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Exclusive: What it's like on the SAG-AFTRA picket lines with 9-1-1: Lone Star's Gina Torres, Succession's Alan Ruck and other stars

SAG is heading back to the negotiating table, and HELLO! spoke to striking actors in Hollywood

Alan Ruck and Gina Torres on picket line
Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca LewisReporterLos Angeles
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As the Screen Actors Guild strike prepares to hit week four, the picket lines are still buzzing with energy, music and optimism. It is, as 9-1-1: Lone Star's Gina Torres tells HELLO! , a space for friends "who have sacrificed and hustled daily". 

"I've been here every week because it's important to change a business model for everyone," said Gina, who was at Sony Studios on Friday August 4 for a special picket in collaboration with Latinas Acting Up, a community of Latinas in entertainment who have come together to share the impact of their collective voice during the strikes.

9-1-1 Lone Star's Gina Torres shares why she is striking

"If the business model changes for everyone at the top, then it should change as well for everyone who's actually making the content and that's why I'm here, I'm here so that we can all make fair wages based on what it is that we contribute – and we contribute a great deal." 

The day before at Walt Disney, Gina's 9-1-1 franchise co-stars Oliver Stark and Aisha Hinds were spotted with friends making an appearance. Also out on the picket line on Friday was Glamorous star Diana Riva, one of the founders of LAU, and Criminal Minds actor Adam Rodriguez who, along with Victor Rasuk of How I Met Your Father, quipped to HELLO!: "We're out here because we want to get paid!" 

Gina Torres with Gloria Kellett, Diana Riva and Lisa Vidal© Instagram
Gina Torres with Gloria Kellett, Diana Riva and Lisa Vidal

"We're out here in solidarity with our brothers and sister unions and it does come down to wanting to get paid a fair wage," added Adam. "You just can't keep squeezing people down and expect them to stick around LA or California or anywhere else where the film industry is a hub of business." 

"The mood is that we're still feeling optimistic more than ever," he continued. 

Gina is seen picketing with SAG-AFTRA and WGA members outside of Fox studios on July 24, 2023 in Los Angeles, California© MEGA
Gina is seen picketing with SAG-AFTRA and WGA members outside of Fox studios on July 24, 2023 in Los Angeles, California

Over at Warner Bros on Thursday August 3, the vibe was equally celebratory, with actors and writers mixing as they walked back and forth along the line. Succession stars Alan Ruck and Justin Kirk were both in attendance, and Justin – who starred alongside Drew Barrymore in Santa Clarita Diet — acknowledged to HELLO! that he "hoped that things happen sooner than later for everyone's sake". 

"The mood is great - but then you go home and weep," he laughed, revealing that he has been spending some time "doing some backyard check off". 

Aisha Hinds at the SAG Strike at Warner Brothers Studio in Hollywood

Aisha Hinds at the SAG Strike at Warner Brothers Studio in Hollywood

"I'm a big believer in collective bargaining," he shared, turning serious. "I love a union; health care is phenomenal. I got my card 30 years ago but it's been a changing landscape and we have to catch up." 

Alan, known to many for his friendship with his Ferris Bueller's Day Off costar Matthew Broderick, concurred, and said he felt that the guild was "in good shape" as negotiations picked back up again.

Justin Kirk and Kieran Culkin in Succession© HBO
Justin Kirk and Kieran Culkin in Succession

"I know people have mixed feelings about these interim agreements and personally I wouldn't go make a movie right now but I have money in the bank and other people don't," he admitted to HELLO!

"Plus, these companies that have the interim agreements, they have agreed to everything we want and I think there's actually legally binding language in the agreements that they can't sell it to anybody who won't deal with us. So I think these agreements bode well for us, that a lot of people think what we're asking for is fair so I'm very, I'm very hopeful." 

As for criticisms that many are facing from fans on social media, Alan shared the shocking statistic that 86% of guild members do not make enough money yearly to qualify for healthcare; you must earn $25,950 in covered earnings (money that contributes towards social security) within a one year span or work 100 days to qualify for the plan.

Alan Ruck at the SAG Strike at Warner Brothers Studio in Hollywood
Alan Ruck at the SAG Strike at Warner Brothers Studio in Hollywood

"People across the country are saying, 'all those whining millionaires,' but when they put out the numbers of what people actually make I believe 86% of our membership of SAG does not make enough money to qualify for health coverage. That's it, right there, that should tell you what's going on." 

"At this time too I think there's a lot of movie stars and TV stars, big people who are with us and so I'm very encouraged," he concluded. 

"Sooner or later these people are going to have to come to the table and make a deal because they have no product. Well, maybe Netflix, but maybe not CBS, maybe not NBC, maybe not Fox, so we'll see, it will take the time it takes."

Why are actors going on strike?

SAG-AFTRA member voted to strike on July 13 2023. 

In 2022 it was reported that the average hourly pay for a California actor was $27.73 per hour. But many working actors do not work Monday-Friday 9am - 5pm jobs, and 86% of the 160,000 strong guild do not make more than $25,950 in covered earnings (money that contributes towards social security) per year, and therefore do not qualify for healthcare insurance.

Actors also receive financial compensations when their TV shows are syndicated, rerun, have a DVD release or enjoy a move to streaming services. The calculation is complex and can change depending on initial contract, length of time an actor has had guild membership, and the type of production. As an example the Friends cast – Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and Matthew Perry – receive 2% of the syndication revenue for their hit WB show, meaning their annually bring in around $20million each. But as streaming services such as Netflix continue to refuse to share ratings, it makes it unclear how often content is played and it lowers an actor's residual calculation. 

The SAG and Writers Guild of America members are also both fighting AMPTP over protections for their work against Artificial Intelligence, and fears that technology would replace humans.

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