycheck for voicing the lovable wooly mammoth “Manny” in the animated movie series Ice Age.

#4. Alec Baldwin

  • 2012 Earnings: $15 million
  • TV shows: 30 Rock; Saturday Night Live

Baldwin continues to shine as slick TV exec Jack Donaghy on NBC’s comedy hit 30 Rock, now in its final season. The veteran actor makes just as many headlines off the screen, though: this year, he married a yoga instructor more than 25 years his junior. The outspoken Democrat also briefly toyed with the idea of running for mayor of New York City (he still hasn’t ruled it out entirely). In the past few years, he’s had something of a big-screen resurgence, with five films in various stages of production. The Long Island-born star is the record-holder for most appearances as host of Saturday Night Live, beating out his buddy Steve Martin.

#5. Mark Harmon

  • 2012 Earnings: $15 million
  • TV show: NCIS

It might not be sexy or hip, but after nine years on CBS, NCIS is still one of the highest-rated shows on television, drawing an average 19.7 million viewers per episode. That’s helped Harmon become on of TV’s highest-paid actors. Harmon is perfectly happy working in TV. He hasn’t starred in a major movie since NCIS launched.

Completing the Top 10 Highest Paid TV actors list are:

#6. Tim Allen (Last Man Standing; Home Improvement) – $14 million

#7. Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men) – $13 million

#8. Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) – $12 million

#9. Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) – $8 million

#9. Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) – $8 million

#9. Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) – $8 million

2012 Highest Paid TV Actresses

#1.  Sofia Vergara

  • 2012 Earnings: $19 million
  • TV show: Modern Family

Though the Modern Family star may seem like an overnight success, she has actually been working towards super-stardom for more than 17 years. 2012 was a boom year for the Colombian native: she had three movie roles, scored endorsement deals in English (Cover Girl, Diet Pepsi) and Spanish (Burger King, Comcast and State Farm) and launched a clothing line with KMart that earned her a seven-figure advance. But Vergara’s far from the ditzy bombshell she plays up for the cameras: as one half of the management company Latin World Entertainment, she’s an entertainment mogul on the rise.

#2. Kim Kardashian

  • 2012 Earnings: $18 million
  • TV show: Keeping Up With The Kardashians

Kim Kardashian walked down the aisle in August, 2011 and more than 10 million viewers tuned in on October 9th when E! aired its over-the-top 4-hour wedding special. Just three weeks later Kardashian filed for divorce and a media frenzy ensued. As a result, her famous face was on the covers of more than 63 magazines in the last twelve months. But it wasn’t all bad press for Kim: the family signed a $30 million deal with E! for three more seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians and her namesake fragrance earned more than $6 million in retail sales. With sisters Kourtney and Khloe she designed a clothing line, Kardashian Kollection for Sears, opened a new location of the family boutique, DASH, and celebrated the launch of Kardashian Khaos, a specialty store in Las Vegas’ Mirage hotel.

#3. Eva Longoria

  • 2012 Earnings: $15 million
  • TV show: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives ends its eight-season run this year and like her female cast-mates, Longoria pulled in $375,000 per episode. Post-Wisteria Lane, the Texas native has multiple irons in the fire: she’s produced a pilot for a new series with DHW creator Marc Cherry called Devious Maids that’s been picked up by Lifetime and has produced a dating reality show, Ready For Love for NBC. It will be hosted by reality veterans Bill and Giuliana Rancic. Longoria also lends her famous face to L’Oreal Paris and Pepsi.

#4. Bethenny Frankel

  • 2012 Earnings: $12 million
  • TV show: Bethenny Ever After

The reality star may have unloaded Skinnygirl Cocktails to Beam in 2011, but that didn’t slow her entrepreneurial roll: in the past twelve months Frankel helped to expand the booze line from one product to 12, penned her first novel, “Skinnydipping,” and debuted a daytime talkshow, Bethenny, in a six-week test on FOX affiliates this summer. Long-time pal Ellen DeGeneres produced. Ratings for her Bravo reality show, Bethenny Ever After continue to be strong, averaging 1 million viewers each week.

#5. Khloe Kardashian

  • 2012 Earnings: $11 million
  • TV shows: Khloe & Lamar; Keeping Up With The Kardashians

The dark-horse of the Kardashian family is also its break-out star: Khloe & Lamar was ratings favorite for E! in 2012. The show premiered to an audience of more than 2.5 million in February. While living in Houston with NBA baller husband Lamar Odom, Kardashian hosted a radio show for local radio station 102.9. In April the family signed a $30 million deal with E! for three more seasons of flagship show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. With sisters Kourtney and Kim she designed a clothing line, Kardashian Kollection for Sears, opened a new location of the family boutique, DASH, in Manhattan’s Soho, and celebrated the launch of Kardashian Khaos, a specialty store in Las Vegas’ Mirage hotel.

#5. Tina Fey

  • 2012 Earnings: $11 million
  • TV shows: 30 Rock

What 30 Rock lacks in prime-time viewers (season 6 kicked off with just 4.5 million weekly viewers, down from season 5) it makes up for in critical acclaim and a revolving door of A-list guest stars that this year included Kelsey Grammer, Steve Buscemi and Susan Sarandon. In September the show went into syndication both on-network and with Comedy Central and WGN America, resulting in a bump in earnings for the cast. Fey has picked up awards for her work as the series’ creator and star.

The next five Highest Paid TV actresses are:

#7. Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) – $10 million

#8. Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) – $9 million

#8. Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) – $9 million

#8. Ellen Pompeo (Grey’s Anatomy) – $9 million

#8. Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) – $9 million

Source: Forbes

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James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.