Rainn Wilson may have once driven a moving van to make ends meet, but if Celebrity Net Worth is right, his days of struggling on the bread line are well and truly behind him. According to the latest estimates, the 54-year-old actor is currently sitting pretty on the very handsome sum of $14 million… a fortune that might not be in quite the same league as that of his old Office co-star Steve Carell (who’s currently believed to be worth around $50 million), but is pretty darn impressive, nonetheless. So, how exactly did someone who, by his own admission, is more funny sidekick than hunky leading man achieve such a newsworthy fortune?
Earning His Stripes
Wilson’s dreams of being an actor started early: after setting out his future plans at high school, he enrolled on a drama degree at the University of Washington in Seattle. After leaving Washington in 1986, he attended New York University’s Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts, graduating with an MFA in acting. Wilson’s first professional gigs were on stage, and he spent several years walking the boards at stages across NYC, performing with (amongst others) the Public Theater, Ensemble Studio Theater, Playwrights Horizons, The Roundabout, and The Guthrie Theater. Despite impressing audiences and critics alike (the latter to the tune of three Helen Hayes Awards for Best Supporting Actor), his paycheck wasn’t quite the size it is now, and for a period, he made rent by driving a moving van.
Transition into TV
After earning his stripes on stage, Wilson made the move to TV in 1997. The role (a walk-on part in an episode of the soap opera One Life to Live) was small, but, the transition made, further opportunities started to role in… even if it did take him a further three years to land a successful audition. Between 2000 and 2003, Wilson made numerous appearances on screen, with his cameo appearances from the period including Road Rules: Maximum Velocity Tour (2000), Charmed (2001), When Billie Beat Bobby (2001), Dark Angel (2001), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2001), and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2001). In 2003, he landed his first recurring role as Arthur Martin on Monk, a role that earned him his first TV award (a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series), while also introducing him to a wider audience. After two years at Monk, Wilson left the series in 2005. Shortly after, he was offered the opportunity to try out for the role of one Dwight Kurt Schrute. He did, proved successful, and thus ensued the making of Rainn Wilson’s fortune.
When it began, few could have precited either the popularity or longevity of The Office. Based on the UK series of the same name, it took a bunch of as then-unknown actors and turned them into overnight superstars. Wilson was fortunate enough to be one of them, and can thank much of his subsequent success on the popularity of the series- not to mention how well audiences took to his expertly tuned comedic performance and nerdy, bespectacled appearance. Wilson remained with the show up until its end in 2013, receiving Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor in 2007, 2008, and 2009, and two SAG awards for best comedy ensemble.
The end of The Office didn’t spell an end to Wilson’s TV career. During his time on the show, he added to his success with appearances on Saturday Night Live (becoming only the second Office star to host after Steve Carell), Tim and Eric Nite Live!, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Reno 911!, Family Guy, Rove LA, and The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange. Following his departure from the show, he’s been an almost constant fixture on our screens, with roles in the likes of Adventure Time, Backstrom, Roadies, Star Trek: Discovery, Room 104, Star Trek: Short Treks and Mom. In 2019, it was announced he’d been cast in Amazon’s upcoming series, Amazon, alongside John Cusack and Sasha Lane.
As to what makes Wilson such TV gold? Perhaps film critic Roger Ebert put it best when he said: “He has that rare quality in an actor, an uncanny presence. There are a few like him (Jack Nicholson, Christopher Walken, Bill Murray) who need only to look at something to establish an attitude toward it. Yes, they can get worked up, they can operate on high, but their passive essence is the point: dubious, wise, sadly knowledgeable, at an angle to the through-line. Other actors could sit on a sofa and watch TV, but Rainn Wilson makes it a statement. A statement of … nothing, which is the point.”
A Dual Threat
Wilson has been astute enough not to put all his eggs in one basket. Although his TV career has been prolific and successful enough to need no supplement, the canny actor has cleverly carved out an equally fruitful career on the big screen. His film success started back in 1999 with an appearance on Galaxy Quest; since then, he’s appeared in a score of hugely successful features, including (but not limited to) Almost Famous (2000), America’s Sweethearts (2001), Sahara (2005), My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2005), Juno (2007), Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), The Boy (which managed to earn him a Fangoria Chainsaw Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor), Shimmer Lake (2017), and, most recently, Blackbird (2019).
So, how has Rainn Wilson managed to fetch that dynamite net worth of $14 million? By now, it should be patently clear, but if you still have any doubts, consider the number of successful films and TV shows he’s appeared in over the past 2 decades. Throw in the fact that one of those TV shows just so happens to be one of the most successful comedies of all time and… well, you get the picture.