Dispatches From WGA Picket Lines Day 9: Black Writers Hit Paramount With Robin Thede, Samira Wiley & Gaby Sidibe As John Leguizamo Joins NYC Picket Parade

After yesterday’s Imagine Dragons party outside Netflix, it was Paramount’s turn to pop.

Around 900 picketers flooded the streets near Melrose supporting the WGA West’s Committee of Black Writers.

These included stars such as Samira Wiley, Gabby Sidibe, Kendrick Sampson and Robin Thede.

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Precious star Sidibe told Deadline, “I am striking with the writers because if they don’t work, I can’t work”, while Orange Is The New Black star Wiley said she was on the picket line to support her writer wife, Lauren Morelli. “My house is a two union household,” she added.

Thede, creator and star of HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, warned the studios to “stop being cheap”. “I’m striking because paying writers a day rate is an abomination. We are still professionals and we deserve to be paid that way,” she added.

Kendrick Sampson, who has starred in Insecure, The Flash and How To Get Away with Murder, told Deadline that people underestimated how many people would show up in support of Black writers. “Everybody thought it was going to be about 10 people out here, but there’s hundreds and they’re demanding pay and a better existence. Our storytellers need to be protected, especially in a time of CRT and attacks on our stories. We need to make sure that we support and create safe spaces and good material conditions, pay, money for these writers,” he said.

Robert and Michelle King were also there in support, a day after CBS picked up Elsbeth, their latest spinoff of The Good Wife, and added it to the fall schedule. Robert King told Deadline that he was out in support of regulating AI as well as the issue of mini-rooms.  

“We were out in 2007 and 2008, I was on the negotiating committee, and I saw the difference we made with getting internet and streaming under our wing. Now this is that new divide with AI, but also more importantly the rise of mini-rooms, which we have never been involved with, we thought that was a death. It’s a race to the bottom,” he added.

Ike Barinholtz has been at Paramount every day since the strike started and he called today “the best day here”. “The Black community has shown up. I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from some amazing Black writers and we’re all in this together, this is solidarity in motion,” he said.

Over on the other side of the country, in New York the likes of Mandy Patinkin and Bob Odenkirk were out on the picket lines, along with John Leguizamo

“I feel it’s important to represent [writers] and be here in solidarity with my writers because everything starts with the writing, the origins of every story is writers. Without them you have nothing and to not give them their fair due and you’ve got the CEOs making crazy, disgusting, obscene salaries, but they’re not sharing the wealth, it’s not ok,” he told Deadline.

Related: WGA Raises $1.7 Million To Help Industry Workers Impacted By Strike

It was a Wednesday with Fat Tuesday vibes at the writers strike in New York: On a warm and sunny morning outside streaming giant Amazon’s field offices in Manhattan, a small jazz combo played New Orleans-style brass music for more than 400 people walking a picket line and gave the lyrics to the old spiritual “When The Saints Go Marching In” a situational makeover. 

The live music lent a festive, Mardi Gras feel to the latest demonstration by Writers Guild of America members and supporters.

“The door is open,” WGA East President Michael Winship told Deadline. “We’re waiting for them if they want to come back to the table.”

Related: Latest TV Shows Affected By WGA Strike: ‘P-Valley’, ‘Daredevil,’ ‘Billions’, ‘Severance’ & More

Starting around 11 a.m., marchers on Wednesday walked a narrow loop along two blocks of Tenth Avenue crawling with traffic and overlooked by glass and steel tower. As the clock passed noon, more marchers kept arriving, adding letters to an of union signage. They carried pickets from WGA, SAG-AFTRA and the stagehands union IATSE. A handful carried signs identifying themselves as UAW — United Auto Workers. 

“We’ve got every union covered here,” Odenkirk said. 

A contingent in blue t-shirts carried blue signs representing AEA — Actors Equity Association, the trade union representing Broadway on-stage talent. 

Related: Fran Drescher Follows Up Comments Made On Picket Line, Says “I Think It’s Important That We Sit By Our Sister Unions In Solidarity”

“We are all workers,” said Sarah LaBarr, a singer, actor, teacher and Actors Equity member based in Kansas City, Missouri. “Unless you are writing a paycheck, you are earning a paycheck. So that is why we’re here today — to support workers. It doesn’t matter what your job is; we are here.”

Actors Equity’s executive director, Alvin Vincent Jr., said that he and other AEA members were marching on Wednesday to demonstrate “solidarity with WGA as well as the other sibling unions.” 

“That really is the key, sticking together,” Vincent said when asked how Actors Equity can help writers prevail in an open-ended strike, “so that everyone gets fair pay.”

Related: L.A. Film Permit Requests For On-Location Scripted TV Shows Plunge 51% In First Week Of Strike

A WGA representative said that more than 1,000 members of the writer’s union and the SAG-AFTRA actors union checked in on site over the course of Wednesday’s three-hour demonstration — the latest of several “actions” at local studio offices, production facilities and location shoots since May 2. 

Winship of WGA East said that turnout at protests on both coasts was an indication of the writers union’s strength and he said that as the strike goes on, demonstrations will expand to “other cities, we hope.”

“The last strike, when I was also president of this union, lasted a hundred days and we made it through,” Winship said. “What we are telling people is what we always say even in the weeks leading up, which is, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. We hope it won’t be a long strike but if it is, we’re ready. We have strike funds for loans. We have various ways to keep supporting our members, various actions that we keep doing to keep morale up, and we’re prepared for the long haul.”

Related: Read All Of Deadline’s WGA Strike Coverage

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