Who Was The Most Expensive Guest Star On NCIS?

Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon, and the rest of the "NCIS" team have been solving crimes for nearly 20 years on the CBS drama. Per The Hollywood Reporter, it's the "No. 1 global TV series in the world" and is "licensed in more than 200 countries and territories." The original series is so popular that it has led to several spin-offs, including "NCIS: New Orleans," "NCIS: Los Angeles," and the most recent spinoff, "NCIS: Hawaii."

And in 2014, The Daily Beast declared Harmon to be the "world's biggest TV star." The actor told the outlet at the time, "One of the big reasons I took this job in the first place, it was about really trying to stay home ... I had a young family." Harmon surely didn't know the kind of success his job would create, as The Daily Beast reported that "NCIS" reached a whopping 57.6 million global viewers in 2013.

Fans might think that having been a part of such a successful show, its stars would be paid the big bucks. After all, Harmon himself is worth a hefty $100 million, per Celebrity Net Worth. And it's safe to assume that the show's many guest stars have also made decent money for their appearances on the franchise's shows.

Well-known NCIS guest stars are likely paid more

We don't know the most expensive guest star on "NCIS," but it's not a secret that well-known actors are likely to earn more than the Screen Actors Guild's standard rates. Famous actors are paid more because their appearances on TV shows may attract more viewers.

Standard SAG-AFTRA rates are based on the amount of time an actor works. SAG-AFTRA's current rates for an actor appearing in one TV episode range from $1,056 for a day of work to $3,664 if they work all week. "Major role performers" must earn a minimum of $9,293 for spending eight days working on a TV series. But stars like Jamie Lee Curtis could get paid "top-of-show" rates for a guest star role, per Backstage. Curtis reunited with Mark Harmon, her "Freaky Friday" co-star, for two "NCIS" episodes in 2019, per Entertainment WeeklyCurtis played Leroy's girlfriend, Charlotte Ryan, a tough single mom who worked for the Department of Defense. 

Still, even "top-of-show" guest star rates pale in comparison to what the main cast takes home. Hello! Magazine reported in March that Harmon earns $525,000 for each episode on the CBS series. And his "NCIS" co-star Wilmer Valderrama reportedly takes home $100,000 an episode for his role as agent Nicholas Torres. David McCallum, who plays Donald "Ducky" Mallard on the series, reportedly earns $75,000 per episode of "NCIS," according to the outlet.

Michelle Obama once appeared on NCIS

Former first lady Michelle Obama is one of the most famous guest stars on "NCIS." Executive producer Gary Glasberg told TV Guide in 2016, "We're the first dramatic film production to actually film in the White House." E! News reported in 2016 that Obama appeared on the series to promote Joining Forces, an organization she and current first lady Dr. Jill Biden founded to support military families. It's unclear how much (if anything) Obama was paid for her Season 13 "NCIS" guest appearance.

As Insider noted, some other famous "NCIS" guest stars include "This Is Us" actor Sterling K. Brown, who played a killer clown on the CBS hit show. And Sean Astin of "Lord of the Rings" and "Stranger Things" fame guest-starred as a PsyOps investigator. "Stranger Things" star Millie Bobby Brown even had a strange guest star role on "NCIS," playing a young girl who killed her mom. And "The Many Saints of Newark" and "Billions" star Corey Stoll guest-starred as an arms dealer.

"Star Wars" actor Billy Dee Williams also appeared on "NCIS" as Leroy's dad's best friend, after whom Leroy was named. Other recognizable actors who have guest-starred on the CBS series include Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, Abigail Breslin, and Zac Efron.