Hollywood workers brave heat for solidarity march as strikes continue

The combined strike by Hollywood actors and screenwriters entered its second week with no sign that a swift ending will be achieved, and union leaders and star strikers sought Friday to keep morale high as the novelty of picket lines wears off.

"The momentum is still building," said stand-up comic, writer and actor Marc Maron outside Netflix headquarters. "I got some of my comedy buddies — we’re like, let’s go, let’s make sure we’re there and we show up for our union.

"There’s a lot of people here and look, eventually they have to, they have to negotiate, right?"

Maron starred on the series "GLOW" for Netflix, whose headquarters in an increasingly hip section of Hollywood has been a bustling hub during the strike, with music blasting and food trucks serving ice cream, shaved ice and churros. It has been harder for picketers to keep the energy up at more sprawling corporate campuses like Warner Bros. in Burbank.

As the strike begins to stretch on, the regular appearance of stars including Tina Fey, Rosario Dawson and Kevin Bacon have given a jolt to picket lines and provided high-profile voices on issues that are key to both writers and actors — better pay and preserving established practices like residual payments, as well as protection from the use of artificial intelligence. Roughly 65,000 actors — the vast majority of whom make less than $27,000 a year from their screen work — along with 11,500 screenwriters, are on strike.

On Friday, actors in London rallied in solidarity with their Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists brethren. Stars including Brian Cox, Andy Serkis, Hayley Atwell, Simon Pegg and Imelda Staunton gathered with other performers and production crew in Leicester Square for the demonstration organized by British actors’ union Equity.

They chanted "One struggle, one fight, we support SAG-AFTRA fight" and "The luvvies, united, will never be defeated," using a British slang term for actors.

Cox, who played media mogul Logan Roy in "Succession," said, "I think we are at the thin end of a horrible wedge," with artificial intelligence shaking the foundations of actors’ work.

"The wages are one thing, but the worst aspect is the whole idea of AI and what AI can do to us," he said. "AI is the really, really serious thing. And it’s the thing where we’re most vulnerable."

The British actors’ union is not on strike, though many members are also part of the U.S. union.

Cox said it was important actors showed solidarity with striking screenwriters in the Writers Guild of America.

"We’re just like pieces of furniture without writers," he said. Cox said he was "extremely annoyed" with the directors’ union for "not coming out in support" of colleagues in the industry.

The Directors Guild of America reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with the studios and streamers last month on similar key issues. The terms were not disclosed, and while the actors and writers guilds congratulated the DGA on the deal, some individual members were concerned that agreement would pressure their own unions to fall in line.

In a statement last week, the DGA said it was "proud to stand with actors and writers in their fight to win agreements that address their unique and important concerns, just as they supported us in our negotiations."

Serkis, who has become a specialist in playing digitally created characters since he first played Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" saga two decades ago, said "I’m probably one of the most scanned actors on the planet."

"I know that my image can be used, or my library of movements, can be used or my voice," he said, adding that it "is wrong that that is easily accessed and used without remunerating the artist."

In the U.S., Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago were among the the major cities with strike events Wednesday and Thursday, demonstrating that film production doesn’t just happen in New York and Los Angeles.

There’s no indication when negotiations with studios and streaming companies, which are represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, will resume. The group has said they’ve offered both writers and actors substantial pay increases and have tried to meet other demands.

"Please come back to the table, please be realistic, please have a little bit more socialism in your heart and think of the people who make the money for you," "Mission Impossible" star Pegg urged studios and streaming services.

Many on the picket lines in the U.S. have seized upon comments by their corporate bosses like Disney CEO Bob Iger, who last week called the unions’ demands "not realistic."

During an earnings event Wednesday, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said grew up in a union household and knew the strike was painful on workers and their families.

"We’re super committed to getting to an agreement as soon as possible. One that’s equitable and one that enables the unions, the industry and everybody in it to move forward into the future," he said.

Lawless reported from London. Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.