CASTLE, COVERT AFFAIRS, and GREY'S ANATOMY Stars Share The Importance of Getting a Fair Contract for SAG-AFTRA - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

CASTLE, COVERT AFFAIRS, and GREY’S ANATOMY Stars Share The Importance of Getting a Fair Contract for SAG-AFTRA

October 6, 2023 by  

Performers from first responder shows, including GREY’S ANATOMY, STATION 19, and ER. (Photo credit: Marisa Roffman/Give Me My Remote.)

Actors who have portrayed medical professionals, first responders, law enforcement figures, and more came out to show their support for the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike at the themed “Hollywood’s Bravest and Finest” event at Warner Bros. on Friday, October 6.

“The kind of career I’ve been able to have as a middle-class working actor is almost impossible now because of the changes in the business,” Christopher Gorham (UGLY BETTY, COVERT AFFAIRS, THE LINCOLN LAWYER), who has been walking on the picket lines since the WGA went on strike, tells Give Me My Remote. “Our contract hasn’t kept up with those changes. It’s existential that we get improvements on our deal, to allow people to raise a family and be actors.”

It’s been dubbed a Hot Labor Summer for the entertainment industry, as first the WGA and then SAG-AFTRA went on strike. The WGA’s strike wrapped up in September, after nearly 150 days, while SAG-AFTRA’s labor dispute is still ongoing at 85 days. (Negotiations between the union and the studios resumed this week.) And while some of the issues for the two unions overlap, there are some things on the table for the actors that are specific to their needs.

“[We need] audition protection, self-tape regulations—the two-tiered system [for payment] is BS,” Seamus Dever, who was picketing alongside his former CASTLE co-stars Nathan Fillion and Jon Huertas, says. “Every time I work for a streamer, we work at a discount; I’m not alone in this. But they ask you your quote…you go, ‘Here’s what I get paid [on] network [TV] for that.’ And they go, ‘Okay, how about we give you a 10th of that, because that’s what we can afford.’”

“We’ve been giving these people a discount for such a long time to make television,” he continues. “But they don’t understand that the status quo that we’ve established [in the] last ten years is not the real status quo. They were crying to us that they didn’t know if they were gonna make any money off streaming, and now they proved that streaming is the future, streaming is the thing. It’s not the exception, it is the rule. So let’s build in tiers, so that everybody gets treated equals—that’s for everybody. That’s for crews and for actors. If you’re working on something, this is the rate. Enough of [saying it’s unproven]. We’ve been doing it for too long.”


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A post shared by Seamus Dever (@seamuspatrickdever)

How much—or little—actors and writers get in residuals has been a hot topic this strike, especially as shows like SUITS have broken streaming records…while the creative team has talked about seeing virtually no money from the success.

“[It’s] very important,” Dever says of residuals’ importance to performers. “And they’ve been great for my show, but that’s the old model. We were protected in that way. If I was on one of these [streaming] shows, or a cable show like SUITS…they weren’t getting anything on their cable reruns anyway, for their syndication. So when that stuff gets packaged together…and sold to Netflix, those people aren’t making anything. I mean, that’s money that could have sustained them for years and years and years. And that’s the purpose of residuals: to get you through the lean times.”

“Without that, I don’t know how many people are going to be able to do this as a profession,” he continues. “The things that get you by, in between jobs, that’s just the way it is in our industry; it’s unique. I wish everyone else understood that in that world—you can’t just hop from gig to gig, and expect to have longevity. That was the purpose of these things; it would give us some stability so people weren’t losing their homes. So people can have families…That’s the purpose of residuals. And if that goes away, you’re not gonna get the same kind of life and you’ll probably get a lot less people who want to do it. And a lot less interesting work, to be honest.”

STATION 19 star Jason George (who is a member of the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee) coordinated much of the themed picket—including sponsoring a food truck—as stars from the GREY’S ANATOMY and S19 universe took photos and gave speeches about the importance of the strike.

SAG-AFTRA strike

James Pickens Jr. on the picket line. (Photo credit: Marisa Roffman/Give Me My Remote.)

After the group photo, GA star James Pickens Jr. shared with GMMR that this strike is “about value.”

“It’s to feel appreciated for what we’ve done, the content we helped create; we are just looking for equity,” he says. “At the end of the day, that’s what’s important. This is for the rank and file, for those actors out there—this is a living for them, not a hobby. And those that are just trying to make their health insurance and dental—this is who the strike is for. And we’re going to maintain our strength, keep focus, and stay strong until we have a deal that is fair for everyone.”

Of the hot-button issues, Pickens Jr. expresses concern about AI. “It’s here; it’s nothing that’s in the future—it’s here now,” he says. “How is that going to translate? Our value is more than just somebody clicking a key on the computer. That’s important, and we’re fighting…this is our livelihood, this is our life work, and we want to be appreciated for it.”

And time could be of the essence in the AI fight: “AI is an emerging threat; we have to have protection,” Gorham says. “The technology is moving so quickly, that if we don’t get the protections in this contract, it may be too late next time [we renegotiate in three years].”

“I think it’s a once-in-a-generation time for our union,” Dever adds. “It really is our time to step [up] and show that we are serious about this. There’s so many of us in our union—we’re the biggest one [in entertainment]. It really is incumbent on us to protect the people who are a little bit more vulnerable in the union—and I’m talking about the background artists.”

“AI, that [is] a super big thing for our background artists,” he continues. “That whole craft will disappear unless we have protections for those people.”

Dever, who has also frequently been on the lines, notes, “It’s just important for us to show our faces out here, show that this affects all of us all along the line, from the top down and everybody in our union.”

SAG-AFTRA strike

Christopher Gorham on the picket line. (Photo credit: Marisa Roffman/Give Me My Remote.)

Gorham echoes the importance of known actors being on the lines—both to show solidarity and to foster a supportive circle amid the unprecedented times.

“There’s been an incredible amount of community-building on the line that’s been happening,” he says. “I think our members around the country have been feeling very hungry for that community, especially since the pandemic. And I think it’s especially important for actors who are recognizable to be out, for the leaders in our industry to be leading by example. So that’s one of the reasons I’ve felt it was important for me to be out here every week.”  

Gorham also praises the other unions that have been out to support the striking workers. “The support we’ve gotten from around the country and other unions in particular is really felt and deeply appreciated,” he says. “The message to the other unions is: We’ll have your back like you’ve had ours.”

For fans who want to help from home, “support actors,” Dever urges. “They’re your favorite people on TV, but they really need your support now and your understanding that this is not just about money… There’s just a lot of other stuff. It’s about the way we’ve been conditioned since the pandemic for our auditions…it’s changed our industry. And it’s now time to actually put some rules in place that everybody has to abide by.”

But there is hope the end of the strike could be around the corner. (As of press time, the last joint statement from SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP only confirmed the groups would negotiate on October 6 and then meet back up on October 9.)

“I’m optimistic,” Gorham says. “The writers came to an agreement that shows the AMPTP was ready to actually negotiate in good faith, and they got a good deal. I don’t know what the point would be at warming up the engine of the car if you weren’t going to make a deal with your drivers…I’m optimistic we’re going to come to a deal. And if we don’t, we’ll be out here until we do.”


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