Actors rolling in residuals bucks from long-running roles on TV

In the afternoon here, I’ve been watching early Law & Order episodes. So early that Lenny Briscoe had to run to a pay phone to call in.

At one point, Lenny’s partner was Chris Noth as Mike Logan. I got to thinking-- L&O, Sex and the City, The Good Wife. The checks just keep on coming.

Another one is Ted Danson. Cheers, Becker, CSI, The Good Place.

Who are some other residuals kings? Any queens? (I couldn’t think of any.)

I’m sure Seinfeld et al are doing just fine. Also the Friends cast.

Oops. After you write the OP, THEN you realize what you should have clarified. :woman_facepalming:

I meant from multiple roles in different series.

Briscoe wasn’t even in the first couple seasons of L&O. Jerry Orbach played a lawyer in one episode before he was Lenny.

Ed O’Neill is probably doing pretty well on residuals. Ten years on Married… with Children and about the same on Modern Family. IMDb shows a couple other series for him that didn’t catch on; I remember a Dragnet reboot he starred in.

Betty White may get money from both the Mary Tyler Moore show and Golden Girls. That’s probably a bit of cash.

Katey Sagal from Married with Children, Futurama and Sons of Anarchy gets multiple residual checks, too.

Oh yeah, I watched those, too. Pre-Jack McCoy. S. Epatha Merkeson (Lieu Anita) played the mom of a murdered kid in one episode.

Kelsey Grammer’s gotta be doing OK financially, despite what I think were some big payouts to an ex-wife or two.

Is it a given that every actor in every TV show receives residuals when it is aired?


Julianna Margulies – ER & The Good Wife
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Seinfeld, SNL, Veep, New Adventures of Old Christine
Christine Baranski – mostly supporting roles rather than the star, but she’s been in everything from Cybill to The Good Wife to Big Bang Theory, and a lot of movies.

It is not. Not all jobs involve residuals; that’s a negotiated thing, and an actor might prefer to get more dough up front.

At the lowest level, a new or little known actor will just get scale or a bit more and will never get residuals. Well known actors probably will, but not necessarily.

They must be rolling in for William Shatner. Star Trek, T. J. Hooker, Rescue 911, Boston Legal, a few reality series on the History Channel.

Don’t forget 8 Simple Rules. She basically carried the series after John Ritter died.

And, likely, Hot in Cleveland, as well.

No, it’s negotiated. Also, if an actor has already had a hit, they can frequently get a better deal and make more money on a second successful show, even if that show isn’t as big a hit or as popular.

For example, Don Adams had a crappy Canadian sitcom for three years in the 1980s called Check It Out. He made more money on that show than he did on Get Smart, because he could demand a bigger piece of it.

Definitely not indefinitely.
But, almost all union contracts these days (from the 90’s on) on have minimum residuals automatically built-in. Usually, these include any reruns on the original network, and the first round of syndication. The performers with more clout can negotiate bigger cuts.
It’s not just actors, either! There are many contracts that require paying residuals.

This blog goes over some of the rules around residual pay.

Judd Hirsch has Taxi (5 seasons), Dear John (4 seasons) and Numb3rs (6 seasons) plus a few other shows that probably never made it to syndication.

It depends on the individual contract. Back in the day when it was generally assumed that an episode would be shown once, or at most appear in occasional reruns, actors and agents didn’t worry much about the issue or traded residuals away as a bargaining chip for something that seemed more valuable. In the age of home video and streaming, obviously, they pay more attention to the issue.

I can’t help but think of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry was getting multiple residule checks for tiny amounts of money because some short clip of him got used in the credits of some Japanese TV show. Surely that isn’t how it actually works in real life. I would assume in reality they would get something like a monthly check (or more likely direct deposit nowadays) that covers all their residuals for that month. Surely each airing doesn’t literally generate an individual check.

David Boreanaz

Has checks coming from Bones, Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slaayer

Alyson Hannigan is probably getting paid from HIMYM and Buffy.

I don’t know if Doogie Howser is airing anywhere, but Neil Patrick Harris would be getting Doogie money and HIMYM money. Plus I think he’s involved in the new re-boot of Doogie, too.