‘The Office’ stars: How much were they paid per line spoken.

I’m a data scientist and a big fan of ‘The Office’. When I stumbled upon this dataset that features every line spoken by every character ever in the show I thought it might be fun to explore a little bit.

There has been a lot of analysis of this dataset. One of my favorites is the analysis that a reddit user did to find the most distinguishing words per character.

This is my attempt to extract some interesting insights from the dataset.

The question that I’m trying to answer here is

How much were the stars of the show paid per spoken line?

The number of lines spoken can be easily counted by the dataset at hand but the stars’ salary is much more difficult to find or even estimate. A somehow thorough Google search gave me the following two pieces of information (click to go to the source).

“Carell earned approximately $175,000 per episode of the third season of The Office, twice his salary for the previous two seasons.”
“Carell was reportedly paid $175,000 per episode starting with the third season. Krasinski and Fischer were paid around $20,000 for the beginning of the series. Starting with the fourth season, the two started getting paid around $100,000 per episode.”

So it seems that Steve Carell was paid around $87,500 per episode for the first two seasons and $175,000/episode for the third season. No data after that. John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer seem to have been paid around $20,000/episode for the “beginning” of the series, which I’m interpreting as the first 3 seasons, and then $100,000/episode for the fourth season.

Let’s maybe take a moment and appreciate the fact that the producers of the show seem to have been paying John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer equally long before national media brought attention to the gender gap issue in the TV and movie industry.

The biggest limitation of our approach is that we don’t have robust and reliable data on the actors’ salary. Searching online produced results only for just a few seasons and only for just 3 of the main characters in the show. Even those salaries seem to be estimates.

But let’s work with what we have.

The methodology is as follows.

  1. I take the estimated salary of each star per episode per season.
  2. Multiply that salary with the number of episodes for each season to get the total salary per season.
  3. Count the number of lines spoken per character in non-deleted scenes* per season.
  4. Divide the salary per season by the number of lines per season, to get the salary per line per season

*A note here: Some of the lines are spoken by multiple characters at the same time. In those cases I count the line once for each speaking character. I also did a little bit of cleaning to only get lines that are spoken by the actual actor. As an example, there is a line spoken by ‘Young Michael’ that is not being played by Steve Carell. A line spoken in a deleted scene is still a line spoken by the actor but there are so few deleted scenes that I simply choose to ignore them because I don’t think it changes the story.

This is the number of lines spoken by each character for Seasons 1–4.

Number of lines spoken in non-deleted scenes per character

Perhaps a little surprisingly, we see all the stars’ number of lines having a downward trend in Seasons 2–4, perhaps because other characters get more and more speaking time, especially in Season 3 where the Stamford (Thanks Diana G. for the correction!) branch is introduced and then merged with the Scranton branch.

As expected, we also see that Michael is the most speaking character in the show. So it’s not surprising that Steve Carell was earning the most money on the show in absolute terms, but is he making the most money when accounting for the lines he speaks? Yes he does.

Amount of money made per speaking line per character

Amongst the three characters studied here, we find the following.

  • All three actors get paid more per line spoken as the show progresses.
  • Steve Carell earns the most money per spoken line. The difference seems to be increasing as the show goes on.
  • Jenna Fischer seems to be making slightly more than John Krasinski per line spoken. This is because they are estimated to be paid equally but Krasinski has a few more speaking lines.

Of course, the true value that an actress/actor brings to a show goes well beyond the number of speaking lines and cannot be quantified precisely. From the way they deliver the lines to the non-verbal cues that they make, each actor/actress is truly unique!

Thanks for reading.