Toward the end of NBC’s sitcom “Friends,” the show’s cast members famously negotiated a deal that paid each of them a whopping $US1 million per episode.
Recently, Marta Kauffman, one of the “Friends” co-creators, admitted that she found the actors’ salary demands to be a bit excessive.
Kauffman, who is now the showrunner of Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie,” spoke on “Friends” at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour on Tuesday. As The Wrap reported, Kauffman was responding to a reporter’s question on the differences between her previous and current jobs when she called the million-dollar “Friends” deal “ridiculous.”
“A million dollars an episode is kinda ridiculous,” Kaufmann said. “Let’s be honest, that’s a lot of money.”
“I think it’s inflated,” she continued. “And there’s something unrealistic about it. Not everybody is going to get a million dollars an episode. So I think actually what we’re all doing [at Netflix] is actually more reasonable and makes more sense.”
Kauffman added that the Netflix model of producing 13 or fewer episodes per season actually stemmed from the unrealistic demands of shooting traditional sitcoms like “Friends.”
“When you do 24 episodes for a network, you know, that’s your whole year. You don’t have time to do other stuff, Kauffman said. “When an actor is doing 13 episodes, they have many, many, many weeks left. They can pursue movies and theatre and other stuff.”
According to Kauffman, Netflix’s refusal to share their ratings with actors, showrunners or the public also allows for an environment that’s more conducive to creativity than the advertising-centric model of traditional television.
“[Friends] was a case where the cast knew how valuable the show was to the network in terms of the advertisers,” Kauffman said. “There are no advertisers on Netflix. And I think you’re hoping that I’ll say ‘It’s frustrating’ but the truth is, it’s wonderful, because there’s only one thing we’re doing — we’re not pandering to advertisers, we’re not pandering to a network, all we’re doing is making the show we want and that we believe in.”
Without knowledge of their show’s ratings, however, Netflix actresses like Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda from Kauffman’s “Grace and Frankie” would potentially have a difficult time leveraging for greater pay. For now, Kauffman doesn’t really see this as an issue:
“If someday, the cast says, ‘We’re worth more than you’re offering,’ then we’ll deal with it then.”
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