Learn How Much Soap Stars Make

On Set For 'One Life To Live'
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Have you ever wondered how much your favorite soap star gets paid? Many fans have asked this same question and it's not an easy question to answer. The salaries of daytime actors and actresses remain rather private information.

This is a bit odd because the salaries for the stars on hit primetime shows is not a secret. For instance, it's reported that Mariska Hargitay earns a remarkable $450,000 per episode on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." The opposite holds true, however, when it comes to the world of daytime soaps.

No one really knows for sure what the actors are earning.

Let's see what an industry insider said about what daytime actors and actresses are paid. Keep in mind that it most certainly varies from one soap star to another.

Pay for a Newcomer to Daytime Soaps

For starters, let's look at the minimum an actor can expect to make on daytime television. Someone new to the business and whom you could call an "unknown," may make around $700 per episode.

That, however, is for someone with a limited but frequent role and a number of lines. Supporting actors and those with just a few lines and a short amount of camera time may earn less than $400 for a one-hour show. Taking that down another level, a background actor might see $200 or less.

This might initially sound like fairly decent pay for a day's work. However, show business is not the steadiest work and a newcomer will be lucky if they work one or two days a week.

Typically, all soap stars are only guaranteed one to three days of work, even some of the veterans on the show. Although some weeks may be good, others may not.

As with any job, the longer that someone is on the show, the more they can make. With more years comes higher pay and the likelihood of more days of steady work.

So once a newcomer has been on a show for awhile, they can generally expect to make anywhere from $700 to $1500 per episode.

What About Stars With Years of Experience?

For soap stars who have been around the block for five to 10 years, their salaries can be upwards of $1500 to $3000 per episode. Again, this may only be one to three days per week of actual work.

As always, there are many other factors involved. These include how popular they are with the fans, what major story lines they may be involved with, and if they are doing any other promotional work for the studio.

How Much Can Veterans of Soap Operas Make?

Lastly, for the soap star veterans who have been in the business for over 10 years, the pay is much higher. Their salaries can be anywhere from $2000 to $5000 or more per episode. Only a small percentage of actors are actually over that $5000 mark.

Among those exceptions are the stars who have been with a show for decades. For example, Tony Geary has played Luke on "General Hospital" for over 20 years (if you subtract his absence in the 80s and early 90s) and his net worth is reported to be $9 million. Likewise,  Erika Slezak (Viki on "One Life to Live") spent over 40 years in her role and has a net worth of $8 million.

What about Susan Lucci?  The actress who played Erika Kane on "All My Children" since the show's debut in 1970 has a net worth of $60 million.

Granted, each of these top names has other endeavors, but their soap salaries play a large role in their financial standing. With seniority comes special privileges as well, such as limited work hours and extended vacations.

What's the Average Soap Actor Pay?

For those who are considering a career in daytime television, or if you are just curious what the stars earn, here's a rundown of a typical annual salary:

  • 1st Year Mark: $20,000–$156,000 
  • 5 Year Mark: $156,000–$312,000
  • 10 Year Mark: $208,000–$520,000 

These numbers are based on a typical work week of two days per week, times 52 weeks per year, which does not account for holidays, vacations, etc. These numbers are also just estimates and may or may not be typical of actual earnings.

Also, as mention above, there are many other factors which can influence an actor's salary. These include how much they pay their agent, their current contract status, any bonuses they receive, the length of their contract, and which network they work for. Many soap stars also take time off in the slow months to do movies, commercials, or other television projects which certainly adds to their annual take-home pay.

We also have to keep in mind that the salaries of primetime actors are growing rapidly. It's only fair to say that daytime needs to keep up and offer competitive salaries or substantial incentives to keep their stars from leaving if opportunities arise.

Soap stars may not earn millions of dollars a week like some of their primetime colleagues. However, their work on a soap opera may certainly turn out to be steadier and perhaps even more profitable in the long run.