Why Neil Patrick Harris Was Paid More Than Other Cast Members

Neil Patrick Harris, renowned for portraying Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, emerged as the highest-paid cast member, and the reasons behind this substantial paycheck are noteworthy.

In the landscape of the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris, embodying the character of Barney Stinson, claimed the title of the highest-paid cast member. The show, spanning nine seasons, chronicles Ted Mosby’s (Josh Radnor) journey to meeting the titular Mother amid unsuccessful romances.

Ted’s adult years unfold in the vibrant tapestry of New York City, accompanied by his close-knit group of friends: Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel), Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan), Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), and the charismatic Barney Stinson (Harris). However, despite being one of the central quintets, Harris received a considerably larger paycheck, starkly contrasting the equal pay granted to the other four.

Neil Patrick Harris entered How I Met Your Mother with a well-established reputation in the entertainment industry. Following a Golden Globe nomination for his debut performance in the 1988 drama Clara’s Heart, he secured prominent roles, including the titular character in the medical sitcom Doogie Howser, M.D. By the time the CBS show premiered, Harris boasted two decades of success in film, television, and theater.

Consequently, his extensive career warranted a higher salary than his co-stars. Beyond financial considerations, Barney’s character injected vitality into the series with legendary stories, contributing significantly to its humor. Harris’s impeccable portrayal made him an indispensable asset, justifying his elevated compensation.

The peculiarity of Neil Patrick Harris receiving a higher salary becomes apparent when considering the backdrop of sitcom salary negotiations. In contrast to How I Met Your Mother, where Harris’s pay was notably more elevated, the main cast of Friends, a sitcom of comparable stature, famously secured equal pay-per-episode deals. The Friends cast members, recognizing their collective significance to the storyline and the show’s immense viewership, successfully negotiated a $1 million-per-episode salary, leveraging their indispensability.

While How I Met Your Mother may not have matched Friends’ ratings, the main cast had the potential to employ a similar negotiating tactic. Harris acknowledged for enhancing the show’s entertainment value, could have considered a pay cut to benefit his colleagues. This approach was exemplified by The Big Bang Theory stars, who voluntarily accepted a $100,000-per-episode pay cut to augment the salaries of Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

As How I Met Your Mother reached its final season, Neil Patrick Harris’s earnings peaked at $400,000 per episode, a substantial contrast to the $225,000 each received by the rest of the ensemble. This salary difference persisted throughout the show’s nine-season run, acknowledging the increasing prominence of its actors.

Cobie Smulders propelled further into the mainstream, notably saved the show’s spin-off with her Robin Scherbatsky cameo, leading to her role as Maria Hill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan, already recognized from their roles in Freaks and Geeks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the American Pie film series, also experienced a rise in fame. However, the initial earnings gap with Neil Patrick Harris remained, leaving a noticeable disparity.