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Hollywood actors, negotiating a new contract with studios, are prepared to strike

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have a Hollywood cliffhanger next. Actors have a strike deadline tonight.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Their union, known by the acronym SAG-AFTRA, has been negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for several weeks. But if they don't reach an agreement or extend the deadline, the actors would walk out, as the writers already did.

INSKEEP: NPR's Mandalit del Barco is covering this. Hey there.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: So how close are they to a deal?

DEL BARCO: Well, you know, early this week, things seem to be looking good. SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher - you may remember her from the TV show "The Nanny" - well, she sent a video message about the negotiations to members.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRAN DRESCHER: Well, frankly, it's very confidential what's going on in there. But I just want to assure you that we are having an extremely productive negotiations that are laser-focused on all of the crucial issues you told us are most important to you. And we're standing strong, and we're going to achieve a seminal deal.

INSKEEP: Love that familiar voice, but please go on.

DEL BARCO: Yeah. Yeah, well, you know, some of those crucial issues she was talking about include getting better residuals from hit shows on the streaming platforms. And also a big concern for the actors is getting protected from the use of artificial intelligence. Actors are afraid their images and their work is going to be replaced by AI.

INSKEEP: A mirror of one of the concerns in the writers' strike. But if they...

DEL BARCO: Exactly.

INSKEEP: ...Seemed close on these things, why might they still strike?

DEL BARCO: Well, apparently many of the members were worried that the negotiators weren't standing firm enough. You know, nearly all of them, 98%, had already voted to authorize a strike if needed. And after Fran Drescher's message went out, actors sent them a letter urging them not to settle for a deal and saying they were ready to strike. That was signed by 300 members, including A-listers Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Quinta Brunson. And by the following day, the list grew to more than a thousand performers, including Amy Poehler, Joaquin Phoenix, Jamie Lee Curtis and Pedro Pascal. And this is the most curious part, though, Steve - Fran Drescher also signed the letter that was addressed to herself...

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

DEL BARCO: ...And other SAG-AFTRA leaders. You know, so we'll have to see if they call a strike. And, you know, for full transparency, I do have to say that many of us here at NPR are members of SAG-AFTRA, but we're not covered under the TV-theatrical contract, so we would not be expected to go on strike if one is called.

INSKEEP: Nevertheless, if the actors go on strike, they would join the writers on strike. What's that been like in recent days?

DEL BARCO: Yeah, well, you know, I've gone to so many of the picket lines these past two months, and I've met a lot of actors who've been protesting in solidarity with the writers - some of them famous, some of them background extras. And all of them told me that they're ready to strike. Yesterday I was outside Netflix, where striking writers got a special visit from Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. Here's what Fonda told the crowd about the studios and the streamers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JANE FONDA: They better watch out.

(CHEERING)

FONDA: If the actors go out with the writers, this industry will be shut down.

(CHEERING)

DEL BARCO: So I should mention, Steve, that the last time there was a dual strike in Hollywood, it was 1960. The Screen Actors Guild hadn't yet merged with AFTRA, and that was led by then-actor Ronald Reagan, long before he was president. And the actors joined with the writers to demand they get paid residuals if movies were played on TV. Now they're asking for residuals from the streamers.

INSKEEP: OK. Some things change, but stay the same. Mandalit, thanks so much.

DEL BARCO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Mandalit del Barco, our culture correspondent in Los Angeles. 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.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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.
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