Sydney Sweeney is poised to become a very, very big star. She scored not one but two acting Emmy nominations this year (Euphoria and The White Lotus) and is about to head into the Marvel machine where she’s playing a top secret role in Madame Web. That’s the sort of life that used to guarantee a certain level of luxury in Hollywood and while Sweeney says she’s not exactly hurting for rent, she’s not killing it like someone in her position might have 10 or 20 years ago either.
“If I wanted to take a six-month break, I don’t have income to cover that,” she told the Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t have someone supporting me, I don’t have anyone I can turn to, to pay my bills or call for help.”
Part of the reason Sweeney is famous without being quote-unquote rich (relatively speaking) these days is that her success has largely come from streaming shows, which pay different than network television. If you were on, say, The Office — even just one time — you still get a little paycheck every time that episode is re-run. But most actors on streaming shows are paid a flat fee for their performance. So while Sweeney is one of the biggest names on one of HBO Max’s biggest shows, she doesn’t exactly reap a lot of the financial rewards.
That said, popular actors get plenty of other opportunities to make money via product endorsements and beauty campaigns, and Sweeney’s work with Armani, Parade, Miu Miu and more ensures that she’s not exactly hurting for money. But it’s also no surprise that she doesn’t feel like she can take the sort of “long break” that used to be common for entertainers.
“They don’t pay actors like they used to, and with streamers, you no longer get residuals,” Sweeney told THR. “The established stars still get paid, but I have to give five percent to my lawyer, ten percent to my agents, three percent or something like that to my business manager. I have to pay my publicist every month, and that’s more than my mortgage.”
“If I just acted, I wouldn’t be able to afford my life in L.A,” she says. “I take deals because I have to.”
Sweeney is clear that nobody needs to feel bad for her, and we won’t. But it is notable that she, as a major star making it in showbiz without nepotistic hand out, needs to supplement her actual job (acting) with things that are not her job (advertising campaigns). The entertainment industry is a high profile example of how the high cost of living and diminishing wages are making it harder for younger Americans to have the same lives their older peers do, but it is an example.