Soap Star Salaries

How much they make—or don't—might surprise you

On Set For 'One Life To Live'
An actor on the set of soap opera 'One Life to Live'. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Have you ever wondered how much money your favorite soap stars make? It's not easy to pin the numbers down since the salaries of daytime actors and actresses remain rather private information.

By contrast, the salaries of actors and actresses on primetime hit shows is not a secret. For instance, it's reported that all the stars on the popular "Big Bang Theory" pull in a whopping $1 million per episode. The opposite holds true, however, when it comes to the world of daytime soaps. We did some digging to find out what numbers are available, according to SAG and celebrity spoiler and income comparison sites.

Newcomer Pay

For starters, let's look at the minimum an actor can expect to make on daytime television, according to the latest SAG-AFTRA rate sheets. Someone new to the business, whom you could call an "unknown," may earn around $1,000 per episode.

That, however, is for someone with a limited, but frequent role and some lines. Those with five lines or less and a short amount of camera time make about $450 for a one-hour show. Taking that down another level, a background actor usually grosses $200 or less.

This might sound like reasonably decent day pay but show business work is not steady. Most newcomers are lucky to work one or two days a week. In fact, as is typical for the industry, most soap stars are only guaranteed one to three days of work, even some of the veterans on the show. While 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. More years mean 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 $1,500 per episode.

Veteran Stars

Soap stars who have been around the block for 5 to 10 years can make upwards of $1,500 to $3,000 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 storylines they may be involved with, and if they are doing any other promotional work for the studio.

The pay for soap star veterans who have been in the business for over ten years is much higher. Their salaries can be anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 or more per episode. Only a small percentage of actors earn over that $5,000 mark.

Among those exceptions are the stars who have been with a show for decades. For example, before leaving the show in 2015, Tony Geary had played Luke on "General Hospital" for nearly 30 years (with a few breaks 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 had a net worth of $8 million. What about one of the most popular women to ever grace the day-time screen? Susan Lucci, who played Erika Kane on "All My Children" since the show's debut in 1970 until its cancellation in 2011 has a net worth of $60 million.

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

Average Yearly Pay

The average pay as of 2017 for soap operas in all shows is about $57,000—by no means a fortune. This number is based on a typical workweek of two days per week, times 52 weeks per year, which does not account for holidays, vacations, etc.

Also, as mentioned above, there are many other factors that 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.

Also, soap operas are now on the decline. Many longtime favorites have been canceled or are failing in the ratings. That fact has played a part in determining salaries as well.