Here's How Much Money the "Friends" Cast Made for the Reunion Vs. Season 1
Their salaries went way, way, way up over the years.
The Friends reunion brought a lot of joy and tears to the cast and fans alike. But, it also brought something else to the show's six stars: a major payday. The Friends cast was paid a lot of money for the reunion, which premiered on HBO Max on May 27.
When Friends was reaching the end of its television run, the stars were able to negotiate a salary of $1 million each per episode, which was a huge deal at the time and is still considered an incredibly high number now. It's perhaps no surprise, though, that they were able to bring home even more than that to reunite 17 years after the series wrapped. After all, a reunion was in very high demand.
So, how much did they make? Read on to find out how much Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox, and Matthew Perry were paid for each season of the show as well as last month's reunion.
Business Insider listed out the earnings the cast is reported to have made during the show's run. In Season 1, that number was $22,500 per episode. The low salary (in TV terms) is not a shock, as most of the stars weren't very well known at the time. Seeing as the season had 24 episodes, that comes out to $540,000 in total—a lot of money, but half of what they'd make per episode later on.
By Season 2, Friends was a major hit, but that didn't significantly impact the stars' pay. They reportedly made between $22,500 and $40,000 this time around. In this season, cast members were making different salaries, but that would soon change. Aniston and Schwimmer, who were the show's central love story of Rachel and Ross, were making more than the other cast members.
It was in Season 3 that the cast began collective bargaining. This means that they would all be paid the same amount as the lowest paid cast members, but they would stick together and have more leverage since the show needed to keep them all around. For Season 3, they each reportedly made $75,000 an episode.
"[The negotiations were] more about, 'We're doing equal work and we all deserve to be compensated in the same way,'" Aniston told Radio Times (via the Evening Standard) in 2019. "I wouldn't feel good going to work knowing someone was getting x amount and I was getting something greater."
In Season 4, the cast was boosted up another $10,000, bringing their salary to $85,000 per episode each.
The relatively slow build continued into Season 5. The stars are said to have made $100,000 per episode for this midpoint.
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In Season 6, another $25,000—or, more than the entire episode fee in Season 1—was added on, bringing the total to a reported $125,000.
Seasons 7 and 8
It was for Season 7 that the pay seriously increased. In April 2000, as the sixth season was ending, Entertainment Weekly reported that the stars were negotiating for a huge raise for the next season. Sources told EW that they wanted as much as $800,000 per episode. An anonymous agent told the publication, "They haven't been treated fairly up to this point. They are so underpaid it's ridiculous." For Seasons 7 and 8, they ended up getting very close to their supposed goal: $750,000 per episode for each main actor.
Seasons 9 and 10
And now, the million dollar deal. For Seasons 9 and 10 of the show, the cast made $1 million per episode, each.
That number wasn't entirely unheard of at the time. EW reported in 2000 that Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt received $1 million per episode for the last season of Mad About You. According to Variety, Kelsey Grammer was paid $1.6 million per episode for Fraiser for its final two seasons. Still, paying six stars $1 million each for 42 episodes was another story.
This brings us to the reunion. When the special was announced in February 2020, Variety reported that the stars were being paid at least $2.5 million each to revisit the show and their characters. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that the cast was initially offered $1 million, which they turned down.
On top of all of the pay they have received for filming over the years, the cast also gets about $20 million each year in syndication payments, according to USA Today. Not bad for a bunch of formerly broke 20-somethings.