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Tuesday, November 17, 1998 Published at 18:50 GMT


Money for old soap

Ross Kemp: "Proud" of EastEnders, but wants a pay rise

He might be one of Britain's most well-known actors, but EastEnders star Ross Kemp has one thing in common with many of his fans - he thinks he deserves a pay rise.

Mr Kemp, who has played hard man Grant Mitchell in the BBC One soap since 1990, is reportedly paid 120,000 for his lynchpin role. But, he tells the Radio Times, it does not reflect the work he has put into the part.

"I'm not making enough for nine years' hard graft. It's minimal compared to films," he said.

The 34-year-old is careful not to upset his bosses at the BBC though, adding: "At the end of the day if I was that worried, I'd be asking for increases all the time, which I don't."

Gruelling schedule

[ image: Earning his keep: In a clinch with sister-in-law Kathy (Gillian Taylforth)]
Earning his keep: In a clinch with sister-in-law Kathy (Gillian Taylforth)
Despite the glamour of appearing in one of the country's top rated shows, he admits to finding the gruelling schedule tough.

Filming can go on for 14 hours each day and there is little time to rehearse. "It's like working in a factory," he said.

Soap salaries were in the news two months ago when a tabloid newspaper got hold of the Coronation Street cast's salaries.

Top of the list was Barbara Knox, who plays shopkeeper Rita Sullivan. Her pay was estimated at 171,000 per year - based on a flat payment for each of her 110 guaranteed appearances per year.

William Roache and Johnny Briggs were close behind, for their efforts in playing arch-rivals Ken Barlow and Mike Baldwin.

One thing the Coronation Street high-earners had in common was their long service to the show - Ms Knox has spent 26 years in the show, while Mr Roache has starred since it began on ITV in 1960.

Kemp, meanwhile, has only been in Albert Square since 1990.

Catching up with top earners

[ image: Vanessa Feltz: High-earning daytime host]
Vanessa Feltz: High-earning daytime host
Yet despite the six figure salaries, soap stars have a long way to go to catch up with TV's top earners.

Daytime presenter Vanessa Feltz quit her ITV show after a row over money and walked into a deal with the BBC worth 2m.

Cilla Black is reported to be earning the same presenting ITV's Blind Date and Moment of Truth.

Compared to their colleagues in light entertainment, soap actors are justified in asking for more, according to Inside Soap magazine's Steven Murphy.

"Their lives do become private property, and they are taken a little for granted, compared to people like Vanessa Feltz or Gaby Roslin.

"People like Ross Kemp and Martine McCutcheon are of great importance to the BBC.

"It's a common misconception that soap acting is easy compared to mainstream drama, or comedy.

"These actors have to run through the most amazing gamut of emotions, and the public can spot a bad actor pretty quickly."

Glaring comparisons with US stars

The most glaring comparisons are with American actors.

The central cast of Friends are each on $100,000 per episode - and are reported to want raises to bring them up to the level of their counterparts at ER.

[ image:  ]
Stars Anthony Edwards and Noah Wyle are said to be on $375,000 and $285,000 per episode. Sitcom actors earn even more.

But UK soaps, with their bigger casts, simply can't afford to pay that kind of money, according to Mr Murphy.

"Soap stars get paid more than most people in TV anyway and with a cast of up to 40 people, it would be financially impossible to pay them all hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"Nobody is bigger than the soap, and producers can make the mistake of believing that their show rests on the fate of one character," he said.

Stepping stone to greater things

Kemp tells the Radio Times that although he is "proud" of EastEnders, he sees it as a stepping stone to greater things.

[ image: The cast of Friends: Reported to be demanding a pay rise]
The cast of Friends: Reported to be demanding a pay rise
"I'm like a second division footballer. If I was good enough for the Premier League, I'd get my transfer. But it hasn't happened yet."

Murphy said his chances of life beyond soap were pretty good - but he shouldn't take continued success for granted.

"It was true up until three or four years ago that soap stars had a hard time when they left the show, but Nick Berry and Sarah Lancashire's successes have really broken the mould.

"Producers are no longer blinkered about employing soap actors as they have been convinced the public aren't confused by them.

"But for every Nick Berry out there, there's still 20 ex-soap stars lurking around out there in the wilderness."

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