NEW YORK (AP) – SAG-AFTRA held its largest and most star-studded rally of solidarity in Times Square on Tuesday, 12 days after the actors’ strike.
A day after a Variety report questioned the lack of A-listers protesting so far, Tuesday’s rally claimed more star wattage than any single strike action ever. Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cranston, Brendan Fraser, Ellen Burstyn, Wendell Pierce, Steve Buscemi, Rachel Ziegler, Michael Shannon, Jane Curtin, Christian Slater and Chloe Grace Moretz were among those who joined the crowd of protesters.
Encircling the entire city, actors and actors’ union representatives took turns delivering fiery speeches from a stage in the middle of Times Square, while tourists looked on and passing trucks honked in support. At times, the actors took aim at the corporate lights and billboards around them, including the Walt Disney-owned ESPN and ABC studios sitting alongside the rally.
“We’ve got a message for Mr. Iger,” Cranston said, directing his remarks toward Disney CEO Bob Iger. “I know, sir, that you see things in a different light. We don’t expect you to understand who we are, but we ask you to listen to us, and even more so, to listen to us when we tell you that we will not take away your jobs and give them to robots. We will not take away your right to work and make a good living.”
The rally took place just across the street from a Broadway theater and, given the talent involved, displayed a higher level of show business than your typical labor rally. “Avatar” actor Stephen Lang quotes Frederick Douglass. Wendell Pierce recites Samuel Beckett. Titus Burgess did not speak; He sang Stephen Sondheim.
Ariane Moed, who played investor Stevie Hosseini in “Succession,” compared the characters on the HBO series to studio executives the actors are interacting with.
“It seems these people haven’t seen (the profanity) ‘succession’,” Moeed said. “It’s about you!”
Christine Baranski of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight” similarly drew inspiration from her credits.
“We will not live under corporate feudalism. It’s time, it’s time to just set things right. Our contribution will not be underestimated, and we will not be robbed,” Baranski said before concluding: “Let’s fight the good fight!”
Earlier this month, the actor joined the striking screenwriters who walked out in May. This is the first time since 1960 that both the unions are on strike at the same time. Almost all film and television production has come to a halt because of the strike. Actors say the streaming revolution has transformed pay in entertainment, taking away their residuals and changing working conditions. They are also calling for increases in federal health care and pension programs, as well as protections against the use of artificial intelligence.
“Our industry has changed rapidly,” Cranston said. “We are not in the business model we were in even 10 years ago. And yet, even though they acknowledge that this is true in today’s economy, they are fighting desperately for us to cling to the same economic system that is out-of-date, out-of-date. They want us to go back in time.”
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which is negotiating on behalf of the studios, has said it has offered actors a generous deal that includes the biggest increase in the minimum wage in 35 years, among other benefits. Since talks broke down and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists began the strike, the two sides have not held talks and no talks are scheduled.
SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said, “We may be on strike, but I told them on July 12 that we are prepared to continue talking tomorrow and every day until we reach an agreement.” SAG-AFTRA is ready, willing and able to return to the bargaining table.
“The only reason we’re not there now is because those companies said they didn’t want to deal with people who were rude and because those companies said they wouldn’t be willing to talk for a while,” Crabtree-Ireland said.
Several actors went on strike privately on Tuesday. Slater said Union’s health care helped sustain his father’s life. Slater’s father, actor Michael Hawkings, died last November. Bronx-born actor Lisa Colon-Zayas, 51, of the Hulu hit series “The Bear,” says her lifetime of hard work is not paying off.
“I’ve fought for 35 years to get here and have found that the remains are rapidly diminishing,” Colon-Zays said. “If you can declare it as the most viewed and most profitable, you can track down our residuals. So we need to come to the table, but we need to come to the table in good faith that there will be transparency in how we’re being paid by streaming. We need you to open the books.”
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