Writers on the Line

On the Line
So Strike We All
A Battlestar Galactica picket invades Universal, Paramount rings in the Jewish New Year, and Chris & Robert Pine walk the line at Disney
Friday, September 22, 2023

So Strike We All: Battlestar Galactica at NBCUniversal

(L-R) Battlestar Galactica actors Michael Trucco, Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and WGAW member Anne Cofell Saunders at the Battlestar picket at NBCUniversal. Photo by J.W. Hendricks. 

Some people just can’t let Cylons be bygones.
Which is why, 14 years after its conclusion, the writers, actors, crew, and fans of TV’s Battlestar Galactica came together for a reunion picket at NBCUniversal Thursday. The picket, organized by NBCUniversal Lot Coordinator Kristine Huntley and showrunner Anne Cofell Saunders, included food trucks and a raffle which served as a fundraiser for the Green Envelope Grocery Aid program.
“We were specifically looking for Universal properties for special pickets because we’re always trying to draw people to this lot,” said Huntley. “I’m a huge Battlestar Galactica fan. It was one of the inspirations for me in wanting to become a TV writer.”
“We wanted to do something that would help out the Guild,” added David Weddle, a writer and supervising producer on the series who also serves as a Lot Coordinator at Sony. “It’s kind of perfect because it’s 20 years since the series was made. Twenty years ago we participated in something amazing together. What a great occasion to come together as a family. It’s a wonderful experience in the midst of the tumult of the strike.”
Although he was unable to attend, series developer, producer, and showrunner Ronald D. Moore gave the picket his blessing and sent a signed script to raffle. Other writers chipped in with series memorabilia.
“I’m so grateful for the fans, and for everyone who believes in the show,” said Saunders. “Because when we were on it, we didn’t know it was going to be this cultural hit that would last and linger in people’s memories. At the time, it just felt like a really fun ride, a way to do some things that maybe Star Trek couldn’t."
Battlestar Galactica was one of Saunders’ first staffing jobs as a Guild member, setting her on a path toward writing and producing for such genre series as Smallville, Revolution, The Boys and Star Trek: Discovery. Since the start of the strike she founded the Genre Queens group designed to help up-and-coming writers working in science fiction and fantasy to learn the ins and outs of showrunning. When she entered the business, there were only a handful of women writing genre. During a Genre Queens picket early in the 2023 strike, more than 250 people attended.
“We did this during the strike to try to help each other grow, because I think everyone felt all this momentum form in their careers, and that kind of stopped during the strike,” Saunders said. “So it’s a way of trying to help support each other and change the culture of TV to be a little more welcoming to female showrunners of genre.”
Befitting the occasion of a science fiction series reunion, several of the attendees looked to the future of the industry changed by the development of AI. Jane Espenson, a co-EP on Battlestar Galactica, imagined a future where writers’ rooms were cut to the absolute minimum.
“We cannot have a future in which there is only one writer per show and a showrunner is rewriting AI-generated scripts,” Espenson said. “That would be a disaster.”
“I don’t want to be an editor to AI’s first draft,” agreed Saunders. “When you build something from the bottom up, when you’re a structuralist writer like I am, there’s that excitement and that energy. There’s such an amazing catharsis to writing, and I would hate for us to insert AI in a way that takes away the way that humanity tells their own stories.”
Among the series cast in attendance, two-time Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell praised the striking WGA and SAG-AFTRA members for holding firm.
“We can’t go back now. We must redefine ourselves in the face of all this,” McDonnell said. “I do believe that everyone here and everyone at the top wants to be part of telling the stories of human existence. The studios must shift their perspectives toward ideas of integrity and dignity and help.”
“We’ll be here as long as we have to until we are at the moment where we can commence telling stories again,” McDonnell added. “I can’t wait.”

Battlestar Galactica raffle winners. Photo by J.W. Hendricks. 

A Picket at Paramount to Ring in the Jewish New Year

WGAW members Sarah Afkami at Paramount. Photo by J.W. Hendricks.

Addressing the group of striking Jewish writers, actors, and supporters who had gathered at Paramount for the first picket of the Jewish new year, SAG-AFTRA member and “2 Pickets, 2 Jewrious” picket organizer Melanie Ehrlich wished everyone a happy new year, regaled the group with some facts about the presence of Jews in organized labor.
Among the factoids: the longest-serving president of the AFL-CIO, Samuel Gompers, the son of Jewish immigrants, joined his first union in 1864 at the age of 14. One of the oldest unions, the United Hebrew Trades Association, formed in 1888, and the nation’s first theatrical union, the Hebrew Actors’ Union, was founded in 1899.
“Jews have not just been involved in the labor movement for a while, we have been at the forefront of it in this country for over 150 years,” Ehrlich said.
Ehrlich’s speech concluded with her friend and WGAW member Sarah Afkami blowing the shofar to welcome the new year.
“Jewish values and fighting for collective labor rights are so intertwined,” said Afkami, an executive story editor and a Guild member since 2010. “It’s such a beautiful confluence, caring for the greater good."
Wednesday’s “2 Pickets, 2 Jewrious” picket at Paramount was enough to draw WGAW member Jill Weinberger away from her usual picketing spot at NBCUniversal. Wearing a T-shirt with the words “Shalom ‘Y’all,” Weinberger echoed the message that Jewish values to be forces for good intertwine with union values.
“The history of Jewish civic action is so long and so broad, and it goes back to before civil rights, especially in the garment industry,” said Weinberger, a co-EP. “I think it’s a huge part of the service and cultural aspect of being Jewish.”
Over the course of her nearly ten years as a Guild member, Weinberger has watched the shrinking of the lengths of writers’ contracts and seen writers repeating staff writer levels.
“In thinking about future generations of writers, I think room size is an important issue,” she said. “I think it’s so important for writers to be on set and to be in post. It’s so crucial not only for the quality of the product, but also making everybody else’s job easier, and in the learning process so that eventually you can be producing and then showrunning.”
Weinberger confessed there was one additional incentive to joining her union siblings at a Jewish picket.
“I felt what if, secretly, Mandy Patinkin came in from New York and will be there,” Weinberger said with a laugh. “That was a lower consideration, but what if there was secret Mandy Patinkin, and I missed it?”

2 Pickets, 2 Jewrious picketers at Paramount. Photo by J.W. Hendricks.

A Pine Day to Picket

Father and son Robert and Chris Pine at Disney.

SAG-AFTRA member Chris Pine walked the picket lines at Disney with friends and his father, SAG-AFTRA member Robert Pine.

“I’m a third-generation entertainment kid,” said Pine who directed and co-wrote the feature film Poolman. “I’m out here with my Dad and my friends. We’re all in the business. This is an industry town, and we’re out here fighting for what we believe in.”

In addition to his father and actress mother Gwynne Gifford, Pine’s entertainment roots trace back to his maternal grandparents, actress Anne Gwynne and Max. M Gifford, an actor-producer and president of the Hollywood Bar Association.

“We’re a wonderful community, and these are trying times,” Pine said. “But, God willing, if we stand strong together, we’ll come out of this better.”

See Photos From The Week of Sept. 18-22