The Hollywood actors’ strike kicked off on a sweltering Friday morning in Los Angeles, just over 24 hours after contract talks collapsed with studios. Several hundred actors swelled the ranks of picketing television and movie writers, who have been pounding the palm tree-lined sidewalks outside Netflix, Warner, Paramount and more for well over two months already.
“No contracts? No actors! No wages? No pages!” went the chants, as organizers from both unions begged strikers to keep hydrated and stay off the roads, where passing cars and trucks blared their horns in support. “It’s a wonderful celebration of workers. This is more than an entertainment industry labour strike — it’s all of labour, all over the country and the world,” said “Titanic” star Frances Fisher, 71.
“Everybody’s standing up,” she told AFP, yards award from the historic arched entryway to Paramount Picture studio. Chanting writers welcomed the new influx of noticeably louder voices from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), and expressed hope that the arrival of globally recognizable faces should bring renewed attention to the movements.
Stars including Allison Janney (The West Wing), Mandy Moore (This is Us), and Ben Schwartz (Sonic the Hedgehog) joined rank-and-file actors on the picket lines, while Jason Sudeikis and Susan Sarandon showed up across the country at protests in New York. “It feels historic,” said Zev Frank, 36, a writer on Amazon Prime series Patriot. “To see them show up like this, in huge numbers, it feels different today. It feels electric.”
“We’re part of an industry that has so many people that are front-facing, so that extra PR is going to be helpful, said Tien Tran, 36, star of sitcom How I Met Your Father. Among other demands, SAG-AFTRA is asking studios for pay rises to keep pace with inflation, a greater share in the profit of hit shows or films. Those proposals were dismissed by Disney CEO Bob Iger this week as “unrealistic” – comments that invoked fury among several strikers interviewed by AFP.
“He’s refurnishing his house right now for $5 million, and these people don’t even have health insurance… it’s disrespectful and disgusting,” said Shawn Richardz, an actor who has appeared in Treme and Nip/Tuck. “This guy is saying we’re asking for unrealistic things? Are you kidding me?” “That was a really prime example of the mindset of the people on top,” agreed actor E.J. Arriola 42.
“As artists, we’ve been around for so long, and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of respect.” Many heaped praised on SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, whose similar language in a press conference announcing the strike Thursday went viral. She was swarmed by fellow actors outside Netflix on Friday, as the crowd cheered her comments and took them up as chants.
Elsewhere, among the hundreds of SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America signs, placards from other Hollywood unions representing behind-the scenes crew and transport workers were visible among the marchers. “I have no sets to build without actors,” read one slogan. Both of those guilds re-negotiate their own contracts with studios next year. “If they need to walk off the job, then we’re going to be there to support them too,” said Frank, the writer.