UK Stars Join in Ongoing Actor’s Strike
In a show of solidarity, British A-list actors, including Brian Cox, Imelda Staunton, Naomie Harris, and Simon Pegg, gathered in Leicester Square to support the ongoing strikes disrupting the film and television industries in the US.
UK - Representing their union, Equity, the actors stood in front of large cinema billboards while waving placards with messages like "Support artists not algorithms" and "This Barbie's last residual was $0.02".
The strikes were called by Sag-Aftra, the sister union of Equity in the US, and focus on issues related to residuals, which are payments performers receive for repeat showings of films or TV shows, as well as concerns about actors' likenesses being used by artificial intelligence. The joint action between Sag-Aftra and the Writers Guild of America has led to a standstill in film and television production, garnering support from prominent Hollywood stars like Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Jennifer Lawrence, and Joaquin Phoenix.
At the rally, Brian Cox, known for his role in the hit series Succession, emphasised the importance of residuals for actors' livelihoods, especially concerning health expenses in the US. He also addressed the challenges posed by AI, with some actors having their images used without consent by studios. Cox stressed the need to fight against such unacceptable practices.
Rob Delaney, a star of Catastrophe, expressed confidence in the actors' cause, likening the industry trade association to "silly little toddlers" who refuse to acknowledge actors' rightful demands for fair pay. Rakie Ayola, known for portraying Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, criticised streaming services for making enormous profits while many actors struggled to make ends meet.
Although the strikes are primarily affecting the US, many Equity members in the UK also hold Sag-Aftra cards and may hesitate to work during the strike. The UK's anti-strike legislation has limited the ability of UK actors to strike in solidarity, but Equity has pledged unwavering support to Sag-Aftra. Equity's general secretary, Paul W Fleming, assured that they would ensure contracts were not altered to take work away from US actors and that Sag-Aftra members could apply for work on Equity agreements if the terms matched their demands.
As negotiations approach next year, Equity anticipates similar concerns over pay and AI issues in the UK. With the majority of British film and TV made on union agreements, and a significant number of actors being Equity members, the UK expects to follow the US's lead in addressing these critical industry issues.
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