While the ’90s or music-themed pickets may have helped maintain WGA morale during the first 73 days of their strike, the writers got a much bigger boost Friday when actors joined them in the ranks of The Angels.
The official first day of the historic SAG-AFTRA strike brings with it the promise of leading members of the 160,000-member group — or, at least, union leader and rising folk hero Fran Drescher — as two of Hollywood’s biggest workers. . groups picket side by side for the first time since 1960. Demonstrations were again held at 10 sites around Los Angeles, on a day with temperatures set to climb to 95 degrees in some parts, though Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery were among the biggest targets for crowds (In New York, where members of WGA East have been picketing for nearly three months, actors joined writers in solid lines outside Netflix headquarters and Paramount offices). in Times Square).
Netflix is where Drescher and the union leadership landed first, arriving by bus from SAG-AFTRA Square shortly after 9am. Drescher echoed his comments from an impassioned speech on Thursday. “We want to send a strong message to consumers in this industry, because then we will have a fighting chance,” Drescher said, emphasizing that the exposure of actors on picket lines will ultimately have an impact on the results of the studies. “What they spend their hard-earned dollars on and what they support is important.”
Drescher wasn’t the first to hit the lines when they opened at 9 a.m. The massive crowd outside Netflix chanted “Hey hey ho ho ho corporate greed has to go” while a writer carried a sign reading read “Where the hell is Ben Affleck at?” and actor (and DJ) Evan Shafran played a pro-strike mix, including his version of Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” remixed with a news report on the SAG-AFTRA talks.
Schitt’s Cove Actor Dustin Milligan was among the most recognizable Netflix picketers, though he was quick to point out that the economic gulf between celebrities and most union actors was a unifying concern in stalled contract negotiations. “When we got here, there were a lot of photographers looking around and wondering ‘Who’s famous?’ he said the hollywood reporter. “That is exactly why we are here. It’s not just these names, the top 1 percent of actors get amazing deals and franchise movies. It’s about the other 159,999 actors who are just trying to earn a living wage and can’t make it under the current contract… There’s a perception that being an actor means you have millions of dollars and live in a mansion, when the reality is It is not the case.”
However, several familiar faces came out early. One mile south of Netflix, outside the Paramount Studios lot, Patton Oswalt and Michelle Hurd arrived on a SAG-AFTRA bus. On the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, where union leaders had sunscreen and water for visitors to what is probably the hottest spot of the day, Jake McDormand (Mrs. Davis), Ben Schwarz (Sonic the Hedgehog), Katie Lowes (inventing ana) and Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy) walked down the line as another striker played Drescher’s Thursday speech through a megaphone and someone had put up a picket sign depicting Disney CEO Bob Iger as Marie Antoinette. Iger’s appearance Thursday on CNBC, during which he called the actors’ demands “unrealistic,” has not gone down well with much of Hollywood, especially since it came a day after he signed a contract extension that he can bring his net worth closer to $1 billion by the time his term comes to an end in 2026.
Also notable outside of Disney was the police presence. For the first time since the WGA strike began on May 1, several uniformed members of the Burbank Police Department and police motorcycles were conspicuously organized around the block, many of which were closed to traffic on side streets to accommodate anticipated turnout.
A few blocks away, at Warner Bros. Discovery, SAG-AFTRA bargaining committee member Sean Astin (Rudy!) defended the strength of Drescher’s leadership. He also stressed that the decision to strike was not an easy one, or one the union reached quickly. “I spent the last month, every day, 14 hours a day in negotiations trying to reach an agreement with the studios, the networks and the big streamers,” Astin said.
Whether it was a continuation of WGA points, a response to Drescher’s speech, or just the obvious result of any labor dispute, CEOs were the targets of anger and jokes on multiple pickets. Iger’s rendition of “Let Them Eat Pie” was one of many taunts from the Disney boss outside his corporate headquarters. WBD CEO David Zaslav remains persona non grata to those at his doors. And, back at Netflix, co-CEO Ted Sarandos and CEO Reed Hastings were called out by actor Sean Gunn.
He Guardians of the Galaxy actor, brother of DC boss James Gunn, said THR that it was important to him to be on the streamer because of the lack of earnings he has seen in his seven-season run on Gilmore Girls. The old WB drama has been one of the most popular library titles on the streamer for the past decade; However, the way current deals are structured, strong broadcast performance does not equate to bigger residual checks for actors.
“It really is a parody,” Gunn said. “And if the answer is, ‘Oh, that’s how business is done,’ that sucks. That makes you a bad person. You really need to rethink how you do business and share wealth with people. Otherwise, all this will collapse.”
Residual and performance-based incentives were always going to be a sticking point for both SAG-AFTRA and the WGA during the 2023 contract negotiations, but the issue of artificial intelligence has proven to be an even bigger existential hurdle. The AI issue turned out to be a dud when the WGA was negotiating with the AMPTP. On Thursday, the studios released what they said were their offers to the actors. Among them was what the AMPTP described as an “innovative AI proposal”. The word “innovative” raised the proverbial eyebrows for actors, with SAG-AFTRA COO and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland refuting that studios were suggesting background actors scan their likeness and use it in perpetuity for a day’s pay. .
Crabtree-Ireland, who made the rounds with Drescher throughout the day, broached the subject of AI outside of Disney. “I’d say we’re pretty far apart in AI, mainly because companies refuse to acknowledge that people can’t be expected to give up their name, image, likeness, and voice (their person) to some corporate conglomerate with no right to ever say what they’re going to do.” do with it in the future,” he said. “We will never agree to terms like that. So the companies will have to move in our direction and reach a reasonable agreement. We don’t go into this negotiation saying, “Let’s ban AI.” We came saying that AI must be done in a way that respects the actors and their human rights.”
Seth Abramovitch, Gary Baum, Mia Galuppo, Lesley Goldberg, Borys Kit and Tiffany Taylor contributed to this report.