As the highest-rated show in cable TV history – an astonishing 17.3 million viewers tuned in to its Season 5 premiere in 2014 – zombie phenomenon The Walking Dead has inevitably made some of its long-term actors and actresses rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Indeed, the stars of the AMC cash cow may still lag behind some of their network counterparts when it comes to their take-home pay – the majority of The Big Bang Theory gang, for example, earn more in a single episode than some of The Walking Dead lot do in an entire season. But with talk of the Golden Globe-winning drama running well into the next decade, few are likely to be worrying about their bank accounts anytime soon.
Focusing on the long-term cast members with multiple seasons under their belt, here’s a look at the 12 Richest The Walking Dead Actors.
12. Danai Gurira ($500,000)
Danai Gurira’s net worth of half-a-million dollars may look like small fry compared to some of her higher-paid colleagues, but it’s still hardly a figure to be sniffed at. Indeed, the Zimbabwean-American actress would be far higher up the list had she joined The Walking Dead cast earlier than the third season.
Before taking the role of katana-swinging warrior Michonne, Gurira had received critical acclaim for her performance in two films tackling the subject of illegal immigrants, The Visitor and Restless City, and guested on Life on Mars, Lie to Me and Treme. Since then, she’s also picked up a Black Reel Award for her turn in Nigerian drama Mother of George, voiced Fury in animated feature Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast, and played Afeni Shakur, the mother of the legendary rapper Tupac, in biopic All Eyez on Me. She’s also written two stage plays, The Convert and Familiar.
11. Josh McDermitt ($2m)
A member of the Los Angeles improvisational comedy troupe, Robert Downey Jr. Jr, Josh McDermitt proved he could cut it as a dramatic actor when he landed the role of mulleted former high school teacher Eugene Porter in the fourth season of The Walking Dead.
The majority of his $2m net worth has come from the show, but the comedian has also boosted his coffers with a starring role in indie drama Life in Color and a two-episode stint on Mad Men. Before joining the cast of The Walking Dead, McDermitt worked as a radio producer at KNIX and KMLE, reached the semi-finals of Last Comic Standing and played Brandon in the short-lived TV Land sitcom Retired at 35. There have also been parts in TV movies Rehab for Rejects and King of Van Nuys, short films The Pitch and The Third Wheel, and a guest spot on the misjudged ABC comedy Work It.
10. Alanna Masterson ($2m)
Alanna Masterson comes from a family of well-paid cast members of hugely popular long-running shows. Her brother Danny Masterson played Steven Hyde for 200 episodes of retro sitcom That ‘70s Show, while one of her other half-brothers, Christopher Masterson, played eldest sibling Francis for seven season of the much-missed comedy Malcolm in the Middle.
Alanna actually showed up in an episode of the latter herself, but it’s her turn as The Walking Dead’s first LGBT character, Tara Chambler, which has helped her to amass a net worth of $2m. Before joining the cast, Masterson had shown up in frat house comedy drama Greek, sci-fi spin-off Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles and medical soap Grey’s Anatomy, and played a small-town girl who teaches a stranded city boy various life lessons in indie drama Peach Plum Pear. Since her arrival on the AMC show, she’s also appeared alongside Danny as a Mopey Hipster Girl in Men at Work, and become a regular of Chris Hardwick’s post-TWD chat show, Talking Dead.
9. Sonequa Martin-Green ($2m)
Bumped up to an ever-present after a five-episode stint in the third season, Sonequa Martin-Green has accrued a net worth of $2m thanks to her role as “team player on the outside but a loner on the inside,” Sasha Williams.
The University of Alabama theatre graduate was already a small-screen regular by the time she joined The Walking Dead cast, having enjoyed recurring roles in Army Wives, The Good Wife and NYC 22, as well as guest spots on Gossip Girl and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. And she hasn’t stopped adding to her resume since, showing up as Neal’s fiancee Tamara in fantasy hit Once Upon a Time and Winston’s girlfriend Rhonda in sitcom New Girl. Martin-Green’s big screen parts have been less high-profile and largely less pivotal, but she did receive plaudits for her role as a determined scholarship student in 2009 indie drama Toe to Toe.
8. Lauren Cohan ($2m)
Following a one-off appearance in The Bold and the Beautiful and a role in direct-to-DVD sequel Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, Lauren Cohan then moved onto bigger and better things when she was cast as thief Bela Talbot in long-running hit Supernatural. But her path to a net worth of $2m truly began when she landed the role of fierce former farmer Maggie Greene in the third season of The Walking Dead.
Since then, the British-American actress, who graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Drama and Literature, has guested on Children’s Hospital, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and The Mindy Project, played a leading lady in psychological horror The Boy, and enjoyed a small but pivotal role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She will next appear alongside Danai Gurira when she portrays Tupac Shakur’s manager Leila Steinberg in All Eyez on Me.
7. Michael Cudlitz ($2m)
Michael Cudlitz only arrived as volatile sharp-shooter Abraham Ford in the fourth season of The Walking Dead, but has managed to match the net worth of several of his more long-running cast mates thanks to a prolific body of work stretching back to 1990.
Alongside regular gigs on Beverly Hills, 92010, Standoff and Southland, the New Yorker has also guested on pretty much every major TV show of the past 25 years including ER, NYPD Blue, Home Improvement, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Six Feet Under, 24, Nip/Tuck, Prison Break, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Bones and Lost. On the big screen, Cudlitz has shown up in Grosse Point Blank, The Negotiator, Forces of Nature, Sex Drive, Running Scared and Surrogates, and starred in and produced 2013 psychological thriller Dark Tourist. While before rising to fame in front of the camera, he also worked as a carpenter, construction co-ordinator and propmaker on various productions.
6. Chandler Riggs ($2m)
Chandler Riggs first worked with The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd aged just seven on 2010 TV movie The Wronged Man. It was this connection which helped him land the role that would make him a multi-millionaire by his mid-teens, Rick Grimes’ semi-sociopath son, Carl.
Of course, his $2m net worthy may pale in comparison to his on-screen father’s, but with three decades between them, Riggs has plenty of time to catch up. The star, who has picked up accolades at both the Satellite Awards and Young Artist Awards, has already proved he can cut it outside the Walking Dead world with a leading role in Mercy, the tale of two boys who discover that their grandmother has mystical powers. He also starred alongside Bella Thorne, Ioan Gruffudd and Natalie Martinez in Keep Watching, a horror thriller in which a family are forced to play a deadly game in their own home.
5. Melissa McBride ($3m)
As The Walking Dead’s longest-running actress, it’s little wonder that Melissa McBride is one of the show’s top earners. The star has amassed a net worth of $3m having played mother figure Carol Peletier since the third episode of the first season, but she has certainly paid her dues.
McBride began her career in the mid-’90s with guest spots on Matlock, In the Heat of the Night and American Gothic, before going on to star in TV movies such as Her Deadly Rival, A Season in Purgatory and Any Place But Home. She also got a taste of post-apocalyptic life with a small part in under-rated Stephen King adaptation The Mist and after landing her The Walking Dead role, has appeared in science-fiction film The Reconstruction of William Zero and comedy drama The Happys. McBride has also been on the other side of the audition process, having worked as a casting director on various projects throughout the 00s.
4. Steven Yeun ($4m)
Best-known as supply runner Glenn Rhee, Seoul-born, Michigan-raised actor Steven Yeun has a rather tasty back-up should his death-defying character ever run out of his nine lives. The star is a major investor in The Bun Shop, a Korean-Mediterranean fusion restaurant in Los Angeles owned by his younger brother Brian.
But Yeun has also had many fingers in other pies during his eventful time on The Walking Dead. Alongside guest roles on Law and Order: LA, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Warehouse 13 and Drunk History, he has voiced characters in The Legend of Korra, American Dad! and the upcoming Voltron! Legendary Defender. Following a major role in mind-bending science-fiction movie, I Origins, will soon appear alongside the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton and Paul Dano in Bong Joon-ho’s eagerly-awaited monster flick Okja. It’s this versatility and prolific work ethic which has seen Yeun rack up an impressive net worth of $4m.
3. Lennie James ($4m)
It’s unlikely that much of Lennie James’ $4m net worth was earned from his performances in The Walking Dead. The British actor, who plays man of peace Morgan Jones, was only upgraded to the main cast of the sixth season after sporadic appearances throughout the previous five.
Instead, James, who made his TV debut way back in 1988, has largely made his fortune as one of his homeland’s most consistently strong character actors. There have been recurring roles in critically-acclaimed series from both the UK (Buried, The State Within, Line of Duty) and the US (Jericho, Hung), roles in box-office hits Lost in Space and Snatch, and portrayals of real-life figures such as James Brown’s father in Get on Up and Factory Records co-founder Alan Erasmus in 24 Hour Party People. In 2001, James also picked up a BAFTA nomination for the autobiographical TV movie he starred in and wrote, Storm Damage.
2. Andrew Lincoln ($8m)
Before The Walking Dead first arrived on our screens back in 2010, Andrew Lincoln would have been a relatively unknown face to the majority of its American viewers. But the Londoner had been a regular small-screen presence back in his homeland since the 90s, most notably as loveable slacker Egg in zeitgeist-capturing legal hit This Life and the boyish hero Simon in comedy drama Teachers.
Lincoln had also regularly made the step up to the big screen with roles in the likes of clubby cult classic Human Traffic, crime flick Gangster #1, Ian McEwan adaptation Enduring Love, French-language romantic comedy Heartbreaker, and perhaps most notably a memorable performance as Keira Knightley’s not-so-secret admirer in Love Actually. But of course, the majority of his $8m net worth has been accumulated thanks to his role as clean-cut sheriff-turned-grizzly badass Rick Grimes, with the star reportedly now receiving a cool $90,000 per episode.
1. Norman Reedus ($8m)
Norman Reedus earns $10,000 less per episode than Andrew Lincoln as fan favorite Daryl Dixon, but an extensive filmography and a keen interest in various other fields means he has accrued a net worth of equal value.
The actor has appeared in everything from teen thrillers (Gossip) and critter horrors (Mimic) to musical biopics (Cadillac Records) and screwball comedies (Vacation) over the years, as well as music videos for artists as eclectic as Hilary Duff, Sleater-Kinney and Keith Richards. While his small screen resume includes guest spots on Charmed, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Hawaii-Five-O, as well as a six-part reality series called Ride with Norman Reedus. Reedus’ intriguing career has also regularly embraced the art world, with his paintings shown in galleries in New York, Frankfurt and Berlin, while in 2013 he published a book of photography curiously titled The Sun’s Coming Up… Like a Big Bald Head.