A themed picket that focused on first responder TV shows attracted the likes of James Pickens, Jr, Jason George, Caterina Scorsone, Harry Shum, Jr, Chandra Wilson and Kim Raver to Warner Bros. Friday in Burbank.
“Some of us have been fortunate enough to have gigs that have given us a certain amount of comfortableness, if that’s a word,” Pickens Jr, who plays Dr. Richard Webber on Grey’s Anatomy, told fellow strikers. “This strike is about the rank and file, about the majority of actors who are just trying to make enough to get health benefits, to make a living wage. The business model has changed. We have to be a part of that change. It’s about equity, it’s about what is fair. We are not going to stop here. We are going to continue until they listen us. Without us there would be no Warner Bros, there would be no Disney.”
SAG-AFTRA Negotiating Committee member Jason George (Station 19) urged the crowd to stay strong on the picket line, especially now that the WGA achieved a new deal with the AMPTP. “The entire town, the entire country, the entire industry right now said, ‘oh this deal is done. We can chill out,’” he said Friday. “There are a couple days where the lines got a little bit thinner on the picket line. We cannot have that. As a member of the negotiating committee I am begging you to stay strong, to keep on the lines, to tell everyone you know to show up because this keeps the pressure on. That’s what it’s about.”
George went on to say that “first responders shows are the absolute back of this industry, we make billions and billions of dollars for these companies. They get the bills paid. We don’t win every award, but they’re the ones that the fans respond to and actually get all the checks signed.”
Grey’s Anatomy star Chandra Wilson (Dr. Miranda Bailey), a member of SAG-AFTRA for 32 years, said she just wants to understand “what the new rubric is” in Hollywood. “Remember when there were quotes and you would take one job in order to make it better for the next job, and then you walk in the next job? You’re like, ‘this is my quote.’ We don’t have that. Basically, we are all here because we just want to know what the rubric is so that we can make a good decision about what it is that we are doing with our lives. If we … have to act on the side, somebody just needs to say that so we can decide.”
Like so many actors who have walked the picket line, S.W.A.T. actress Rochelle Aytes told Deadline Friday that she remains concerned about A.I. “There needs to be some form of wordage in our contracts because we the actors, the human beings … we make the world go around. If A.I., computers are taking over our jobs, what happens to us?”
AI was on the minds of striking actors in New York City on Friday as their union representatives readied for another day of contract talks in California.
With examples like these, some actors wondered how they’ll find work if they have to compete with lifelike digital facsimiles birthed by artificial intelligence systems.
“AI, we know it’s inevitable but we just want you to be judicious and fair about it,” actor Frank C. Williams told Deadline while picketing outside Warner Bros. Discovery offices. “We want to be able to compliment AI, not have AI just snatch it away from us. You’re taking away the human element and that’s the thing that we’re fighting for.”
One background actor who preferred not to give her name told Deadline, “I’m just kind of worried that we’re going to be the first to go with the AI.”
Ramos said that her bill, if enacted, would also “protect the generations of jobs that will come after you.”
On Friday outside NBCUniversal, background actor Jonathon Del Roccilli of New Jersey carried a SAG-AFTRA picket sign and a hand-lettered sign reading, “Human Art, Spirit Art, Union Art.”
Del Roccilli told Deadline that film and television workers also deserve more residual income from streaming platforms. “With streaming they say, ‘Well, you don’t have any skin in the game to get any money from it,’” Del Roccilli said. “But we do. We show up [at] 4 o’clock in the morning [for casting calls]. Before I show up at four, carpenters are already here touching up the set. Hair and makeup, they’re here.”
“They got plenty of money,” Del Roccilli said of the streamers in the AMPTP fold. “It’s just for some reason they don’t want you to have any of it. I don’t see the logic. Keep your employees happy. Keep them fed. Keep them healthy.”
SAG-AFTRA also sent reinforcements this week to a demonstration in New York by unionized orchestra musicians seeking a pay increase. The 60-plus pit players employed by the New York City Ballet, members of the American Federation of Musicians, have authorized a strike but are still on the job for now.
Orchestra musicians and SAG-AFTRA supporters rallied at Lincoln Center on Thursday evening before the start of City Ballet’s fall gala.
The musicians wore black t-shirts with “Fair Contract” printed on the front and planned to wear them into the orchestra pit while performing that night. In the meantime, they chanted and waved signs in the direction of the arriving guests in gowns and tuxedos who would be their audience in a couple of hours.
“We’re all facing serious issues this year,” Sarah Cutler, a former City Ballet harpist who now leads AFM’s Local 802 chapter in New York, told Deadline. “Our parent organization is going to be facing in November all the AI and streaming issues that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are facing now. So it behooves us all just to make a solid showing where these issues concern us all.”
In New York City, the picket line outside of Warner Bros. Discovery Friday was robust and included longtime union members like Frank C. Williams, who led an impromptu march song while talking to Deadline about his fears regarding the use of A.I.