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Celebrities use power of social media as a new picket line for Hollywood strike

Striking SAG-AFTRA members picket with striking WGA (Writers Guild of America) workers outside Warner Bros. Studio. Picture: AFP

Striking SAG-AFTRA members picket with striking WGA (Writers Guild of America) workers outside Warner Bros. Studio. Picture: AFP

Published Jul 18, 2023


By Herb Scribner

When Sean Gunn showed up outside of Netflix to picket amid the Hollywood strike over the weekend, he grabbed a graphic T-shirt, picked up a sign and got in line.

Several journalists recognised him and started asking him questions. "And the next thing I knew, all of my interviews were all over social media," he said on Sunday.

The actor, who appeared as a quirky yet lovable townsperson named Kirk on "Gilmore Girls," spoke to the Hollywood Reporter from the picket line, saying he doesn't see much money from Netflix, despite "Gilmore Girls" being a popular show on the streaming platform.

The show originally aired on the WB (and eventually the CW) from 2000 to 2007. It later became available to stream on Netflix in 2014.

"It has been one of their most popular shows for a very long time, over a decade," Gunn told the Hollywood Reporter. "It gets streamed over and over and over again, and I see almost none of the revenue that comes into that."

Indeed, "Gilmore Girls" is a major show on Netflix, with the studio even greenlighting a revival series titled "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life," which came out in 2016. (The reboot was once the company's most "binge-raced" series, according to a 2017 release.)

Despite the success, Gunn said, he's still receiving residuals through licensing that Warner Bros. Discovery receives - but he doesn't see anything from Netflix.

After the Hollywood Reporter video went viral, Gunn clarified his point in multiple posts on Twitter.

His criticisms of Netflix went viral, and soon Gunn found himself striking on two picket lines: one in person, one in the digital world.

"I'm very passionate about the things that I spoke about," Gunn said. "I'm also an actor. I don't really want to be famous for Sean Gunn's opinions. I want to be famous for the characters that I play."

Nearly every performer and writer is on strike for the first time in 63 years. Though writers have been picketing since May, the Screen Actors Guild approved a strike July 13 after not negotiating a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Writers and actors are calling for restrictions on artificial intelligence and for better pay amid the streaming era, while studios seem unlikely to budge.

A-list actors have been spotted striking in both New York and Los Angeles. Many celebrities, such as Gunn, are taking the fight online, too.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Gad, Yvette Nicole Brown, Keke Palmer and Mark Ruffalo are among other stars who have shared their own experiences and called for solidarity with the actors, fair pay in the streaming arena and better protection regarding the use of AI.

With one interview or post, stars can spread a message that might otherwise go unnoticed.

"Rent" actor Anthony Rapp posted an image of a grid listing the highest-paid Hollywood executives over the past five years, along with their salaries, which Rapp said shows "what's broken in show business."

Comedian Leslie Jones told her followers on Twitter that "it's not wrong" for performers to ask for what they feel they deserve, adding that she would block people who posted negative comments about the strike.

Gunn's comments to the Hollywood Reporter became a talking point across social media after it deleted its post with the interview "because it did not note that the residuals Gunn was referencing are paid by the studio [Warner Bros. Discovery] and not the streamer, Netflix." (The Hollywood Reporter did not immediately respond to The Washington Post's request for comment on why the video was taken down).

Gunn told The Post that he "didn't say anything that was untrue" in his Hollywood Reporter interview. "The point that I was making is that we do not share in the success of the programs," he said.

"Orange Is the New Black" actress Kimiko Glenn posted a TikTok in which she showed a statement from SAG for a foreign royalties payments.

Glenn, who played an inmate, Brook Soso, who led a notorious hunger strike, begins the video by saying, "I'm about to be so rich," as she looks over the statement. But then the camera pans to show her total payment: $27.30.

She posted the video on Instagram in May, and to date, the 2020 TikTok and a recent repost of the video on the platform have garnered millions of views.

She posted another video on Instagram in which she explained how little she and her co-stars were being paid while working on the show.

Her co-stars Matt McGorry and Beth Dover commented on the Instagram royalties video and expressed similar concerns.

Social media gives "the little guy a little bit of power, whereas we were potentially voiceless back in the day. Now we have the option of having a voice," Glenn told The Post on Monday.

"As an actor, you're so easily exploitable. You're so easily disposable, too," she said about deciding to speak out on social media. "There are about a billion other people who would fill your seat in a heartbeat.“

In a now-deleted video, actor Ron Perlman issued a warning to the anonymous source who told Deadline that the studios want the Hollywood strike to carry on until union members lose their homes.

Perlman said in an Instagram post that the executive should "be careful" and that "there's a lot of ways to lose your house."

He later apologised for his comments, saying: "I got quite heated because I was talking about a quote from one of the executives on the other side of the negotiations talking about how they planned to not even begin negotiating until writers and actors started losing their houses and their apartments."

Perlman later said the strike is "a symptom of the soullessness of corporate America and how everything has become corporatized in this country."

Perlman made another statement on the strike on Saturday, slamming studios again for their desire to use AI, which has been a focal point of the strike.

"Go ahead. Come for me. AI my voice. AI my likeness. AI my face," he said. "AI all of it. I will come for you in ways you can't imagine."

Performers like Perlman and Glenn who post to social media are playing a crucial role in the ongoing strike, said Gunn, the "Gilmore Girls" actor.

Because big-names actors and actresses may have security reasons to avoid standing outside, others can stand united online and keep the union's messages alive.

"I do think that anybody who can use their platform, however they have one, they should use it," he said.

"Once there's cracks, that's when things fall apart."