The Walking Dead has been on TV for 10 seasons, and in that time, it’s become one of the most-watched series of the decade. (In its heyday, more than 17 million households tuned in each week to watch Rick and his crew fight zombies.) The Walking Dead cast salary has also changed a lot since the show premiered in October 2010.
Before The Walking Dead season 1, cast members Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus and Danai Gurira were far from the household names they are today. After the show exploded, however, that’s a different story. While The Walking Dead‘s ratings aren’t what they used to be (the show averages around 3 million households today, which is still an impressive feat), its cast salary has only gone up.
Since The Walking Dead‘s premiere, its cast members have starred in Marvel movies, won Critics’ Choice Awards and covered magazines. They’ve also become very, very rich, and we don’t blame them. It’s hard work to fight off zombies for 10 years. So, how much does The Walking Dead cast make per episode exactly? We did the research to find out. And when we say we were dead at the number, we were pretty much like those zombies they stab in the head in every episode.
Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon)
Salary: $1 million per episode
Reedus, who plays fan-favorite Daryl, has been a cast member on The Walking Dead since season 1, but he wasn’t made a series regular until season 2. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Reedus made $8,500 per episode in season 2. Eight seasons later, and his salary has since skyrocketed to $1 million per episode, which makes him one of the highest paid actors on TV, according to Variety. Us Weekly reported in 2018 that Reedus signed a new deal with AMC to receive $20 million after The Walking Dead‘s previous lead, Andrew Lincoln, left the show. Given that the series often averages around 20 episodes per season, the $20 million likely accounts for the $1 million Reedus receives per episode. THR also reported tin 2018 that Reedus was one of two actors who signed a three-year, which would pay him anywhere from $50 million to $90 million even if his character is written off.
Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes)
Salary: $650,000 per episode
Lincoln, who had been the lead of The Walking Dead, since season 1, left the show in season 9 in 2019. Before he left, the actor made an impressive $650,000 per episode, according to Cheat Sheet, which would’ve accounted for $13 million per season. After Lincoln’s exit, Reedus’ $350,000-per-episode paycheck ballooned to $1 million per episode, which was more than what the British actor made on the series. The raise was exactly how much Lincoln made per episode, which led some to believe that Reedus absorbed Lincoln’s rate as the series’ new lead.
Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier)
Salary: $20 million over three years
McBride, who plays Carol, has starred on The Walking Dead since season 1. But like Reedus, she wasn’t made a series regular until season 2. At the time, she made $8,500 per episode. Like Reedus, McBride’s salary has also increased exponentially. According to THR, she signed a deal with AMC to receive $20 million over three years. (Her per-episode rate is unknown.) McBride also received the same conditions as Reedus for her three-year deal, which meant that if she was written off the show or relocated to another Walking Dead series, she will still receive the same rate.
Danai Gurira (Michonne)
Gurira’s Michonne became a fan favorite when she debuted in The Walking Dead season 3. Since The Walking Dead, Gurira has starred in Marvel’s The Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame, written her own Tony-winning play and signed on to write and executive produce her own miniseries for HBO Max. In 2018, after Lincoln announced his exit, THR reported that Gurira was in negotiations for a new deal with AMC that “could be complicated by her status as a breakout actress.” It’s unclear if she reached that deal, but in July 2019, the actress confirmed that season 10 will be her last with the series.
Gurira, who didn’t reveal whether her decision to leave the series is based on her pay, told fans at San Diego Comic-Con at the time: “I can confirm that this is the last season I will be on this amazing TV show as Michonne. I would just like to say that this has been one of the purest joys of my life to play this role and to be amongst these people and those who are not here right now and amongst all of you. I’m very thankful for the experience I’ve had in ways I can’t state right now. My heart does not leave in any way, shape or form. The TWD family is forever. The connection between us never ends.”
Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene)
Cohan, who played Maggie, is also a Walking Dead mainstay who left in a recent season. She made her debut in season 2 and left in season 9 with Lincoln in 2019. Cohan’s exit came after was in salary negotiations with AMC. THR reported in 2018 that Cohan and her agents “weren’t happy” with AMC’s offers for her season 9 salary, and that her team felt “low-balled.” The negotiation became so public that Khary Payton, Cohan’s Walking Dead costar, posted an Instagram of Cohan with the caption: “Pay the woman” in support of his cast mate. Eventually, Cohan and AMC reached a deal for season 9, but that would be her last season.
She told Entertainment Weekly at the time that she interpreted the difficult negotiation as a “sign” that it was time to move on to other projects. “I took that, how baffled I was, and thought, ‘Okay, well that’s a sign. This is maybe just not a fit anymore,'” she said. “To feel like we weren’t lining up in so many ways I just thought, ‘Okay, well, maybe that means something.'”