The cast of Friends earn roughly $20 million per year, according to USA Today, off of residual paychecks alone. While it’s incredibly rare that any TV series reaches the same heights as Friends, that number goes to show you just how lucrative a successful show can be.
The original 1960s Star Trek series may have only lasted three seasons, but it led to an astronomical amount of money over the last half century. It’s just too bad that the original cast doesn’t get to see nearly as much of it as they should. In a recent interview with IGN, William Shatner revealed that none of the show’s stars have ever received residual payments.
“The series Star Trek that I was in, was so early on, there were no residuals. So none of us ever have received residuals,” he said. “That came into being about three years.”
Star Trek originally aired from 1966 to 1969, but it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that actors began receiving payments for syndication rights and reruns. At the time, it was impossible to know that Star Trek would evolve into the intricate cross-platform franchise it is today. The series’ first film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, didn’t even arrive until 1979, and no one involved in the production, including Paramount Pictures, believed there would be a sequel.
“Every movie we made subsequent, even Star Trek I, they burned the sets. There was no reason to store them, because there was never going to be another movie,” Shatner said.
Shatner, along with original cast members Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForest Kelley (Bones), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), George Takei (Sulu), Walter Koenig (Chekov) and James Doohan (Scotty), appeared in six films and even the 1994 crossover movie Generations, opposite Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Patrick Stewart (Picard>Kirk).
“I’ve worked gainfully all these years,” Shatner said, assuring IGN that he wasn’t bitter. “I’m really grateful for it. It’s affected my life incredibly.”
Fans can find reruns of the original Star Trek on BBC America, cbs.com and Netflix (NFLX), all of which would have earned the original cast a huge chunk of change had residuals been around back then. The franchise will return to the small screen this fall with Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access.