Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, and everyone else
Andrew Lincoln and Chandler Riggs are technically the only main cast members from season 1 that remain on the show, whereas Norman Reedus - who started out as a recurring star - quickly rose through the ranks to receive top-billing. Although several cast members have been bumped up to series regulars for quite a few seasons now, namely Melissa McBride (Carol), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), and Danai Gurira (Michonne), it's unclear how much they actually make per episode from the series.
What is clear, though, is that they don't pull in the same numbers as Lincoln and Reedus do. Judging by their approximate net worth, the majority of principal stars presumably rake in an average of $40,000 to $60,000 per episode, if not more, with Cohan and McBride most likely earning somewhere closer to the higher end of the spectrum - at least as of season 6. After all, McBride has amassed a net worth of approximately $3 million, primarily from appearing on The Walking Dead.
Other principal actors, such as Josh McDermitt, Alanna Masterson, and now Jeffrey Dean Morgan, may pull in lower salaries, for various reasons - one of which is actual screen time. Still, with the aforementioned actors receiving significant raises as of season 7, we're sure the numbers have trickled down to the other stars as well, with many of them pulling in more than $60,000 throughout future seasons. Unfortunately, those actual numbers may never see the light of day.
Are they being paid enough?
The Walking Dead hit the ground running in the ratings when it premiered back in 2010, but undoubtedly had a tumultuous start when it came to its production team. The network infamously fired the series creator and showrunner Frank Darabont midway through its second season, leaving Glen Mazzara in charge for the rest of season 2 and season 3. Scott M. Gimple took over for Mazzara in season 4 and has been shepherding the series ever since. What's interesting is that Darabont had sued AMC for breaching his contract and withholding profits owed to him. On the surface, it may seem like Darabont was merely lashing out, when, in actuality, it's something that continues to plague the network. After all, several other producers have now filed their own lawsuits against AMC.
What's more, seeing as AMC is allegedly withholding profits from its senior crew members, it's now even more understandable why they wouldn't be paying their cast as much as they probably should. Considering that the series is one of the most-watched shows in television history, the main cast members should be making more than $100,000 per episode (especially since AMC charges advertisers $415,000 for one package of ads), which is still a far cry from what shows on broadcast channels make (see: The Big Bang Theory). Of course, the acting salary isn't the only form of income for the stars - they also can earn big sums from convention appearances and autographs.
Unlike most shows, even the main cast members of The Walking Dead run the risk of being killed off at any moment, so perhaps they don't want to - or even have the power to - negotiate with the upper echelon at AMC. But, at least, Lincoln and Reedus have managed to secure higher pay from season 7 and beyond. Unfortunately, there's no telling if the rest of the principals also received raises.
The Walking Dead season 8 premieres Sunday, October 22 on AMC.