‘NCIS’: What Do Big-Name Guest Stars Earn for Appearing on Show?

by Lauren Boisvert

NCIS has had some big names on over the nearly 20 years it’s been on the air. But, what do those guest stars make per episode compared to the main cast?

If you assumed it’s a lot, you’d be correct. But, exactly how much, you ask? Let’s first explore how much the main cast makes.

Based on the Screen Actors Guild rates, actors in a TV series can make $1,056 a day. Actors in lead, or “major” roles could earn a minimum of nearly $10,000 for an 8-day work week. A big-time actor in a guest role on a television show could get “top-of-show” pay, which is basically lead role salary, according to Nicki Swift.

According to Hello! Magazine, Mark Harmon makes a mind-boggling $525,000 per episode. No wonder his net worth is $100 million. Noted 1960s actor David McCallum makes $75,000 per episode, while Wilmer Valderrama as Nick Torres makes $100,000 per episode. Sean Murray as McGee is estimated to be worth $8 million, while Brian Dietzen is worth around $2 million. Their per-episode pay is unknown, but you can be sure it’s not as much as Harmon’s

While even top-billed guest stars aren’t making as much as Harmon either, it’s possible that they’re making a hefty chunk of change for being on NCIS. It is the number one show in the world, after all. So, who are some of the biggest guest stars?

Well, in 2016, NCIS became the first “dramatic film production” to actually film in the White House, according to executive producer Gary Glasberg. Former first lady Michelle Obama appeared on season 13 episode 22, “Homefront.” The episode coincided with the “Joining Forces” initiative put together by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden in 2011, which supports military personnel, veterans, and their families. In the episode, Michelle Obama invites and welcomes Gibbs to a “Joining Forces” roundtable meeting.

If the former first lady was paid anything for her guest role, no one knows but the payroll employees.

‘NCIS’: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lily Tomlin, and Billy Dee Williams, Oh My

Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis reunited with Mark Harmon 8 years after Freaky Friday to play his love interest once again. She played Dr. Samantha Ryan in season 9, a psychologist and head of the PsyOps division. Curtis was probably the biggest name to guest star on NCIS, so we can assume the show paid top dollar for her performances.

Lily Tomlin also guest-starred on season 9 in 2011, in the episode “The Penelope Papers.” In the episode, she played McGee’s grandmother. Zac Efron had a guest role in season 3, playing a teenager who bought a Navy Commander’s cell phone involved in a case. In season 10, legendary Star Wars actor Billy Dee Williams played Gibbs’ father’s best friend Leroy Jethro Moore, where Gibbs got his name.

The bottom line? No one really knows how much these guest stars make, besides the people who are in charge of paying them; it’s somewhere between $1,056 and $525,000, though, that’s for sure.