During a recent picket at the Sony lot, WGAW member Tash Gray noticed that she and her friend were the only two Black writers on the line. Together, they decided to make sure that the next picket they attended would look different.
“We were like, ‘We should just send a text to a couple of people,’” said Gray, a writer-producer-director on such shows as Reasonable Doubt and Power Book III: Raising Kanan. “Then it just spread. We sent the first text Friday. By Saturday, 100 people said they were coming.”
The Guild’s Committee of Black Writers helped spread the word with Co-Chair Hilliard Guess (who called Gray’s text “the Black Bat-call”) estimating that he invited at least 150 people. The turnout for the unofficial Black Writer Meetup at Paramount Wednesday brought hundreds of Black WGA members, friends and supporters who picketed at studio’s multiple gates throughout the day.
“Solidarity, music and chants” said Gray as she led a march down Melrose Avenue carrying a megaphone and trailing a portable stereo. “Every step of the way, it’s important to communicate so that people don’t feel like they’re unaware of what’s going on. Even if there’s bad news, knowing that you’re in the loop is the best thing. We have captains here who are able to answer a lot of questions about what’s going on. That’s the best way to bring community and unity.”
As Guild members have noted multiple times since the strike started, the WGA writers action has given members the opportunity to meet and reconnect with friends and co-workers, many of whom–thanks to COVID–they have not seen in person in several years.
“There’s a group of us who will just jump on a Zoom call to keep us together,” said Guess who also co-chairs the Guild’s Writers Education Committee. “We did something on Monday night where a high-level Black showrunner just reached out to a group of us and said, ‘How are you all doing with your health?’ So we think those things are super-important."
“The situation is unfortunate, but there are also some positive things that have come out of it,” Guess continued. “It makes us talk. It makes us go, ‘How can I help you. Let’s go to lunch.’ Worrying about the money and all the other stuff are things that we would be thinking about even if we weren’t in this strike. So this is trying to get everybody back together as a family so we can celebrate and just all come together.”
Wednesday’s picket marked WGA Negotiating Committee and WGAW Board of Directors member Eric Haywood’s first visit to Paramount since the start of the strike. Upon his arrival, Haywood reconnected with his fellow writers from his time working on the series Empire.
“This is massive,” Haywood said of the turnout. “There are people with high name recognition, recognizable writers and performers out here as well as the rank and file members of the Guild whose names you might not know, but their credits are recognizable. It’s a pretty level playing field among all the people who have gathered here.”
Among those who joined in solidarity were Emmy Award-winning actress-producer Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black, The Handmaid’s Tale) who is married to WGAW member Lauren Morelli.
“This is my industry so this is my fight as well as yours,” said Wiley. “I keep talking about all the cars that pass that are honking with us. Even a city bus was honking with us. This feels like a very historic time and I feel very proud to be a part of it.”
Manifesting some Big Love for Writers
Married couple Josh Dallas (of Manifest) and Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love, Zootopia) paid a visit to the CBS Radford lot picket Wednesday.
"We would be nowhere without our writers. We literally would have no words without writers," said Goodwin. "We also, frankly, would have no friends without writers. So here we are."
This is What Solidarity Feels Like
He may be a newbie to SAG-AFTRA, having joined in June, but Jon Long has been a massage therapist since 2008. With chair and hand, he has been making the rounds of the picket lines providing free 15-30 minute massages to WGA members on the picket lines.
"A lot of my clients are writers, so when they told me they were going out on strike, I said 'I want to come out and support you," said Long, who estimates he gave 30 massages during a visit to Sony. "We don't get our stories without writers. We have nothing to act without writers. So this is my way to say thanks and be able to give my gift as a massage therapist."
The Devil is Speechless
Truthfully speaking, the creator and showrunner of Tell Me Lies is waiting for Wednesday on the picket lines. And the Devil is speechless.
When the Guild went on strike, Oppenheimer shut down her series Tell me Lies.
“I’m pretty bummed out. We’re halfway through my room and I had to send everyone home and we really want to be working,” Oppenheimer said. “We love our show, we love our job, but I hope the WGA doesn’t back down.”
Oppenheimer received some SAG-AFTRA and spousal solidarity from her husband, Tom Ellis, who played the devilish Lucifer Morningstar for six seasons on the Netflix series Lucifer. Acknowledging via his sign that actors are…well… wordless without writers, Ellis called the strike unfortunate but necessary.
“The validity of the strike is a no-brainer for me,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that this had to happen, but that’s what unions are for.”