Can Actors Appear on Late Night During the SAG-AFTRA Strike? It’s Complicated

Colbert, Fallon, Kimmel and Meyers come back next week, but who’s allowed to join them?

Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert
Four part split of Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert (Photo Credit: Getty Collection)

Though the SAG-AFTRA strike is still in effect, late night will return starting on Friday with a new episode of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” It’s a timeline that puts late night in an odd position: Which guests can appear on late night when the actors’ strike is still in progress?

Luckily, we have an answer to that question thanks to daytime television and SAG-AFTRA’s own rules.

Why can late night return during the SAG-AFTRA strike?

The state of late night is a little bit confusing, because several hosts have also done acting work and are part of SAG-AFTRA. For example, Jimmy Fallon starred in “Fever Pitch” and John Oliver starred in “Community,” as well as the live-action “Lion King.”

Because late-night shows fall under the Network Television Code, these striking performers can return to their jobs. Late night is officially part of what’s called the National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting, which also includes variety shows, game shows, award shows and soap operas. That’s a different category of production than the scripted TV and streaming shows and movies SAG-AFTRA has been striking against.

Can striking actors appear on late night?

Yes, they can. However, they can’t discuss or promote any work that’s happening on any struck projects. That includes discussing their own past work if it was produced by a struck studio.

For example, Matthew McConaughey and John Mayer are set to be Jimmy Fallon’s first guests on the returning “Tonight Show.” Because McConaughey’s upcoming “The Rivals of Amziah King” was granted a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement, he will be able to talk about it on Fallon’s show. “The Rivals of Amziah King” is produced by Black Bear Pictures, which is not a member of the AMPTP and not one of the companies SAG-AFTRA is striking against.

However, McConaughey will not be able to talk about a show like “True Detective.” Though he starred in that series almost a decade ago, “True Detective” was produced by HBO, which is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, one of the studios actors are striking against.

McConaughey and other striking actors are also not allowed to promote or discuss struck productions in which they didn’t appear. These conversation restrictions are so that SAG-AFTRA members stand in solidarity with their union.

So what can striking actors discuss? In addition to talking about “The Rivals of Amziah King,” McConaughey will also be able to talk about his personal life.

Actors are always allowed to turn down talk show appearances and similar productions to stand in solidarity with their union.

Can striking actors do promos for late night?

Once again, the answer is yes, but the same rules apply. Striking actors are not allowed to promote or discuss any struck work, including productions they did not star in, their upcoming projects or their past projects.

Promos produced under the Network Code are not considered to be struck work. According to SAG-AFTRA’s website, “This is true even if the promotional announcement is promoting struck programs/shows.” So even if struck work is mentioned in the promo, the actor in question will not be punished as long as they follow the guild’s rules and “the employer is signatory to the Network Code.”

Once again, actors have the choice to turn down promos and commercials out of solidarity to their union.

How have other shows been navigating these rules?

For the most part, daytime talk shows have been avoiding bringing on striking actors altogether. “The View,” for example, has upped its number of Hot Topics-focused episodes. Similarly, some of its recent guests have included musical stars like singers Natasha Bedingfield and Milck, reality stars like “Golden Bachelor” lead Gerry Turner and the cast of “Jersey Shore,” news correspondents like ABC’s Matt Gutman and political insiders like former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. None of the above are part of SAG-AFTRA.

It seems as though late night will be following a similar rulebook. For example, the first guest of “Real Time with Bill Maher” won’t be an actor — he’s bringing on Republican presidential primary candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Likewise, “Late Night with Seth Meyers” will return with a first episode without any guests, an hourlong edition of its popular “Closer Look” segment diving deeper into issues than in a traditional monologue.

For all of TheWrap’s strike coverage, read more here.


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