By Danielle Broadway
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Laz Alonso recalled his days as an aspiring actor trying to break into the industry with the preconceived notion that all actors were rich.
“It’s very easy to think all the Hollywood stars or anybody in Hollywood is rich and swimming in money in a swimming pool. That’s just not the case,” Alonso said as he marched in solidarity with the striking Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) during a picket outside the Amazon Studios lot.
While Alonso is now well-known for his role as Mother’s Milk on the Prime Video show “The Boys,” he began his career with many smaller roles on lower budget projects.
“It’s a very blue-collar industry. It takes a very, very long time for most people to be considered working consistently,” he said.
Hollywood’s actors union voted to authorize a strike in early June, and if contract talks fail between chief negotiators and studios by the Friday contract deadline, they will join the WGA on the picket lines to demand new contracts from film and television studios.
The SAG-AFTRA actors union said 97.91% of ballots cast supported strike authorization. Nearly 65,000 members, or about 48% of those eligible, voted on the measure.
One of the biggest changes that both actors and writers are advocating for is increased base compensation in a television world in which streaming has shortened series and reduced employment, endangering their financial health.
Ahead of the Friday deadline, over 700 SAG members, including industry power players like Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Glenn Close signed a letter this week to the leadership of SAG-AFTRA.
“If you are not able to get all the way there, we ask that you use the power given to you by us, the membership, and join the WGA on the picket lines,” the letter reads.
“For our union and its future, this is our moment.”
‘MIDDLE CLASS’ INDUSTRY
The letter came after SAG-AFTRA leadership said over the weekend that contract talks with the studios had been “extremely productive,” a possible sign that a deal was within reach. The union and studios had agreed to a media blackout during talks.
But the solidarity from high-wattage talent could be a boost for actors struggling to land enough gigs to make ends meet.
Jackie Tohn, known for her role as Melanie “MelRose” Rosen on the Netflix series “GLOW,” said people outside of the industry need to understand the reality that most actors do not get paid for about 98% of the work they put into their careers.
“We go on auditions all the time, and as an actor, when I get paid is for when I get a job,” Tohn said. “But most of the time, I don’t get a job.”
Tohn said that when she finally does get paid after getting a new role, the money immediately goes toward bills and essential living expenses like gas, her mortgage and groceries.
Tohn believes only the highest echelon of actors are working all the time.
Eric Kripke, creator of “Supernatural” on The CW and showrunner for “The Boys,” said there is a very small percentage of people who make “ridiculous money.”
“The vast majority of the entertainment industry is middle class,” he said. “With the exception of a handful of actors, every actor I know, needs to get jobs to cover their rent and take care of their families.”
At the “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” premiere in London, Harrison Ford told Reuters he is ready to support his fellow SAG members if a strike is authorized.
“I believe in unions. I believe in labor. I believe in representation, all of those things. If my union votes to go out, I’ll go out,” he said.
(Reporting by Danielle Broadway; Additional reporting by Hanna Rantala in London; Editing by Mary Milliken and Sandra Maler)