Getting a gig on a soap opera is a unique career move for an actor. For some, it may usher in monotony and a commitment to one character that’s unusual in the acting world. For others, it could offer the stability of a 9-5 job but in the field they love. (As long as their character doesn’t get magically hit by a bus or contract a rare disease, of course.) So, how much do soap opera stars actually make?
The Average Salary For Daytime Soap Opera Stars Isn’t That Much
For main actors, the average pay is $1000 per episode. That sounds like a pretty good paycheck, but supporting actors can make as little as $200 for an episode. Along with fairly low pay, newbies or folks filling small roles actually don’t have as much job security as one might think. These cast members are considered easily replaceable until their character is established or they’re well-known and liked. It can take a long time of working toward this goal before it’s achieved, and there’s always a risk it won’t ever come.
There aren’t pay rules that apply to all soap operas, and there’s never a guarantee that scoring a part on an episode will turn into a stable, recurring role. Still, for those special few who make it into the very important soap star club, it is well worth it. Stars who are well-established in the daytime TV arena can make up to $5,000 per episode with little risk of getting the ax.
A lot of being a soap opera actor (or actor in general) is up in the air. Luckily, there are unions like the Screen Actors’ Guild that can help ensure that shows aren’t taking advantage of their cast members. There are also contracts in place to keep all parties happy. Contracts run in 13-week cycles. This means that while recurring cast members typically sign on for one to three years at a time, they can get out of the agreement at the end of any 13-week period before their contract is up. When actors’ contracts are up, it’s a great time to renegotiate and see if they can re-sign and start making those bigger bucks. With things changing so frequently and so much being up in the air, it’s no wonder that contract signing can get volatile.
The Richest Soap Opera Stars
So, how much money have the soap stars we know and love really accumulated? And, who are the stars that are so well-known and loved that they’re making serious money? Let’s get into it.
Mishael Morgan played both Hilary Curtis and Amanda Sinclair on CBS Daytime soap opera, The Young and the Restless. She played Hilary Curtis from May 2013 to July 2018, which scored her two consecutive Daytime Emmy nods. She then returned to the show in September 2019 as a lawyer, Amanda Sinclair. Her net worth is an estimated $3 million.
From 1991 to 1992, Dorothy Lyman played Bonnie Roberts on The Bold and the Beautiful. She went on to join the cast of All My Children as Opal Sue Gardner. She received two Emmy Awards for this role as Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role in a Daytime Drama Series in 1982 and for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series in 1983. Her net worth is an estimated $6 million.
Kirsten Storms played Belle Black on Days of Our Lives for five years before joining General Hospital as Maxie Jones in 2005. Her character is still going strong, and she’s estimated to be making $3k-$5k per episode. Her net worth is an estimated $6 million.
Stephen Nichols is a soap opera veteran. He’s played the role of Steve Johnson on NBC’s Days of Our Lives on and off since 1985. From 1996 to 2003, he played Stefan Cassadine on ABC’s General Hospital. Then, he joined The Young and the Restless from 2009 to 2013 as Tucker McCall. His net worth is $8 million.
Jack Wagner is a soap opera golden boy. He played Dr. Peter Burns on Melrose Place from 1994 to 1999. He then had a long stint on The Bold and the Beautiful from 2003 to 2010 as Dominick Marone and Dominick Payne. His most notable role was as Frisco Jones on General Hospital from 1983 to 2013. All this time on the small screen has earned him a net worth of $9.8 million.
Eric Braeden is known for his role as the business magnate, Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless. The role started out as a 26-week run, but the character became so beloved, that Victor Newman went on to serve Braeden for 40+ years. That’s a long stint in one place for any career, but especially an actor. In 1998, he received a Daytime Emmy Award for Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Braeden has an estimated net worth of $25 million.
Susan Lucci’s name is synonymous with soap operas, even being called “Daytime’s Leading Lady” by TV Guide. Lucci portrayed Erica Kane on All My Children for its entire duration from 1970 to 2011. During its run, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported her as the highest-paid actor in daytime television. She reportedly earned over $1 million a year in 1991. Lucci was nominated 21 times for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, winning in 1999. Susan Lucci’s net worth is an estimated whopping $80 million.