Hugely successful TV drama Yellowstone is something of a showcase for the talents of actor Kevin Costner. The centerpiece of a star-studded cast, Costner has proved a magnetic presence through the two seasons of the Paramount Network ranching saga. But even the biggest fans of the show might be taken aback at Costner’s salary of $500,000 an episode, which is huge money by any standards.
Costner has been an instantly recognizable face since he hit the A-list in the late 1980s. Films such as The Untouchables and Field of Dreams proved huge successes, but even they couldn’t match Dances with Wolves, which brought Costner critical acclaim and two personal Oscars. A series of flops damaged his standing in the 1990s, but successful supporting roles have since reinvigorated his career.
TV drama Hatfields & McCoys proved a triumph in 2012, winning Costner an Emmy, and 2018 saw him return to the small screen with Yellowstone. The Paramount Network drama, which sees Costner play patriarch John Dutton, has proved a big success; it is the network’s most-watched show. Nearly five million viewers enjoy the program, so it came as no surprise in June 2019 that the network took up the option of a third season.
To get a name of Costner’s stature to appear in a TV show requires a lot of money, and Paramount was willing to cough up $500,000 an episode for him. This puts the star on a par with the likes of Mark Harmon, paid only slightly more for NCIS. It’s still chickenfeed, though, compared with TV’s highest-paid actor, Sofia Vergara, who scores $41 million a year for her spot as Gloria in Modern Family.
Paramount big gun Kevin Kay shared with magazine The Hollywood Reporter in 2017 why the network had felt that the cash was well spent. He said, “The statement we wanted to make was that we’re open for business, and we’re willing to pay top-tier actors whatever their quotes are. It sends a message, and that’s what we want to do.”