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Hollywood actors are on the picket lines as they strike against major studios

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Actors have now joined the picket lines of screenwriters, who've been on strike against producers and streaming companies since early May. Just to note here, many NPR staffers are also members of SAG-AFTRA, though we're under a different contract than the actors. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has been covering the Hollywood labor disputes and has this report.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Outside Netflix headquarters in Hollywood, it's a party with writers and actors on strike.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Chanting) I said hey, I said ho, corporate greed has got to go.

WILLIAM CADENA: It's great. It's so nice to see everyone in solidarity and joining forces for pay and equity.

DEL BARCO: William Cadena, who's been in a lot of commercials, said the actors and writers are also fighting to regulate the use of artificial intelligence, which they say threatens to replace their work. On the other side, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers says it offered an historic contract regarding pay and AI. The studios' alliance says the strike will cause further hardship for the film and TV industry. Just before the strike was announced, Disney CEO Bob Iger was on CNBC criticizing the striking actors and writers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOB IGER: There's a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic, and they are adding to a set of challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive and dangerous.

DAVID FABER: So they're not being realistic.

IGER: No, they're not.

DEL BARCO: But comments like that have angered striking actors like Kristin McLaughlin and Jordan Hull.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: These CEOs that are making millions and millions of dollars, and they think that we're being ridiculous asking to have fair wages. We're not asking for an obscene amount. We're just asking to be able to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Writers and actors and directors and everyone in front and behind the camera are the reason that movies are made. And so we deserve compensation. And so I hope these studio corporate greed heads start to realize that.

DEL BARCO: Performers on strike point out that only a small percentage of the 160,000 SAG-AFTRA members can afford to make a living through acting. In LA and New York, some of the big-name stars were also on the picket lines. This is the first double strike by Hollywood actors and writers since 1960 when Ronald Reagan was president, not of the U.S., but the Screen Actors Guild. Here he is a week into that strike, talking outside the Hollywood Palladium Theater.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RONALD REAGAN: We negotiated with the producers for the first time in the area which heretofore has not been a subject for negotiations. And I believe that in a spirit of goodwill and fair negotiations, we are now on our way to a settlement of what has been a very regrettable and tragic affair.

DEL BARCO: As a result of the 1960s strikes, actors and writers secured health care benefits, pensions and a compensation system of residuals when movies were aired on television. Now, as Hollywood has turned to streaming services, actors and writers say residuals are once again an issue, and they're mad. Outside Netflix yesterday, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher blasted the studios.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRAN DRESCHER: We were duped. We thought that they were really serious about making some deep inroads for us, but that's not what happened. They went behind closed doors. They canceled meetings with us, but they came back with bupkis. And I think they were manipulating us so that they can further promote their summer movies.

DEL BARCO: During the strike, the actors won't be able to act, sing, do stunts or promote upcoming movies. But Ravi Naidu, who is in the series "Mayfair Witches" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," says it's worth it. He sees this as part of the country's labor union movement.

RAVI NAIDU: I hope that this is the start of what we need to see changed in our system of capitalism. It's become greedism (ph), and it's just bizarre that we have created a system that is designed to eat each other.

DEL BARCO: The actors and the writers say they'll be out here on the picket lines as long as it takes to get their Hollywood ending.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Hollywood. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.