Here's How Much Pauley Perrette Is Really Worth

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Pauley Perrette will forever be tied to her "NCIS" character, goth forensic scientist Abby Sciuto, but despite being a beloved TV staple for over a decade, there are still plenty of things we bet you never knew about her. Whether it's the unexpected work she was doing before "NCIS," her pre-acting career path, her feud with co-star Mark Harmon, or her impressive bottom line, Perrette is full of surprises.

In 2020, the TV star told her Twitter followers she'd officially retired from acting and would be focusing on other passion projects and, despite outside pressure, had no plans to return to her old gig. As she tweeted in April 2021, the decision to retire has actually cost her some relationships but that suits her just fine. "The most interesting thing about saying you are retired is checking who is or who is not still your friend," she wrote, explaining that some folks disappeared from her life when they realized she could no longer help advance their careers. Given that she has no plans to head back to work, what does that mean for her net worth? While Perrette is no longer cashing in an impressive "NCIS" paycheck week after week, her bank account isn't exactly hurting. Straighten out your pigtails and get your high-powered microscope ready, because it's time to take a closer look at how much Pauley Perrette is really worth.

Pauley Perrette's humble beginnings

When it comes to making money, Pauley Perrette has always been a hustler. She began working while attending Crestwood High School in Atlanta, Georgia, when she landed a job at a car lot. A medley of odd gigs followed. As she told Us Weekly, "I was a cook, a waitress, a bartender — I even wore a sandwich board and roller-skated around, passing out fliers for Taco Bell." Her real dream, however, was to get into law enforcement, per AJC, so when she was in college at Valdosta State University, she got her BA in sociology and criminal justice. While pursuing her master's degree, she ended up in New York City.

However, she soon discovered a different calling and dropped out. As Perrette told CBS Sunday Morning, she was bartending to pay the bills and one day, everything changed. "I had overheard a girl say she had made $3,000 shooting a commercial and I was thinking, 'Who has $3,000? Like, that's insane," she recalled. She was instantly intrigued and the person working coat check (who happened to be an actor) introduced her to a director. As she recalled to Punk Globe, "[He] took a liking to me and put me in a bunch of music videos and commercials," including for major brands like Sprint and Volkswagen. Then it was off to Hollywood and small screen superstardom.

NCIS made Pauley Perrette a millionaire

Pauley Perrette found acting by accident and it turned out to be a real lucrative fluke. After getting parts in numerous commercials and music videos, she packed her bags and left New York for California. After settling in Los Angeles, per E! News, she made her TV debut on an episode of "ABC Afterschool Specials" in 1994 when she was in her mid-twenties. According to her IMDb page, she then landed a recurring role in "Murder One" in 1996 and appearances on a myriad of popular TV shows followed, ranging from "Dawson's Creek" to "The Drew Carey Show." Jump to 2003 and she landed the ultimate role when she was cast in CBS' "JAG." Perrette played Abby Sciuto on two episodes of the series and when it gave way to a little spinoff called "NCIS" in 2003, she took her goth forensic scientist persona over to the new show.

Over the years, the actor's "NCIS" earnings fluctuated but they were consistently impressive, especially towards the end of her run on the show, which she left in 2018. According to TV Guide (via Express), she earned $175,000 per episode in 2012. That jumped to $250,000 per episode in 2015, which landed her on Forbes' list of The World's Highest-Paid TV Actresses with earnings of $6 million. In 2018, she was on Forbes' list again, this time having earned $8.5 million. Divided across a usual 24-episode season, that meant she earned about $354,000 per episode. 

Pauley Perrette's musical side hustle

Before she got her big break on TV, Pauley Perrette appeared in a slew of music videos for everyone from George Michael to Metallica to Salt-N-Pepa. As she told Parade, "I was in a billion music videos!" One of her favorite experiences was working on Madonna's video for "Secret," but it wasn't exactly easy money. As the actor recalled, she was paid a mere $50 for 12 hours of work. However, as a music fanatic, it was worth it.

Later on, Perrette followed her passion for music in another direction by starting her own band: an all-girl punk outfit called Lo-Ball. As she told Parade, "I was into music before I was an actor." The band didn't break into the mainstream, but one highlight of Perrette's music career was landing their song called "Can't Get Me Down" on the "Legally Blonde" soundtrack.

Once the band broke up, Perrette started another musical project under the moniker Stop Making Friends. While we don't know how much she's earned from music, she's had some lucrative opportunities over the years. Like in 2008 when her song, "Fear," appeared on the "NCIS" soundtrack or in 2013 when "Somebody Saved You" was on that year's "NCIS" soundtrack. She also collaborated with Darryl "DMC" McDaniels in 2011, recording a track called "Attention Please." As the hip hop legend told TMA, Perrette truly is talented. "Working with Pauley P is like working with Joan Jett, Janis Joplin, Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow with a splash of John Lennon!" he gushed.

Pauley Perrette's home life

Pauley Perrette has lived in Los Angeles since her early twenties when she left New York to pursue acting full-time. As Hello! points out, she likes to keep her home life to herself and, unlike other celebs, has rarely posted images or videos from inside her sanctuary. However, she and her house were thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons when the actor was attacked outside of her property in November 2015. Taking to Twitter to share details about the scary ordeal, Perrette wrote that she was walking across the street from her Hollywood Hills home to a guest property she had just purchased when a man attacked her. "He grabbed me so forcefully, pinned my arm, punched me in the nose, forehead repeatedly telling me he was going to kill me," she wrote. "I almost died tonight." According to the Los Angeles Times, the assault occurred in the Hollywood Dell neighborhood, and the assailant was arrested soon after the incident.

The community Perrette calls home is near landmarks like the Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Reservoir, and Griffith Park, and the houses in that neighborhood are swanky. While details about her own purchase history have been kept under wraps, it's safe to assume she paid a good chunk of change for her property. As of this writing, most of the Zillow estimates for houses around there fall somewhere in the $1.5 to $3 million range.   

Pauley Perrette banked on baking

Pauley Perrette loves music, acting, and... baking. So much so that the "NCIS" star actually owned a business you might not know about: a bakery called Donna Bell's Bake Shop. Located in New York's Hell's Kitchen district, it opened in 2011 and was a passion project named after her mother. As she told CNBC in 2012, "Me and my two best friends took my mother's recipes and all of her inspiration and opened a Southern country bake shop in Manhattan." Those best friends were Darren Greenblatt and Matthew Sandusky, per W42St, and they turned the all-natural bakery into an instant hit. Just some of the best-selling treats inspired by Perrette's childhood included strawberry shortcake, red velvet cheesecake brownie, and chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. Yes, please. And while the actor was in Los Angeles most of the time, Greenblatt insisted to CNBC, "Pauley is so hands-on. She knows every employee. She knows the food costs and what we do to try and keep things under control."

Donna Bell's Bake Shop thrived for nearly a decade and even inspired a New York Times bestselling cookbook called "Donna Bell's Bake Shop: Recipes and Stories of Family, Friends, and Food," which the trio co-authored and published in 2015. Then the pandemic happened. Sandusky, who ran day-to-day ops, told W42St that they were doing their best to survive and assured, "We will stay open until they drag us out of here." Sadly, in December 2020, they were forced to close shop for good.

Are Pauley Perrette's days of earning millions over?

In 2017, Pauley Perrette announced she was leaving "NCIS" and retiring from acting after 15 seasons playing Abby Sciuto. Taking to Twitter, she clarified, "No, my network and show are not mad at me!" In April 2020, she made her small screen return with a sitcom called "Broke." Unfortunately, the show was canceled that May, per Deadline, before its first season came to a close. Regardless, Perrette had no regrets. "This show restored my faith in people, in this industry," she tweeted. "Healed me. Changed me. Made me whole." Reiterating that now she was ready to retire for good, she gushed, "I did my last dance & am proud of it!" Sharing her future plans, Perrette told fans she looked forward to raising rescue dogs and plants and added, "I AM FREE!!! (To be the tiny little simple human I am!)"

She's also been able to focus more on giving back. In July 2022, Perrette, who is a Project Angel Food trustee, made a rare TV appearance on Project Angel Food's Lead with Love 3 telethon and handed over a $9,000 check on-air, per Express. "I'm proud to be a part of it and I've been a part of it for a long time," she enthused. And while fans may be hoping for a TV comeback, it seems unlikely. Not only is Perrette's schedule filled but she's not exactly strapped for cash. Her net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth, is a cool $22 million.