After Backlash, ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Premiere Moves Ahead After Tentative WGA Deal Is Reached

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Less than 24 hours after the WGA reached a tentative deal to end the 146-day strike, Variety has learned that “Dancing With the Stars” is moving ahead with its planned premiere date, after all.

ABC confirmed that “Dancing With the Stars” will premiere on Tuesday, Sept. 26, and will be simulcast live on Disney+.

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Over the past few days, the heat had been on “Dancing With the Stars,” and ABC put a plan in place to postpone the show’s premiere amid backlash from the WGA. Celebrity cast members were feeling heightened pressure and had growing concerns about participating on the show, as WGA members were picketing “Dancing With the Stars” rehearsals, in an effort to delay the show or have celebrities bow out.

Amid the backlash last week, one cast member, “Veep” actor Matt Walsh announced that he would pause his participation in the show amid the ongoing WGA strike. But now, Variety has learned he will now be back on the dance floor. (Walsh is a WGA member, as well as a member of SAG-AFTRA and the DGA.)

“With the hopeful resolution and vote with the WGA, ‘Dancing with the Stars’ would no longer be a struck show therefore all cast would be able to return. This includes WGA member Matt Walsh,” a spokesperson for Walsh tells Variety in a statement.

Though the WGA has reached a tentative agreement to end the strike, SAG-AFTRA is still on strike. However, SAG-AFTRA backed the cast of “Dancing With the Stars,” stating that its members who are on the show are not violating union rules by participating in “DWTS.”

“They are required to go to work, are not in violation of SAG-AFTRA strike rules, and we support them in fulfilling their contractual obligations,” a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson said.

The performers on “DWTS” — which include the celebrity cast members, two hosts, three judges and pro dancers — are all cleared to work on the show under SAG-AFTRA’s “Network Code” agreement, which is not part of the current strike. (The “Network Code” was ratified in 2022, and does not expire until June 2024.) The hosts, judges and professional dancers are all members of SAG-AFTRA, and much of the celebrity lineup for Season 32 are part of the union, including Alyson Hannigan, Jamie Lynn Spears, Barry Williams, Matt Walsh, Mira Sorvino, Ariana Madix and Xochitl Gomez.

Though “Dancing With the Stars” is a reality show, it is covered by the WGA because it employs one WGA writer. Had the show moved forward without that writer before the WGA reached a deal, the writer would have been re-hired when the strike was over, sources previously told Variety. However, voting on the deal takes place on Tuesday, and WGA members have been instructed not to return to work until the strike order against the AMPTP has been formally lifted. “To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then,” WGA members were told on Sunday night.

“Dancing With the Stars” employs a crew of roughly 500 staff members in total, and a large concern when monitoring whether the show would have returned during the strike was keeping the large team employed, individuals close to production said.

“Dancing With the Stars” Season 32 is key to ABC’s fall schedule, which is largely unscripted this season, given production shut-downs during the strike. Aside from buzzy new series “The Golden Bachelor,” the reality dance show is the network’s marquee show on the schedule, which already boosted its strike-impacted lineup by recently adding more Monday Night Football games this fall.

“Dancing With the Stars” was one of many unscripted shows that faced blowback from the WGA in the final week of the strike, as WGA members said that cast members who participated in any daytime or unscripted WGA-covered show would be scabbing to cross the picket line to work. Talk shows, including “The Drew Barrymore Show,” “The Talk” and “The Jennifer Hudson Show,” all opted to delay their fall premieres last week after being targeted by the WGA, and have yet to announce their new return dates as the strike officially ending is on the horizon.

During the 2007-2008 writers strike, “Dancing With the Stars” remained in production, and the show re-hired its WGA writer once the strike was over.

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