As Hollywood sees light at the end of the tunnel, actors at the pickets lines shared their reflections from the hot labor summer and how they plan to move forward in the next three years.
“I was on the last one in 2007, walked the lines, and the difference is we have more women and more people of color on the line, but also the camaraderie has kept people coming out and saying, ‘OK, we are standing strong this time here,’” stage, film, television and voice actress, Jennifer Leigh Warren (“Rent: Live”) told TheWrap on Tuesday in front of one of Netflix’s Hollywood buildings.
It’s been more than 140 days since the actors’ and writers’ strikes shut down Hollywood following failed negotiations with the AMPTP. Since then, thousands of SAG-AFTRA and WGA members have taken to the picket lines in hopes of putting an end to issues like low wages and the abuse of artificial intelligence. The WGA strike ended on Tuesday, Sept. 26, but some writers have joined their fellow union members at the lines until a decision is made for actors as conversations with SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP are set to resume Wednesday.
“It’s a negotiation process. You don’t get your first deal, that’s for sure. Maybe on the second or third deal,” actor and poet S.A. Griffin (“Pale Rider”) said. “I think that we need to hold out and fight for what’s right now and not what we can get. So it’s probably going to be, possibly, a long process. I think it’s worth it. We’ve been out here for 100 days we can be out here for 30 more days.”
He continued: “This is a seminal moment, not just in the industry, but in all of our lives and history of the world. We’re turning a corner and we’re making quantum leaps. And so this negotiation is exceptionally critical, probably more than any other negotiation before.”
Actor Rob Warner (“Breaking Fast”) shared the same sentiment, adding that he hopes this contract for actors lays out an outline for future negotiations.
“I hope we can get a lot of ground work leveled here,” Warner said. “This time we were talking about streaming, last time we were talking about YouTube, digital media. Netflix has exploded the whole conversation and we really need to think about tech and its role in producing content and entertainment moving forward and I’m hopeful that we don’t lose sight of that now and in three years.”
He continued: “Because if we let Netflix take an inch, they’ll take a mile and these new companies will pop up, take our likenesses, take our creativity and produce content the cheapest way they can. That’s their prerogative. We can’t fault them for playing this capitalist game to make content for cheap and to get more subscribers.”
For actor Kirrilee Berger (“K.C. Undercover”), she explained that the strike has made her want to increase her awareness and comprehension of what takes place in the background for actors’ deals. She also likened the unanticipated experience of going without work to what it was like for Americans when the COVID-19 hit in 2020, highlighting that she wants to learn how to better safeguard herself in the event that another circumstance like the strike arises.
“I think it’s also a combination of the pandemic into the strike. It’s been really humbling,” Berger said. “It’s encouraged me to take a greater look at financial literacy and what we can do to really protect ourselves for these unforeseen, horrifying moments.”
Actor Mitch Ward (“Murder in Mind”) said overall, he is stunned at the support of the strikes from outside industries and entities.
“It’s just been just overwhelming how America is really just standing with labor during this whole hot summer. It’s just been so encouraging. We had the CEO of the NAACP that marched with us out to Paramount, that was really cool to see him out there saying, ‘Yeah, we got your back,’ so it’s just really nice to people to see that. If they’re coming for us, the smallest in the industry, the background actors, the principal actors, if they’re coming for us, they can come for anyone in America.”
Ward added that if things do fall through, now or in three years when negotiations will start up again, he said the unions will be ready.
“This is my second strike. I’ve been a SAG-AFTRA member since 1988, so this is not my first rodeo, so we’re ready to go again,” Ward said. “In three years if we don’t get what we need this time — we will get what we need this time — but in three years… if we don’t get what we need, then we’re gonna strike again because we’re not afraid to strike.”