When Dylan Guerra, a WGA strike captain who worked on the final season of “The Other Two,” read that the the AMPTP was willing to drag the strike out until October, his initial response was a single question: “What the f–k?”
That degree of shock and outrage has been a common response across both coasts as members of WGA and SAG-AFTRA reacted to a controversial story from Deadline. The report, published last week, quoted an anonymous studio executive who told the publication “the endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” with another insider calling the strategy “a cruel but necessary evil.”
Publicly, the story has been refuted by the AMPTP, which released a statement saying, “These unnamed people named in the Deadline story are not speaking on behalf of our companies who are committed to reaching a deal and getting our industry back to work.” But privately, the article has become as a rallying cry of sorts for those striking on the front lines.
Though the report originally referenced the WGA strike, which entered into its 12th week on Monday, its circulation amid the official authorization of the SAG-AFTRA strike “enraged and engaged the core of [the] unions to strike against that greed,” according to “1923” star Sebastian Roché, who spoke to TheWrap on the picket lines on Day 1 of the SAG strike.
“Me specifically, it’s like, ‘F–k you guys. I’ll be out here till Christmas.’ Like, you think October — it just only strengthened my resolve,” Calvin, a WGA strike captain who didn’t give his last name, told TheWrap while protesting outside Amazon Studios. “And I can say unequivocally with all my Amazon family here now, it just made us more angry and more committed to what we’re doing.”
As SAG-AFTRA members joined WGA members on the picket lines for a historic double strike, messages railing against corporate greed filled the pickets — including that of SAG member and background actor Alyson Stover, whose sign read “your greed is fugly.”
“What the AMPTP said about greed and having everybody homeless is disgusting,” Stover told TheWrap, adding the difficulty of making a living through background acting. “Thank God I can pay my rent. I have a lot of friends that can’t.”
“[Studios] need to see us — physically see us — in numbers to understand what they’re doing, because I feel like they just see us as a number in their head, not actually people, especially after that comment the studios made about how they just want us all to not be able to afford our rent [and] not be able to afford our mortgages,” SAG member Sasha Askari added from the picket line outside of Fox Studios in Los Angeles. “Basically they want us to go homeless in the streets — how dare you?”
The executives’ comments also strengthened the resolve of Sue Birch, a SAG strike captain who has built a career off of her background and commercial work. “Writers and actors are used to being out of work. When we work, we put our money aside because we know that this might be our only job this year. They tried this with us on the commercial strike in 2000,” Birch said while attending the New York protest against Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery. The strike in question lasted six months and led to greatly increased earnings for performers in cable advertisements.
“We stuck it out,” Birch said.
“I’m glad they said it because it really gets an insight into exactly what they’re thinking,” Richard Masur, a SAG member who served as national president for two terms, told TheWrap while picketing outside of 30 Rock. “They were theoretical studio executives who said it — these are people who are making millions if not tens of millions of dollars in salary, in stock options, in bonuses, and they’re talking about people who are trying to feed their families and pay their mortgages.”
The disputed report has been called everything from “horrendous” and “vile” to “cartoonish villainry” and “the height of cynicism.” But there’s another word that’s been used to describe this article: desperate.
“I think they’re scared of our power, they’re scared of our solidarity, they’re scared of our tenacity. And they were just trying to freak us out and make us quake in our boots,” Sasha Stewart, a WGA East council member, told TheWrap while protesting NBCUniversal. “It’s not going to work. At this point they already hurt us so much in terms of making this an affordable career — we’ve already had to get second jobs, third jobs, fourth jobs. We can wait them out a lot longer than they can wait us out.”
“They need us,” Stewart emphasized. “We don’t need them.”
“Literally, it smacks of desperation on their behalf, to attempt to plant that,” Calvin said. “Whether it’s propaganda or legitimate comments, the truth is behind it, and that’s what they want, and that’s what they think of us. It’s only made us more committed to what we’re doing and that what we’re doing is right, absolutely.”
For WGA member Kiley Rossetter, a writer for “Picard” and “Starfleet Academy,” there is another reason why these anonymous comments were hurtful.
“I think it means that they were afraid because, as you can see today, we have such an incredible show of support out here,” Rossetter told TheWrap while protesting Amazon Studios. “But it is a little disappointing to see, because we work so closely with our studio executives. We love our studio executives. And I want, the second the strike ends, to continue working with them.”
She added, “I hope that they weren’t involved in any way, and I don’t think they were. I think a fair deal is somewhere on the horizon, hopefully.”
Masur echoed Rossetter’s sentiments. During his interview with TheWrap, the industry veteran, who has appeared in more than 80 films, repeatedly emphasized the collaborative nature of Hollywood.
“They can’t do it without us. And we can’t do it without them. I’m not cutting them out of the circuit, but we have to do it together,” Masur said. “We should be talking about this collaboratively to solve problems, not say stupid crap like that in interviews.”
For all of TheWrap’s WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike coverage, click here.