Big Little Lies cast salaries revealed following gender pay gap row

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Kayleigh Dray

The critically-acclaimed Big Little Lies is officially coming back for a second season – but, with the issue of the wage gap so prevalent nowadays, we ask: how much do Reese Witherspoon and the rest of the cast make per episode?

In 2017, it was revealed that only a third of the BBC’s top earners are women – and that its highest-paid male star, Chris Evans, earned a whopping £2.2 million last year. In comparison, the highest-paid woman, Claudia Winkleman, made £450,000.

It was a shockingly huge disparity, there’s no doubt about it. Yet, sadly, the news was not all that surprising: in the UK alone, the gender pay gap is currently at 18.1% – the lowest on record – and the same is true in Hollywood. 

After all, just a few weeks ago it was revealed that Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for reshooting his scenes in All the Money in the World, while Michelle Williams was paid an $80 per diem totalling less than $1,000.

That works out to Williams being paid less than 1% of her male co-star.

Thankfully, though, things are different in the slick Monterey real estates of Big Little Lies.

Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman reportedly made anywhere between $250,000 and $350,000 per Season 1 episode (their producer pay hasn’t been disclosed).

However, with the actors scoring nominations in pretty much every major TV award category – and winning plenty of them, too – it makes sense that HBO has decided to increase their salaries.

As such, the Hollywood Reporter says that both women will receive an incredible $1 million per episode of the new season for their acting jobs alone. And they aren’t the only ones to see an increase to their pay packet: Zoe Kravitz’ total season-one salary of $380,000 has jumped to $3 million for the sophomore run.

Meanwhile, Shailene Woodley – who earned $1.7 million for season one – is said to be getting a pretty hefty pay raise, too.

While HBO certainly has the money to pay its stars the big bucks, it’s rare to see female TV stars pulling in such huge salaries - even in 2018. And it’s definitely a testament to Witherspoon and Kidman, who fought so hard to get this female-driven story on our televisions in the first place.

Liane Moriarty – who wrote the book upon which Big Little Lies is based – had gone through the process of having her novel optioned for a movie or TV series countless times before, only for it to get lost in Hollywood development purgatory.

Moriarty, though, had never done business with Witherspoon and Kidman.

“When I met with Nicole, she was like, ‘No, no, no. If we option it, get excited. We don’t option things just for the sake of it. We don’t have time for that,’” the author explained to South China Morning Post.

“She kept her word.”

The drama features five women – Laura Dern, Woodley and Kravitz, in addition to Witherspoon and Kidman – as mothers of first-graders in a wealthy Northern California community. It’s a setting that lends itself to social satire, replete with fake smiles and a heavy helping of passive aggressiveness in the battle for power and status. There’s even a murder mystery that stitches the story together.

And yet – well, it deals with hugely important issues, too. Think adultery, divorce, volatile marriages, sexual assault and domestic abuse. Think the unending stresses of motherhood. Think the constant pressure of having to appear a certain way in public – and the way society constantly pits women against one another. Think the enormous expectations that we are forced to confront every single day, in terms of our appearance, relationships, careers and the way we live our lives.

No wonder, then, that 8.5 million people on average watched each episode.

“It really delved into a lot of issues that women are dealing with daily that we don’t often see on-screen in this way,” said Witherspoon. “And it’s not black and white. These aren’t women who are good or bad. We wanted to show the rainbow of the female experience, which I think is sort of absent in Hollywood in a lot of ways.”

And Big Little Lies isn’t just providing a forum for women to flourish in front of the camera: the second season will see Andrea Arnold direct all seven episodes, taking over from Season 1’s Jean-Marc Vallée.

Responding to this news, Kidman said in a statement: “This is inspired by the overwhelming response by audiences around the world… now in the hands of visionary filmmaker Andrea Arnold.

“What a journey this has been. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to keep exploring these female characters and make this series with my friends.”

All in all, it’s a seriously great show for female empowerment – which is exactly what womankind needs right now.

There is some bad news, however: while the new season of Big Little Lies is being filmed this spring, it won’t air until 2019. Guess that leaves us plenty of time to read up on what’s next for the women of Monterey, eh?

Images: HBO


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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