TV Actors + Contracts : Chris Meloni : Another Series Lead Actor Ends Up Gone


Lead Actors Who Are Cornerstones Of TV Series Getting Let Go?

Series lead actor Chris Meloni is the latest to have a heated contract renewal, and acting salary re-negotiation, go an unexpected way.


Apparently, NBC didn’t want to pay the actor who has been on LAW AND ORDER: SVU since the beginning of that particular show of the LAW AND ORDER group of shows.

Meloni and Mariska Hargitay are that show, aren’t they?  (You’d think the producers and network would think that, too, wouldn’t you? There’s just not a whole lot of easy assumptions in this business, and here’s a good example.)

Like the other similar big-actor-let-go, also of this season: HOUSE’s main actress, Lisa Edelstein (Dr. Cuddy); the contract negotiations went on until the very last minute, and Chris Meloni was in the press, along the way, stating that he was confident that it will all work out. As did the NBC Network chief, who spoke to the media last week.

Then, at the last minute, it was announced that Christopher Meloni’s renegotiation could not reach a per-episode pay agreement. The actor held out for a certain amount of money, and the Network refused to pay that amount, and that was that. Frankly, that’s how acting contract negotiations can go. It’s nervy. The actor’s agent asks for a certain amount of pay-per-episode, there’s counter-offers, and sometimes, there’s a standoff stage.

One of the ways that an actor’s agent is determined to be a good agent or not, is by the kind of deals they make. A high level agent is tough negotiator. The acting contracts they finagle always have a good strong salary for the actor. High numbers, good money.

A great agent does what an actor can’t do for him or herself; they ‘hang tough’. Acting agents are quite accustomed to appeasing the actor, during the interim of all the negotiating, by saying ‘Don’t worry, they want you for this role. They’ll pay what we’re asking.’ And, all usually does end well, with both teams happy at the end of the negotiations; and actors wind up feeling valued, as talent. That is, they pay the actor a worthy salary, because the actor is valuable.

agent says to actor

Christopher Meloni Earned Approx $400,000 Per Episode,  Acted 12 Seasons, On LAW AND ORDER: SVU

As far as how important any particular TV actor is to a show, I don’t think any actor could beat Christopher Meloni. It’s true for both the LAW AND ORDER : SVU series leads …both Meloni, and Mariska Hargitay.

That’s what makes this particular TV actor contract renegotiation especially unexpected, and plain old startling… this move of letting Meloni go off of the show… Because are two actors that really make this show: Christopher Meloni and Marisa Hargitay.  And, because :Last month, the big news about this show was that Mariska Hargitay would be working much less. (She wants to stop acting work some, so that she can spend more time with her family. Hargitay’s ‘job’ on the series, will probably be taken over by Jennifer Love Hewitt.)

So now, the two actors who are the identity of that TV series and have been on it, season after television season, are not going to be there.

This kind of move, on the part of the network, always surprises actors. It surprised me. I am assuming that it surprised Chris Meloni, because he held his ground, so firmly that he lost his job over it. I know the audience must be surprised, they clearly love Chris Meloni in that role.

It’s what makes the drama of the inside of this business as heightened as it, sometimes, does become. This Industry, a Hollywood culture, is unique, certainly. There’s two, very different, working sides that comprise the teams that make the productions, and also are on opposite sides of a contract battle: the ‘suits’ and the ‘talent’. The ‘suits’ really do hold the power, even though the media focuses so heavily on the actors, the ‘talent’ side. The ‘talent’ is not at the top of the pyramid.

Sometimes, the ‘suits’ can, surprisingly, regard even their brightest, most popular series stars, as replace-able.


dana kaminski author acting blog for actors


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