Sisters Lilla and Nora Zuckerman, who worked as writers and producers on season 4 and 5 of the USA Network show, broke down their recent residual earnings to help explain why Hollywood’s writers and actors are currently on strike.
Lilla told Decider that she “received $12,568.57 in residuals” in 2016 for the season 5 episode “Blowback,” which premiered in January of that year. “I imagine it was probably being sold internationally and re-airing on USA,” she said in an interview published on Thursday, August 10. “This year, 2023, where Suits has been viewed for billions and billions of hours on Netflix, I received the grand total of $414.26 on that episode.”
Suits aired its ninth and final season in 2019, but the legal drama has seen a huge resurgence in popularity since moving in June from Prime Video to Netflix, which hosts the show’s first eight seasons. Peacock, meanwhile, offers the entire series. For the week of June 29, Suits racked up more than 3 billion minutes of viewing on the two platforms, marking a Nielsen streaming chart record for an acquired title.
The numbers are certainly impressive, but Nora and Lilla say they haven’t seen much of an increase in their residual payments. “It’s really hard to sort through all these checks, because you get dozens of them that are, like, $7 here, $30 there and so forth,” Lilla explained. “But that’s with Suits airing on two different major streaming platforms. It’s this blockbuster hit, and I received a grand total of $414 for it.”
Nora, for her part, added, “You hope that maybe some magical check will arrive, but it does not appear. … It’s been pretty sad.”
Low residual payments are one of the main reasons why two Hollywood unions — the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists — are in a standoff with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Before streaming became a primary means of watching TV, actors and behind-the-camera crew relied on residual payments to hold them over between projects. Those payments have dwindled during the streaming era, so WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikers are hoping to renegotiate a better contract with AMPTP.
The Zuckermans are just two of many in the entertainment industry who have spoken out about their miniscule residual payments. Last month, Mandy Moore revealed that she’s received “very tiny, like, 81-cent checks” for This Is Us, which was a major hit when it originally aired on NBC.
“The residual issue is a huge issue,” Moore, 39, told The Hollywood Reporter while joining a SAG-AFTRA picket line in Los Angeles. “We’re in incredibly fortunate positions as working actors having been on shows that found tremendous success in one way or another … but many actors in our position for years before us were able to live off of residuals or at least pay their bills.”