Alexi Hawley on the Importance of the Highlighting the Solidarity Amongst WGA and SAG-AFTRA: 'Nobody's Breaking This Union' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

Alexi Hawley on the Importance of the Highlighting the Solidarity Amongst WGA and SAG-AFTRA: ‘Nobody’s Breaking This Union’

September 8, 2023 by  

Alexi Hawley WGA strike interview

THE ROOKIE: FEDS – ABC partnered with acclaimed South Los Angeles restaurant Post & Beam for a cultural dining experience to celebrate the series premiere of “The Rookie: Feds.” Star and executive producer Niecy Nash-Betts and executive producers Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter were joined by journalists and tastemakers to enjoy the restaurant’s Black Pot Supper Club, an intimate dining experience celebrating African American cuisine. During the eight-course meal, renowned chef Martin Draluck presented short anecdotes about the historical relevance of each dish. “The Rookie: Feds” premieres TUESDAY, SEPT. 27 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Frank Micelotta)

Over the Labor Day holiday, showrunner Alexi Hawley posted a thread on Twitter, highlighting how WGA and SAG-AFTRA workers have been supporting each other during the two strikes.

“On this Labor Day weekend, with Hollywood still shut down & anxiety levels high, I’m choosing to focus on the positive,” he wrote on the social media platform. “Now, I’m not normally a feel-good story guy, but I was struck this week by the sheer volume of generosity that has poured forth during the course of the strike.”

In the thread, he highlighted the official WGA and SAG-AFTRA funds, as well as a support fund for teamsters, The Entertainment Community Fund, The Motion Picture Television Fund, along with unofficial funds like The Union Solidarity Coalition, Green Envelope Grocery Aid Fund, Pay Up Hollywood, and more. He then crunched the numbers on things like picket line food trucks and other food on the line—a vital resource, frequently providing breakfast and lunch for workers in need—guesstimating there have been easily $500,000 worth of donations for that alone.

“To be clear, none of this is a replacement for a steady paycheck,” he wrote. “We are all desperate to get back to the work we love. But until there are offers on the table from the companies which will ensure the health and future of our business, the strike will continue. But so too will the donations from those with means. Why? Because we understand that every TV show & movie is a collaborative effort, elevated by the work of each writer, actor & crew member who touches it. And we have a responsibility to look out for them in times of crisis.”

The thread was retweeted by hundreds of people, many echoing his sentiments. Days later, while picketing, Hawley spoke with Give Me My Remote about the ongoing strikes, the importance of the workers taking care of each other, the limbo his show THE ROOKIE: FEDS finds itself in, and more.

What led to you posting that Labor Day thread?
I do think there’s a lot of anxiety out there right now. People are in trouble, people are hurting. But at the same time, I thought it was important to show the difference between the two sides in this conversation, in this negotiation. I mean, [the AMPTP] started out threatening to take our homes away. It’s not a good look, and not a legal bargaining position. All these people who are able to show up and give money are giving money.

Obviously, there was The Rock and a bunch of A-list actors who gave a million dollars each to the SAG fund, but even on just the micro level of like food that’s donated to the strike line every day—once I started doing the math on the food trucks—and I think I really underestimated them, because basically, they’re here every day—that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. We’re doing what we can to save this business and save the town. 

It’s the thing that’s the most distressing—even in 2007 and [19]88, Hollywood was still run by people who cared about the business and what they were making. And, okay, they might have been more interested in the box office than quality at some points, but their business was the movie business; their business was the TV business. And now, you have companies like Apple and Amazon. You know, Apple sells phones. And Amazon sells paper towels—and they also make LORD OF THE RINGS. Do they care if LORD OF THE RINGS makes a lot of money? No, because they sell so many paper towels. So that’s the disconnect now, [and] I think is why this is going on so long, which is frustrating. But I just felt like people needed a lift. And if I could give that, then how could I not?

You also sponsored food at La Bruschetta for WGA members. Can you share a bit about why it has been important for you to give back? 
I feel a responsibility, as a showrunner, with crews that are struggling, with actors that are struggling, writers that are struggling. Whatever I can give, I’m going to give. 

That’s another piece of this puzzle that is just disconnected with corporate America and the people that work for them. I mean, look at the massive layoffs that have been happening before the strike, across the business. I think it’s important to be responsible for people who work for you or work with you. They have lives that are important. It’s basic how to run a business: take care of people and they can do good work.

One of the big issues right now with the shift in the industry is residuals. How have they impacted your life?
Going back to the 2007 strike, I picketed out here every day for 100 days; I was a feature writer back then. And when things were really, really dark, I got a residual check for a movie I had written and it saved our lives. So you know, I definitely carry that sense memory with me. 

It does show the difference between the streaming experience versus network television. I still get really healthy residuals from CASTLE. I get decent residuals for THE ROOKIE; they’re excellent compared to the streaming shows. That’s the difference. That’s one of the reasons I’m still on network television—with four kids, it’s like, oh, yeah, I need to get paid. Network is still where you get paid the best fees, you work regularly, you’re doing 22 episodes a year. And you get residuals every quarter. It’s not a crapshoot. So those are still the golden jobs. 

I definitely did sense, before the strike, when I was talking to upper-level people who have been streaming land forever, they were just like, we want to go back to network television.

You’re someone who has one network show that has already been renewed in THE ROOKIE and another that is in limbo awaiting its fate in THE ROOKIE: FEDS. [Hawley also has THE RECRUIT, which follows a different schedule as a streaming series.] Realistically, how fast would you be able to get your shows back up in production if the strikes were to end soon?
I’ve told the network I can be up and shooting in four weeks. Which is fast, but I’ve got to put people back to work. So we can write scripts, that’s what we do professionally. So if I’ve got to turn a script around in a week or a weekend or whatever, we can do that. I think the most important thing is to get the machine started again, to get people paid. 

Obviously, that’s complicated. In success, [the] writers’ guild is going to make their deal first and I can hopefully put people to work once it’s ratified [with] writing scripts. Then SAG has to negotiate their deal, which is complicated, and at a minimum is going to take a couple of weeks, I would assume, given the pace at which the AMPTP negotiates. So my hope is that by the time those four weeks come to pass, [we’re] writing those scripts, and then [the actors] will be able to come to work. 

But nothing has gone the way I thought it was going to go. I feel like my job is a professional problem-solver as a showrunner. So I’m used to trying to [figure] things out, and I’ve just been wrong, consistently, this strike. And I think it’s because it’s not a rational negotiation. They’re not negotiating from the same position. The tech companies and the legacy media do have different agendas. And I just think at the end of the day, if it was as simple as they know they have to give us a couple of things they don’t want to and we’re ready to give up some things that we don’t want to, we make a deal in three hours. But at every turn, it seems like there’s something weird going on here.

With THE ROOKIE: FEDS, do you think there’s a chance you might hear about its fate either way before the strike ends?
We’re not gonna get an answer before the strike is over. They’re not doing any business whatsoever, because they can’t pick up options, legally. 

I do feel very positive about it, still. They do really like to show. We did have conversations at the end of season 1 about some things that work well and some things that we could make some changes on, which I agree with, too. Any first-year show, there’s a learning curve. So I still feel really good about it. But the issue ultimately is going to be, do they have an open hour of television? So that’s where it’s the math that I can’t really equate, because I don’t know what else they have.

What I will say is that to have Niecy Nash-Betts as a lead on your network is a huge deal. She might win an Emmy for that DAHMER role. She’s on the top of everyone’s list in Hollywood. The second she became available, [she would be snapped up,] so I think that’s an opportunity. We’re hoping they understand what they have, and they just embrace it. Because again, they really do like to show creatively. And it did really well. I mean, at the end of the day, it was more about sort of carryover numbers, because they still do that math of [viewers] going from ROOKIE into FEDS. And we were doing really good, but we weren’t at that level yet of, oh, an immediate [renewal]. But that’s what season 2 is about.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the strike?
At the end of the day, there’s a deal to be made. Everybody is ready to get back to work. But everybody is going to be out here until that happens. Nobody’s breaking this union, nobody’s breaking in SAG. And you can tell in this labor summer it’s not just us. Hotel workers are on strike. UPS workers just got a huge deal. Airline pilots just got a huge deal. This is a movement because of the sort of [widespread mentality] of profits over people.


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