It was a big deal this week when HBO announced they were moving to close the gender pay gap between actors and actresses on their major series. The announcement was timed just ahead of #EqualPayDay, which is the date into the next year that women need to work in order to make the same as men did in 365. But what does that means for HBO's biggest show? How much does the Game Of Thrones cast make? Have the actresses who have been working hard to fight the patriarchy in Westeros also been silently having to fight the patriarchy here in our own time, on our own planet?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, HBO president of programming Casey Bloys said the network's choice to address their pay disparity was actually due to Reese Witherspoon, who stars in and produces HBO's other massive hit, Big Little Lies.
One of the things that’s come out of thinking about the movement and some conversations with Reese, who’s really at the forefront, is something we’ve done recently. We’ve proactively gone through all of our shows—in fact, we just finished our process where we went through and made sure that there were no inappropriate disparities in pay; and where there were, if we found any, we corrected it going forward. And that’s is a direct result of the Time's Up movement.
Bloys wouldn't directly say which shows had to be adjusted, but there's one thing we do know: Game of Thrones wasn't one of them. While the show does divide actors into "Tiers" when it comes to salary, those in the same tier all make the same, male or female.
At least, that's true of those in Tier A, whose salaries were revealed as part of a deep dive investigation Variety did last year. There are five actors who are considered part of the top tier in Westeros: Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, and Peter Dinklage. All five make $500,000 per episode and have been doing so since the beginning of Season 6. That means (unlike The Crown) Queen of the Andals Cersei Lannister and Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen make exactly the same as King In The North Jon Snow.
Interestingly, when comparing show-to-show, the top tier of Game of Thrones might make quite a bit, but it's peanuts compared to some. The cast of CBS' The Big Bang Theory, for instance, each make $900,000 an episode. Game of Thrones highest salaries only rank as high as ABC's Modern Family (who also make in the $500k range), and just above Roseanne Barr (who makes $250,000 per episode).
Does it seem like there are a few people missing from the top tier though? One might think that the rest of the Starks would rank as equals to the Targaryens and the Lannisters. Or perhaps Theon Greyjoy, Samwell Tarly, and Jorah Mormont should be included, simply for surviving all the way from Season 1 to Season 8.
In the case of the Starks, it's an age thing. The cast signed their contracts for the final seasons back in 2014. At the time, Sophie Turner was barely 18, and Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Maisie Williams were still minors. Since then Williams and Turner have bloomed, landing roles in the Marvel's X-Men franchise for when Game of Thrones finishes. But when it comes to their contracts for GoT, they're still viewed as kids, not leads.
As for the rest, that kind of longevity in Westeros is a miracle, but it doesn't make them lead characters. Jorah has been and always will be Daenerys' loyal servant, Sam is Jon's sidekick, and Theon may have come back to himself, but his circumstances have been diminished. They definitely belong in Tier B.
Game of Thrones' final six episodes will premiere when they get around to it, sometime in 2019 on HBO.