Just like any union strike, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes came with their own set of rules. Writers can’t continue their AMPTP projects, actors can’t share any promotional content for their previous roles, they can’t attend red carpets for their previous projects, and so on. And while the list of allowed and not allowed things is long, actors and writers –for the most part– agreed to their terms and stuck by them since June/July.
Yesterday, however, Drew Barrymore announced the return of her talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show, and with that a whole can of worms opened up. After all, though Barrymore’s role on the show doesn’t include her acting, and doesn’t have to include her talking about AMPTP projects, and therefore wouldn’t break SAG-AFTRA rules, it would inherently require writers to write for the show and force them to become so-called “scabs” against the WGA. Not only that, but if she were to hire writers willing to be scabs for the show, her previous writers run the risk of loosing their jobs in the meantime.
For those reasons, fans of Barrymore, and the WGA itself, weren’t happy with the news. “The @DrewBarrymoreTVShow is a WGA covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers,” wrote the WGA on X (formerly known as Twitter). “The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike. Any writing on The Drew Barrymore Show is in violation of WGA strike rules.”
Following the backlash, Barrymore herself explained her decision to her followers. “I made a choice to walk away from the MTV, film and television awards because I was the host and it had a direct conflict with what the strike was dealing with which was studios, streamers, film, and television,” read her statement on Instagram. “It was also in the first week of the strike and so I did what I thought was the appropriate thing at the time to stand in solidarity with the writers,” she added, before noting that season three of her show wrapped before the strikes began on April 20.
“However, I am also making the choice to come back for the first time in this strike for our show, that may have my name on it but this is bigger than just me,” she stated. “I own this choice. We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind. We launched live in a global pandemic. Our show was built for sensitive times and has only functioned through what the real world is going through in real time. I want to be there to provide what writers do so well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience. I hope for a resolve for everyone as soon as possible. We have navigated difficult times since we first came on air. And so I take a step forward to start season 4 once again with an astute humility.”
In the comments of her post, fans are understandably angry with her decision. “As a fan of your work, I would love for you to reconsider this choice,” wrote one follower. “It is explicitly against the strike, and ignoring the requests of the union. This is not just disappointing, it’s a huge statement to the generation of creatives younger than you that your own feelings are more important than our industry’s future.”
“You are definitely going to be bringing us writers together… when we picket your show tomorrow,” another wrote. “That’s not ‘astute humility.’ It’s scabbing,” echoed another commenter. “And it hurts the people you claim to respect.”
According to some users on X, picket lines have already formed outside the studio and, per one shared photo, the writers for Barrymore’s show have shown their support. “From Drew WGA writers – thank you for picketing with us today!” wrote a message on top of their coffee cart.
Although the backlash might be enough for Barrymore’s season four plans to be scrapped before they even begin, it’s fair to say that if she does continue Barrymore and her show are in a lot of trouble. In addition to having picketers outside their studio every day, they will be held accountable for hiring scabs, potentially firing strike-abiding writer and breaking the strike agreement. After all, unions succeed because everyone strikes together.
Before you go, click here to see all the celebrities who supported the SAG-AFTRA & WGA strikes.