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This Is How Much The Cast Of The Big Bang Theory Made From Beginning To End

When "The Big Bang Theory" premiered on September 24, 2007, scientists had good cause to rejoice. The series concept started with a hypothesis –- nerd culture is cool –- that quickly proved true, attracting devoted fans from all walks of life over an incredible 12 seasons.

"TBBT" is the kind of show that makes you feel smart even if you're not an engineer or astrophysicist. In any given episode you might learn, for instance, what Schrodinger's Cat is all about. Or how to make rocket fuel. Or how not to talk to women.

The show is far more than a series of sessions on science and social etiquette, however. At its heart is a cast of lovable characters: Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Raj (Kunal Nayyar), and Howard (Simon Helberg). The original five members of "The Big Bang Theory" cast were hired for their acting skills and the charm they could bring to their quirky roles. And bring it they did, proving over and over they could carry the series.

When "The Big Bang Theory" began, they were working actors earning their keep. And when the show hit it big, their salaries skyrocketed, too.

The main cast's starting salaries

From the very first episode, viewers were smitten with Leonard's quest to shake off his nerdy persona and win the heart of the beautiful Penny –- all while Sheldon interjected himself as a contrary, yet captivating character. These three were "The Big Bang Theory"'s core, around which all others in their universe would revolve. Joining the show with the highest status, Galecki, Cuoco, and Parsons were also the highest paid, each starting at $60,000 per episode, according to Screen Rant.

Rounding out the cast were two more original characters, a pair of roommates whose close bond was behind some of the series' most memorable and hilarious moments. Raj and Howard bickered endlessly (taking it to the mat in Season 4 to determine who would be a better superhero) and crossed uncomfortable boundaries (like the time they accidentally made out via scientific sensors during Season 5 ). Their respective actors, Nayyar and Helberg, didn't earn the same salary as the others, starting off at $45,000 per episode. But from the beginning, they certainly never held back artistically. The show simply wouldn't have been the same without them.

As "The Big Bang Theory" grew and expanded, Melissa Rauch came on as Howard's blind date, Bernadette. Billed as a guest star, she earned a starting salary of $45,000 per episode and though sparks didn't fly in the beginning, she stuck around for the rest of the series, eventually marrying Howard and starting a family with him.

The last of the seven central characters to join the show was Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler. She also started as a guest star earning $45,000 per episode. By the end of the series, she'd made Amy a much more well-rounded character — and the wife of Sheldon Cooper.

One Big Bang Theory cast member out-earned the rest

Building their relationships over the years, the characters on "The Big Bang Theory" grew to be more like family than friends (including those who didn't date or marry one another). Right along with them, the actors strengthened their real-life relationships, too –- which may explain what happened in March 2017.

By Seasons 8 and 9 of the show, original cast members were earning their highest salaries yet, per TV Over Mind. Parsons hit the top mark at $1.2 million per episode. Galecki took home $1 million per episode. Cuoco earned $850,000 per episode. And Nayyar and Helberg each made bank with $600,000 per episode. Meanwhile, Bialik and Rauch were clearly with "TBBT" for the long haul at that time. They'd earned their spots as equals with the others. But their salaries didn't reflect their hard work in the same way. The others, who'd been with the show from the beginning, had received raises over the years. There was no way Bialik and Rauch could catch up.

That's when their castmates banded together to get generous. According to the National Post, Galecki, Cuoco, Parsons, Nayyar, and Helberg each agreed to a $100,000 pay cut, freeing up money for Bialik and Rauch. It was a heartwarming act of solidarity that allowed the actresses to wrap the series earning $450,000 per episode.

"The Big Bang Theory" made Parsons, Galecki, Nayyar, and Helberg the highest-paid actors of the year in 2018, and Cuoco the second-highest-paid actress, as noted by Business Insider. But clearly, it wasn't all about the money — or even the steady acting work — for this cast. "Penny, that was the greatest character I'll ever play in my whole life," Cuoco said in an Entertainment Weekly interview, via YouTube. "And I will never be the same."