Why do actors end up being producers on their tv shows?

Seems on every tv show I see nowadays, the lead actors (usually just 1 or 2 of them) are listed as producers or executive producers on the show. I also noticed it usually starts after the first season, sometimes halfway into the first season.

Why is this?

I assume it’s an ego/privilege thing.

Its a money thing. I doubt there is a standard answer. The deal for each show/star is going to be different. A producer credit generally comes with owning a piece of the show instead of just being one of the employees.

I assume it’s a money thing. For many of them, it’s probably an empty title, or at most they attend a few writers’ meetings and make a few suggestions. Then they get paid a ton of money which doesn’t count against their actor’s salary, so the real producers don’t have to raise the other actors’ salaries.

They already make a ton of money for acting. why would the studio give them more money for doing nothing?

I’m going to have to disagree, here… the producer is the general manager for the show, the person with the overall drive, vision & idea for what the show is supposed to be. After the first season, unless the show has some rock star producers, chances are the person with the best vision is the actor playing the lead character.

There’s no “the” producer on a television show. All of them have multiple producers, executive producers, consulting producers, co-executive double-secret evil-twin producers, and so on.

The reason actors get producer credits is because that’s what they negotiated for. Usually, actors will get producer credits after a show is successful for a few seasons and they are in a position to ask for more money. Sometimes, this means that they are more involved with the actual production of the show. More often, it means that they are entitled to a share of the profits in addition to just a flat salary as an actor.

Lots of possible reasons (including some already listed).

The first season the actors seldom make a ton of money, so this is a way to lure an actor to sign a long contract.

The actor might have been part of the creative team.

The actor might be a selling point to get the network to pick up the show in the first place, so the production company would do anything to get that actor involved.

The actor might have a production company that is backing the show.

The separation of payment routes lessens the ability of other actors to demand equality. (It’s also a way around clauses that guarantee that if one person gets a raise then the other does.)

The budget itself might separate out the acting budget from the production budget from other budgets.

Really, when you get into money there are an infinite number of reasons to pay some people more than others.

My gut instinct is that, in the majority of cases, it’s an empty title that serves to goose the ego of the actor. It might carry some kind of additional compensation, but I doubt it.

I do know that, at least in the opinion of many Hollywood insider types, an “AP” - Associate Producer - can include far, far less responsibility (and, by extension, authority) the film/series’ actual producer(s). Whereas an associate professor at a university is a legitimate professor, an associate producer of a TV project could just be the producer’s cousin who carries around a clipboard. Just a thought.

Although it’s quite possible that the actor(s) can have a strong voice in the production of the show. It would make sense for shows that rely heavily on the performance of a single character.

That’s for sure. Look at a simple little show like Community:

Dan Harmon … executive producer (82 episodes, 2009-2014)
Jake Aust … producer (78 episodes, 2009-2013)
Chris McKenna … co-executive producer / executive producer (71 episodes, 2010-2014)
Andy Bobrow … co-executive producer / producer / supervising producer (69 episodes, 2010-2014)
Sean Veder … associate producer (50 episodes, 2009-2013)
Gary Foster … executive producer (48 episodes, 2009-2013)
Patrick Kienlen … producer / co-executive producer / executive producer (48 episodes, 2009-2013)
Russ Krasnoff … executive producer (48 episodes, 2009-2013)
Anthony Russo … executive producer (47 episodes, 2009-2012)
Joe Russo … executive producer (47 episodes, 2009-2012)
Garrett Donovan … executive producer (46 episodes, 2009-2012)
Neil Goldman … executive producer (46 episodes, 2009-2012)
Heather Petrigala … producer (46 episodes, 2009-2012)
Dino Stamatopoulos … consulting producer (37 episodes, 2010-2014)
Emily Cutler … producer (35 episodes, 2010-2011)
Karey Dornetto … producer / co-producer (35 episodes, 2010-2011)
Hilary Winston … supervising producer / co-executive producer (26 episodes, 2009-2011)
Tim Hobert … co-executive producer (24 episodes, 2009-2010)
Christine Larson … coordinating producer (24 episodes, 2009-2010)
O’Shea Read … associate producer (24 episodes, 2010-2011)
Maggie Bandur … supervising producer / co-executive producer (23 episodes, 2011-2013)
Matt Murray … producer (22 episodes, 2011-2012)
Andres Anglade … associate producer (22 episodes, 2013-2014)
Timothy Silver … producer / co-producer (19 episodes, 2013-2014)
Tristram Shapeero … executive producer (18 episodes, 2013-2014)
Jon Pollack … consulting producer (13 episodes, 2009-2010)
David Guarascio … executive producer (13 episodes, 2013)
Gene Hong … co-producer (13 episodes, 2013)
Moses Port … executive producer (13 episodes, 2013)
Erik Sommers … co-executive producer (13 episodes, 2014)
Vera Santamaria … producer (12 episodes, 2011-2012)
Adam F. Goldberg … consulting producer / supervising producer (12 episodes, 2013)
Alex Cuthbertson … co-producer (10 episodes, 2012)
Matt Fusfeld … co-producer (10 episodes, 2012)
Matt Warburton … consulting producer (10 episodes, 2012)
Hunter Covington … co-producer (3 episodes, 2013)
Ben Wexler … co-executive producer (3 episodes, 2013)
Mary Fukuto … associate producer (1 episode, 2009)
A.J. Morewitz … co-executive producer (1 episode, 2009)
Hend Baghdady … producer: 23D FIlms (1 episode, 2010)
Liz Beebe … associate producer (1 episode, 2010)
James Fino … executive producer: 23D Films (1 episode, 2010)
Joe Russo … executive producer: 23D Films (1 episode, 2010)
Michael Bellavia … executive producer (1 episode, 2012)
Maya Fineberg … producer (1 episode, 2012)
Kendra Moore … executive producer (1 episode, 2012)
Kendra Moore … executive producer (1 episode, 2012)
Chris Van Amburg … executive producer (1 episode, 2012)
Chris VanAmburg … executive producer (1 episode, 2012)
Megan Ganz … producer (1 episode, 2013)

Wikipedia gives a solid performance - “Star as Producer”

So yeah, guys like Kiefer Sutherland are making good actor money, but once the show takes off they want more recognition and more money for being part of that success. Like was said, they may very well be a legitimate contributor to the production of the show.

Why would a studio pay more? To keep Kiefer happy and churning out those very profitable episodes.

Like was said, it’s also a way to sweeten the pot without having to renegotiate the actor’s performance contract. Another consideration is that many actors have complicated deals with their agents and it might be to their benefit to get producer money outside of the acting deal.

So… probably as many reasons as there are deals.

In a nutshell, acting is where the paycheck is. Producing is where the money is.

Johnny Carson got comfortable in front of the cameras. He got wealthy behind them.

Moved to Cafe Society.

General Questions Moderator

This isn’t about a tv show, it’s a general question about labeling of credits.

Sometimes I don’t get this place. I once asked a historical question about racism and Jackie Robinson and the thread was moved because it “was about sports.”


There have been a couple of shows I’ve seen in which the stars were called “executive producers”: the original Hawaii Five-O (Jack Lord), and the original Dallas in its latter days (executive producers were Leonard Katzman and Larry Hagman).

The credit goes to a big name actor without whom the show could not successfully continue. It’s an incentive to the actor not to pull a Charlie Sheen on the production, and it seems to usually work. (Was Sheen an Executive Producer on 2 1/2 Men? I have no idea, but I’ll bet he’s one on Anger Management…).

Actually, that’s the job of the Show-runner. They maintain the consistency of the story across episodes written and directed by multiple different people. They will often rewrite and re-edit an episode to achieve that.


I agree. Once an actor has been in a show for a long enough period of time, they know their character so well they feel they can suggest story ideas, and dictate a certain amount of direction their character would or wouldn’t go. I figure a Producer role gives them authority to have influence over some of the writing.

Executive Producer is different again, a mostly meaningless position that lets them stick their oar in once in a while.

Producers “own” the show. Most likely they will get the money for syndication, DVDs etc. They give them more money so they don’t do a Caruso and leave to do movies but instead do a Caruso and kept taking sunglasses off until the show ends.

It’s a question about TV shows. Which belongs in CS. Just because it’s in CS doesn’t mean you can’t get factual answers.

Maybe it doesn’t happen often, but the actor wanting control over the show does happen. Roseanne on Roseanne, Brett Butler on Grace Under Fire and Jason Lee on My Name is Earl.

They start controlling the scripts, firing and hiring writers, etc.

Showrunner is what they are called but there is no official position by that name. The person we think of as the showrunner has the title of Executive Producer. Dan Harmon had it for Community, as shown. Matthew Weiner is an Executive Producer for Mad Men. Charlie Sheen is not listed as a producer for Anger Management, but Bruce Helford, credited as Creator, is an Executive Producer.

Executive Producer is the opposite of “mostly meaningless.” It is the highest official title in the world of television.

Sounds like you understand pretty well, but just disagree. If it’s about sports, it goes in the game room. If it’s about TV, it goes here. That takes priority over wanting factual information.

The whole point of these forums was to get arts and game stuff out of GQ.