- Sydney Sweeney told the Hollywood Reporter she can’t afford to take a break from work because “they don’t pay actors like they used to.”
- An Entertainment Consultant told Insider what Sweeney is facing is true of many Hollywood actors today.
- “The number of [TV] shows went by the wayside, major feature actors started coming into television, and they started paying a lot less,” Kathryn Arnold said.
Sydney Sweeney insisted in a cover story published by the Hollywood Reporter Wednesday that she does not make enough money as an Emmy-nominated actress to take a break from acting.
In fact, she said, she has had to take up brand deals to supplement her paychecks from popular streaming shows like “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus” in order to stay afloat in Hollywood.
“I don’t have someone supporting me, I don’t have anyone I can turn to, to pay my bills or call for help,” Sweeney told THR.
“They don’t pay actors like they used to, and with streamers, you no longer get residuals,” Sweeney continued.
“The established stars still get paid, but I have to give 5 percent to my lawyer, 10 percent to my agents, 3 percent or something like that to my business manager. I have to pay my publicist every month, and that’s more than my mortgage loan.”
Kathryn Arnold, a producer and entertainment consultantsaid what Sweeney is facing is true of many Hollywood actors now.
It all goes back to the early 2000s when reality TV was making a big splash at the forefront of entertainment with shows like “The Bachelor” and “Survivor,” she said.
Arnold said that about a third of scripted television went out the door when these shows began entering the arena, putting plenty of TV actors instantly out of work.
“It wiped out a lot of working actors’ careers,” Arnold told Insider.
Before reality TV took over the airwaves, Arnold explained that any working actor who was tapped for an arc on a popular show would make $20,000 to $30,000 per episode, and arcs could run anywhere from two to three episodes to as many as ten episodes.
“That’s a living. If you did a couple of those a year, you’re making a living,” Arnold said.
Arnold said many major film actors — like Glenn Close and Julia Roberts — have also made the switch to TV, driving out working actors from roles.
Around the same time, budget cuts at major networks began, lowering the pay for working actors to about $6,000 — or worse, scaled payments — per episode, probably to compete with streamers entering the scene who were spending major money on every original series.
“The number of shows went by the wayside, major feature actors started coming into television, and they started paying a lot less,” Arnold said.
Suddenly, actors who were making anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 a year were facing major salary cuts.
By 2006, unless, as a working actor, you really hit it off with a show, you were potentially forgotten.
Enter: Streaming services.
In the beginning, streaming services were shelling out high per-episode payments for major players to draw attention to the new platforms. But as time has progressed and streaming services have gained popularity, they no longer have to pay what they once did.
And streaming services don’t offer residuals for their episodes, Arnold said. This is because the network does not have to turn around and sell a series to an international network or to other stateside networks to air reruns.
“The streamers are evergreen,” Arnold said. “It’s all internal.”
For feature films, Arnold explained, studios are focusing on “tentpole movies” and only want “tried and true names” to stand up their projects, closing the door for lesser-known actors.
“There are plenty of people who are one-hit wonders,” Arnold said of actors who haven’t made a splash.