In the U.S. soap opera world, recurring status is a term used to describe the status of a performer who consistently performs in less than three episodes out of a five-day work week, and is therefore let out of their multi-year contract in order for the show to save money. Contract evaluations are done every quarter, and the actors that don’t meet their “quota” of episodes are in danger of being dropped from their contract and put on recurring status. Instead of paying a flat fee for the actor over a series of a few years, the actor is then paid a certain sum for each show he or she is needed.
Almost unheard of from the beginning of television until the 1980s, more and more actors have been placed on “recurring” so the production company in charge of making the show doesn’t go over-budget. Dwindling viewership and a recent economic downturn have caused all the U.S. soaps to place actors (usually veterans who have been with the series in excess of ten years, and who are usually acclimated to higher salary figures) on recurring, something which has antagonized many performers. Some actors, who have saved money from past decades and love the soap genre, accept the move to recurring status, while other actors balk at the contract cut, instead finding work on Broadway, on prime time television series, or even on rival soap operas who will give them a salary that they are used to.
On Australian and British soap operas, contract negotiations are different, and a term such as “recurring status” does not exist, though many of those shows have guest stars that appear frequently enough that literally speaking they could be described as “recurring”.
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