Mark Proksch has been a star of the critically acclaimed “What We Do in the Shadows” for five seasons now. But despite the FX series’ numerous awards nominations, passionate fan base and longevity, the actor still makes more money from residuals off his limited run on “The Office” than he does from residuals on a currently running series that’s been nominated for 17 Emmys — when it comes to residuals.
Ahead of the show’s Season 5 premiere, Proksch told TheWrap, “[When it comes to residuals,] I make more from one season of guest starring on ‘The Office’ than I’ve made for every season of ‘Shadows’ combined.” This discrepancy has to do with residuals, one of the issues at the center of SAG-AFTRA’s possible strike against the AMPTP. Because “The Office” was a network show, it still provides its cast with residuals for every rerun. That’s not the case when it comes to shows on streaming platforms.
Proksch has played series regular Colin Robinson the energy vampire since Episode 1 of “What We Do in the Shadows,” which has released 40 episodes and is set to debut its fifth season this week. By contrast, Proksch’s guest starring role as Nate on “The Office” only lasted 19 episodes.
“That’s been whittled away by streaming, and we need to get those residuals on par. If they can’t do that, then they need to look at their business model,” Proksch added.
Two of Proksch’s co-stars, Harvey Guillén and Kristen Schaal, echoed his concerns, emphasizing how, in general, “actors are treated pretty poorly.”
“They don’t make enough money to have a living,” Schaal, who has long been a mainstay in the indie comedy scene and who plays The Guide on “What We Do in the Shadows,” told TheWrap. Schaal also voices Louise Belcher on Fox’s long-running “Bob’s Burgers.”
“The residuals on streaming are almost non-existent, if at all. I’ve definitely noticed it from doing voiceover work on different things,” Schaal said. “If it’s a streamer, you get paid for the day, even if it’s a hit show. That’s not how people can make a living, and they shouldn’t have to.”
“I think it’s getting harder to make a living off of being an artist,” Guillén, who plays Guillermo, told TheWrap. “As an actor, you never know. It’s feast or famine. You never know where your next gig is coming from.”
There’s another reason why Schaal is frustrated with the financial state of Hollywood: auditions. Schaal described the current audition process, which requires performers to put themselves on tape “like 20 times,” as a “full-time job.” This process was changed to be more digitally focused during the COVID-19 pandemic so that productions could follow social distancing guidelines. Though restrictions have lifted, this time-consuming practice has remained.
“That’s just considered the norm because actors will do it,” Schaal said.
There’s also the rise of artificial intelligence to consider, something star Natasia Demetriou referred to as “a very big existential threat.”
“This is going to be so sincere, but I feel like art is an expression of the human soul. The thought that a parasitic algorithm is going to — somehow — take away so many jobs and alter work? It makes me feel sick,” Demetriou, who plays the vampire Nadja, told TheWrap.
“Yeah, at some point, we’re gonna have to ask ourselves what makes us human,” Proksch added. “Creativity, I think, above all else is what makes us humans.”
Schaal emphasized that she’s proud to be in a country where unionization is possible and that she’s proud of her industry. But that doesn’t mean she’s happy to accept Hollywood in its current state.
“I know that we need better. The writers need — everybody needs to be treated better,” Schaal said. “Everybody really wants to go back to work and not feel complicated about promoting the shows that they put all their love into.”
“What We Do in the Shadows” premieres Thursday on FX and streams the next day on Hulu.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to emphasize that Proksch was referring to residuals, not his salary.