Los Angeles –
Star strikers, including union leaders and a troupe of comedians, tried to bolster morale Friday as a joint strike by Hollywood actors and screenwriters entered its second week with no immediate end in sight, as the novelty of the picket line wore off.
“Momentum is still building,” stand-up comedian, author and actor Marc Maron said outside Netflix headquarters. “I also have some comedy buddies. We were like, ‘Let’s go, let’s get there for sure, let’s come to the union.’ There’s a lot of people here, but in the end you have to do that, you have to negotiate, right?”
Maron was in the Netflix series GLOW. Netflix’s headquarters in an increasingly hip area of Hollywood has become a bustling hub, with music playing and food trucks serving ice cream, shaved ice and churros during the strike.
The picket line is filled with fellow comedians and comedians, including Saturday Night Live and Portlandia alum Fred Armisen, Hux star Hannah Einbinder, Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor Chelsea Peretti, What You Can Do in the Shadows vampire Mark Proksch, and longtime comedy team members Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker. He said he was not optimistic about an early end to the trike.
“I think it’s going to be a long fight, a long fight,” Heidecker said. “We have to stay here until we get what we need.”
But they were confident they would find the sustenance to get through it.
“We have Arby’s here, but Eric hasn’t eaten Arby’s in a year,” Heidecker said.
“It’s been 364 days since I ate a big roast beef, and I still do it today,” Wareheim said.
Sprawling corporate campuses like Warner Bros. Studios and Walt Disney Studios in Burbank are having a hard time keeping up with picketers, and a Southern California heatwave has been raging all week.
But as the strike dragged on, regular appearances by star writers and actors shocked picket lines in Los Angeles and New York, drawing attention to issues important to both writers and actors: maintaining established practices such as increasing wages, paying balances, and protecting against the use of artificial intelligence. About 65,000 actors (the majority of whom earn less than $27,000 a year from film work) and 11,500 screenwriters are on strike.
On Friday, London actors expressed solidarity with their compatriots in the Screen Actors Guild and the Federation of American Television and Radio Artists. Brian Cox, Andy Serkis, Hayley Atwell, Simon Pegg and Imelda Staunton joined other performers and production crews in Leicester Square for a demo organized by the British Actors Guild Equity.
Using British slang for actors, they shouted, “One game at a time, we support the SAG-AFTRA fight” and “The fanatics united never lose.”
Cox, who played media mogul Logan Roy in “Succession,” said, “I think we’re on the edge of a scary wedge,” as artificial intelligence shakes the foundations of how actors work.
“Wages are part of the problem, but the worst aspect is the whole idea of AI and what it can do for us,” he said. “AI is a really, really serious thing, and it’s what we’re most vulnerable to.”
The British Actors Guild has not gone on strike, but many of its members are also members of the US union.
Cox said it was important for the actors to show solidarity with the Writers Guild of America’s impressive screenwriters.
“Without writers, we are like furniture,” he said.
“I’m probably one of the most watched actors on the planet,” said Serkis, who has become a specialist in playing digitally created characters since first playing Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series 20 years ago.
“I know my library of images and movements, my voice can be used,” he said, adding, “It’s wrong for them to be so easily accessed and used without paying the artist.”
In the United States, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago were among the major cities to strike on Wednesday and Thursday, showing that filmmaking isn’t limited to New York and Los Angeles.
It’s unclear when talks with studios and streaming companies represented by the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance will resume. The organization said it has offered significant pay increases for both screenwriters and actors and has tried to meet other demands.
“Get back to the table. Be realistic. Think of people making money with a little more socialism in their hearts,” Pegg of “Mission: Impossible” told studios and streaming services.
Many in the U.S. picket line are piggybacking on comments from corporate bosses such as Disney CEO Bob Iger, who last week said the union’s demands were “unrealistic.”
At Wednesday’s earnings event, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said he grew up in a union family and knew the strike was painful for workers and their families.
“We are committed to reaching an agreement as soon as possible, which is fair and allows unions, industry and everyone involved to move forward,” he said.
Lawless reports from London. Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.