A Complicated Question About Salaries In The TV/Movie Industry

OK, this question is about a specific actor, but it has broad implications for other actors in The Industry as well.

WAY back in 2008, Courtney Henggeler was a bit actor who had work here and there, most visibly as Sheldon’s twin sister, Missy Cooper, on an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Since her IMDB resume seems to indicate that it was early in her career and she wasn’t getting much work, I’m going to assume she made scale at the time.

Now, nine years later, it’s looking like the character of [adult] Missy Cooper may be needed again on TBBT due to Sheldon & Amy’s wedding coming up. Courtney has had steady work since then, but is by no means a bankable actress.

So my question is, should TBBT’s producers call Courtney to have her reprise her role as Missy, is she in a position to ask for more money? My thinking is that viewers in this day & age like to analyze every pixel of every frame for Easter Eggs, plot holes, what have you, and two actors playing the same character would stand out. On the other hand, however, Warner Brothers isn’t exactly accountable to the fans for these things, and hundreds of other women would gladly take scale for the chance to play Missy, continuity be damned.

If you work in or are at least familiar with the TV/Movie industry, can you give me some insight into this situation?

Given that TBBT guest stars have included Bob Newhart, Judd Hirsch, Wil Wheaton, Billy Bob Thornton, Katey Sagal, Sara Gilbert – not to mention Laurie Metcalf and Christine Baranski – I don’t know that Ms. Henggeler would have a lot of clout in negotiations. OTOH, I’m sure she’d be happy to reprise her role, given that her current job is a non-starring part in some sort of “Karate Kid 30 years later” project.

Television roles are in different strata, customarily defined in the industry and union rules as background, actor, and principal. In practice, however, in negotiations they are further broken down:

Principal roles are:

LEAD: The actor playing one of the few lead characters on a show, who appears in all episodes or very close to it. Leads, obviously, work for more than scale, and are offered concessions beyond pay, and have billing rights in the credits. The leads of “Game of Thrones” are Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington; the lead of “Better Call Saul” is Bob Odenkirk.

SUPPORTING: An important, regular character who is not a lead, who has many lines in most episodes. Jason Alexander was a supporting on “Seinfeld.”

RECURRING: An actor who is not a supporting but who will be in multiple episodes.

PRINCIPAL: At least one episode with more than six lines.

Below that:

ACTOR: One episode, five lines or fewer.

BACKGROUND: No clearly individually spoken lines at all.

All actors who speak are entitled to at least the Performer rate, which is somewhere around $950 a day right now. For struggling actors, a day’s work of TV is a nice chunk of change but it’s not a ton, and actors with a bit of reputation will commonly turn down opportunities for one day Actor work in the hopes of later getting an audition for a recurring role on the same show. Any professional actor will tell you they make more from filming a commercial than from one episode of TV.

As actors go, Courtney Henggeler is reasonably successful; I know most people reading this have never heard of her, but she’s worked pretty steadily, all things considered, for years now. She will make more than the performer rate.

I doubt she has much leverage, and if she tried to use it, they’d recast the role (or just have a joke about her not attending the wedding). Word would get around that she was “difficult”,* which would make her harder to cast.

Producers favor actors and actresses who are cooperative* and when you’re not a major star, being nice* goes a long way. If people like working with you* they’re more likely to work with you, and even find ways to use you more often.

*In non-sexual way.

Not to mention Leonard Nimoy (voice), James Earl Jones, Carrie Fisher, and LeVar Burton. I would think Ms. Henggeler would be more pysched to get TBBT on her resume rather than haggle over pay.

Let’s compare…they brought back Raj’s old girlfriends and Ramona Nowicki. I would say Missy is in the same ballpark.

I did have a question…in the episode where Sheldon goes back home because Missy is having a baby, neither Missy nor his mother were on screen. I “heard” Sheldon’s mom yelling for him, but that did not sound like Laurie Metcalf. Was it really her or did they have some other voice actor, and if they did, would Laurie Metcalf have a bone to pick?

sigh. This is exactly why actors have agents. Any decent agent is going to be able to negotiate a better deal than scale with the producers for this significant role. Unless the demand is totally unreasonable, no producer is going to think anyone is being difficult. The producers, remember, are going to have to work with the agent for other actors too, and therefore are not going to alienate her.

Do you think that these famous actors did the gig for scale? I very much doubt it, unless they love the show very much or think it is going to advance their careers in some way - very unlikely in both cases.

As for her, she got the job already once - reprising it is not likely to add to her resume in any significant way.
As for Laurie Metcalf, she does not own the role. Assuming it wasn’t her, maybe she wasn’t available during the time period when the voice over would have to be taped. I’m sure she is professional enough not to care for such a minor thing, even if they take the part away from her. For an actress of her caliber, it is not a big deal.

Your experience with this is?
Being cooperative, prepared, and on-time on the set is important. Actors who aren’t these things cost the production money.
But if a producer considered any actor with an agent who tried to get more money when possible as being uncooperative, that producer would have no one to work with. That isn’t the way the business works. These are professionals, and it isn’t their money. It is a business.

I suspect that the producers (assuming that her character appears in an episode anytime soon) will offer her somewhat more than what they’re required to offer her and that she will happily take it. She’s approximately in the same position as Vernee Watson (who plays the nurse who pops up every once in a while) or Dean Norris (who plays the colonel who oversaw the military contract). Why would they turn down any reasonable amount for another episode? The Big Bang Theory is probably the most popular TV series in the world. What’s the point of the show or the performer niggling about the amount they are paid? The show has lots of money and the performers are presumably happy to get seen by so many viewers.

You forgot to put an asterisk after “use you”.

The performer is not niggling. The performer’s agent is niggling. That what agents get their 10or 15% for. I believe producers have agents also. They know how the game works.
Any agent who is not trying to get more for his or her client is not going to have many clients for very long.
Unless an actor or actress can show that the popularity of the show is due to their work, its ratings are not much of an issue. If the show is making money, all the more reason to get some of it in a repeating role. One might take less money for a role which is broadening, or for an indie, for art, but TBBT is none of these.

My daughter was on the third season of a quite popular cult favorite series. No one stood around on the set saying “OMG, we’re in a cult series.” It was a job. Jobs are good.

One addition. Popularity means syndication. Syndication means residuals. Now that does make a performer happy.

Oh, come on, of course I meant by a performer niggling that it’s actually their agent who’s doing the niggling.

But that’s an important distinction. A performer personally going up against the production company could get into trouble and have it become personal, while an agent won’t.
Not to mention that agents are good at this. When my daughter was doing an industrial, her managed niggled $100 a day extra for her wearing her own clothes on the shoot. There was no negative consequences on the set. I could never have negotiated that deal.

From seeing how it works in other artistic endeavors. You need to have a lot of talent to be a jerk, and that’s the same in Hollywood.

You’re contradicting yourself.

Negotiating better terms is part of the game. Asking for more money is not being uncooperative.

But insisting on more money for a one-shot role and threatening to walk if you don’t get it is.

This isn’t The Pit and so I’m going to compose with great care.

My experience with this is? My experience with this is 37 years as a professional cinematographer. We don’t need to get into a name-dropping contest, do we?

I agree with the first part of your statement 100%. It IS important to be cooperative, prepared, on-time and professional. That said, I cannot even figure out how to list the number of “Big Name Stars” who are none of those things and have as a result completely wrecked days ( and nights, which just…hurts more… ) on shows I’ve been on.

Once you attain a certain amount of power in this industry, a lot of those niceties are allowed to go RIGHT out the window. Why? Because as you said, it’s a business. If you make the Production Company/ Studios enough money, you can get away with anything and everything.

Like delaying tactics that bring an enormous feature to its knees: Apocalypse Now

Like bullying and sexual assault, smoothed over and ignored: God. Which name should I pick from the last years’ headlines?

Like murder: Twilight Zone: The Movie, which involved the death by decapitation of two small children who were on set without dint of contract or any legal advocate.

I can expand this list, but to what end?

People in power act like people in power. The O.P. wasn’t asking about power situations. They were asking about regular day-players on t.v. shows.

And to that, I might only add that being a day player on a hit show that’s made it past the 100 Episodes syndication threshold may or may not get ANY syndication residuals because they are day-players and not season-long contracted regulars.

We need a member of SAG/ AFTRA in here who can literally take out their 2018 Agreement and quote us as to this detailed question.

For quite a few years in there I used an Agent to represent me. As a crew member, that’s rare but not unheard of. You are so right- it removes things on set from becoming personal because someone else negotiated the money part of the work experience.

I would show up, do my thing and leave. Others might have a different deal, and Production might well be upset at my superb hourly or Overtime rate agreement, but heck- they signed the deal. They’re committed and cannot do well by then punishing me for their agreement. In fact, I never got crap about the deal once I started using an Agent.

No argument about anything you said. People without power don’t get these passes. I saw a kid - perfect for the role - get fired because he vanished at times and slowed up the production.

What do you mean by day player? Extra? Not a principal, I assume. Because SAG members do get residuals unless they are working as an extra. The case in the OP, Courtney Henggeler, was definitely not an extra and definitely a SAG member. And definitely had an agent.
Whether she was on the set a day or a week is unimportant. I’m sure you are very aware that extras don’t even get the same food as principals, usually.

The last SAG contract I read was like 25 years ago, but I’m sure they didn’t go to crap that quickly. My daughter was a SAG member. She should have been an AFTRA member also, but they didn’t catch her.

Extras trying to negotiate aren’t going to get very far. But this case was about someone coming back into an established, identifiable role. Her agent might or might not get her more money, but she sure as hell is not going to be considered a problem actor if the agent tries. That was my point.

I never thought about crew having agents, but that’s awesome. My daughter’s manager said to never sign anything on set without running it by him first. Like I said, we got extra money thanks to this. I saw mothers of kids sign without thinking, and leaving money on the table. Tough for them, good for us. Good for you too.

Nothing in the OP tells me she is threatening to walk, or even that is in the picture. Of course there is always an implication that if the production company is unreasonable, you don’t take the job. In this case, since they can’t get any Mary, Sall or Rita for the role, unlike in originally casting the part, she (or her agent) will have more power.

Clearly someone doing a one-time role is not going to be able to get anymore. She probably didn’t the first time she played it either.
Most things, like commercials or theater, are not going to have similar situations. The only thing I can think of is a movie sequel where they want to keep the supporting cast the same.

I did not know that, thank you. I thought only “regulars” on a series benefit from residuals.

Yeah. It’s pretty awful, actually- the line of delineation.

They’re shooting in color now. :smiley:

I’ve often wondered. You do a show with HUGE story arcs. That’s the norm these days. I wonder if Production has clauses in the contract that guarantees some level of access to a performer for a certain number of years. I know, crazy- but how do you bring back a character from 2 years ago??