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Actors in a bind over the picketline

November 6, 2007 |  5:53 pm


New York

What’s an actor to do?  You want to back the writers on the picket line, but the studio has made it clear that you could be fired if you don’t show up for work.

In a set visit today with actors shooting “Gossip Girl” at Silvercup Studios, SAG representatives tried to assure their colleagues that they weren’t undermining the strike by crossing the picket line. “They came by to answer any questions we might have about crossing the picket line and to reassure us that the Writers Guild is supportive, there’s not any tension with our guild,” said William Abadie, a 34-year-old French actor who plays the love interest of one of the parents on “Gossip Girl.”

Because SAG members have a no-strike clause in their contract, which expires in June, they could pay a steep price for showing solidarity with the writers. “There are some circumstances where our members are contractually obligated to continue to work,” said Sam Freed, SAG’s New York division president. “That should not in any way be interpreted as a lack of support for the strike.”

“We personally, individually, and as a union absolutely support their actions,” Freed added. “We recognize that we’re all dealing with the same employers and we’re all just looking for the same fair deal, particularly in the area of new media.”

Many well-known actors –- including Tina Fey, Ron Rifkin and Amy Poehler -– joined the picket line Monday at Rockefeller Center when they weren’t required to be on set. Today, the strikers in New York consisted mostly of writers. (Fey, in fact, was inside the studio shooting “30 Rock.”)

“They’re being very supportive, but they’re under contractual obligations in many cases to show up for work,” said WGA East President Michael Winship. “We can’t deny someone their livelihood.”

So the picket lines aren’t meant to deter people from going to work?

“We’re asking people to think about it,” Winship said. “We’re asking people to look to their consciences and make a decision. But we also understand that people are under contractual obligations. They have to make a living. We don’t want to cause them trouble.”

Abadie arrived at work at 6:30 a.m., before the picket line was set up, so he didn’t even know the strikers were outside until the SAG representatives came by to talk about the situation.

The French actor doesn’t plan to stop working; in fact, he’s shooting scenes for a part he plays on “Cashmere Mafia” at Silvercup next week. But he said he’s sympathetic to the writers’ concerns.

“I’m definitely supportive of it,” Abadie said of the strike as he sat on a bench across the street from the picketers, fiddling with a cigarette. “We’re hoping it’s going to be resolved quickly, that the two parties will find common ground.”

“It just has such a direct and prompt effect on the industry,” he added. “I’m shocked. I’ve worked in the U.S. for eight years, and it’s the first strike I’ve witnessed. I didn’t know that primetime shows just had a couple scripts in advance. It has this huge impact. It could be a catastrophe.”

“Luckily, actors who have worked regularly have residuals,” he added. “But for so many others, it’s going to be a real big problem right away.”

Abadie said he’s going to cope with the strike by going home to France for the holidays. If the work action does not get resolved by then, “I have a Plan B,” he said. “It’s going to be an opportunity for me to follow my plan and go global a bit and work in French.”

More news on the strike

-- Matea Gold