SAG-AFTRA strike: Issa Rae, Taraji P. Henson and more actors react

The actors union now joins the WGA in striking as the streaming era redefines and shapes the entertainment industry at large.

SAG-AFTRA is officially on strike. After weeks of deliberation and rumblings, the actors union is joining the WGA in the fight for better working conditions and compensation in the streaming era, marking the first time in over 40 years that two major Hollywood unions are on strike at the same time. 

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Issa Rae, shown at a “Barbie” event in Australia last month, announced her support for Hollywood’s writers and actors unions. In London this week to promote the film, she wrote on Instagram: “This Barbie is on strike.” (Photo by Hanna Lassen/Getty Images)

Just as the announcement came in from the union, many actors used their platforms and social media to react to the strike, spreading their message of solidarity with the unions in this pivotal moment in Hollywood history.

Famed writer and actor Issa Rae is a member of both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA and used her Instagram to announce her support for both unions. The “Insecure” star was in London promoting her new “Barbie” film when she wrote in a post, “This Barbie is on strike.”

According to the strike guidelines laid out by the union, actors must refrain from performing new work and any promotional obligations often tied to on-camera work. That means no red carpets, junket interviews, award shows, film festivals and more, per Variety.

A big hurdle in front of both the writers and actors when negotiating with the studios is the use of artificial intelligence), from AI-generated scripts to even using an actor’s likeness without proper compensation. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, actress Taraji P. Henson said, “It’s all greed. Greed will be the end of humanity. You can’t just steal humans’ likenesses; you can’t do all of this work that you do as an artist for some computer to generate you. It’s just it’s not fair.”

Colman Domingo, another writer and actor in the business and Henson’s “The Color Purple” co-star, tweeted, “We Closed. Period.”

Tyler James Williams, of “Abbott Elementary,” spoke to THR, saying, “For years, I’ve had friends that are series regulars on shows who cannot afford to live in L.A. We’ve been talking about this for years, since the streaming model popped up.”

“It’s almost impossible officially to live in L.A., where most TV shows either shoot or your workspace has to be on a 10-episode arc under an exclusivity deal with no residuals,” he added. “It’s just not sustainable. And it’s a wild thing to see that happen to people.”

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Tyler James Williams speaks at the Essence Festival in New Orleans last month. Addressing the twin strikes in Hollywood, the “Abbott Elementary” said the pay vs. cost-of-living imbalance for actors and writers is “not sustainable.” (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Essence)

Another loud voice in the industry is actor and activist Kendrick Sampson (“Insecure”). Since the WGA first went on strike in May, Sampson has used his platform and shown up in person to strike with writers. As the SAG-AFTRA strike was announced, Sampson posted a thread detailing his own experience in the industry and how minimal his residual income is even after starring in multiple successful projects.

Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer also shared her support on Instagram, writing, “I stand with my fellow #SAGAFTRAMembers during the #SAGStrike alongside the #WGA in their fight. And I support the many skilled unionized workers across all industries that deserve fair compensation.  We cannot do it without each other.”

For more on the SAG-AFTRA strike, head to the official site here.

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