Actors/actresses not appearing.. still paid?

When a major supporting actor or actress doesn’t appear in an episode, is that generally because the writers/directors just didn’t need them for that episode or because the actor wasn’t available? I imagine it will vary, but in general. For a while Jennifer Morrison wasn’t appearing in House episodes, but she was still listed in the opening credits. Her choice? I can come up with dozens of other examples. Do they still get paid even if they don’t appear on camera?

Check the standard SAG-AFTRA contract here.

I will add that it probably varies with each actor’s individual contract. Some actors may have the clout to negotiate better terms than others, including payment for episodes in which they do not appear. Most don’t have that much leverage.

My understanding is that if they’re listed, they get full pay for the episode. It becomes a problem with ensemble casts like Star Trek or B5, where only a subset of actors might appear in a good number of episodes. The reasoning, as it was explained to me, is that if you contract for a whole season, you’re blocking the actor from other work and have to pay them even if they aren’t on the call sheet.

Actors who are not front-listed and not contracted for all episodes are supposed to have some freedom to book other work; if they are expected to be available for every ep, they have to get paid for it. This has produced some interesting story quirks in episodic/ensemble shows when an actor wasn’t available for an appearance.

Jerry Doyle got paid for a full episode of B5 in which his character appeared for about two minutes, in a coma. He always said it was his favorite episode.

A-ha. This explains why some recurring characters are mentioned as guest stars, or possibly a “special appearance.” They’re listed but not part of the regular cast.

Thanks. I admit, I’m just not curious enough to parse through 267 pages of a legal document to find out. Ignorance continued.

I was a paid extra in a movie scene but my scene never made it out of the editing room. I got paid but was not in the movie.