SAG Awards: Fran Drescher Says 2023 Strike “Set the Trajectory for Many Generations to Come”

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SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher resurfaced the union’s 118-day strike in remarks at the guild’s award ceremony on Saturday night, saying that union members “set the trajectory for many generations to come” during the work stoppage.

Drescher called the actors union’s approximately 160,000 members the “champions” of the night in a speech during the 2024 Screen Actors Guild Awards. “You survived the longest strike in our union’s history with courage and conviction. The journey was arduous, it came with great sacrifice and unrelenting stress,” she said. “Your solidarity ignited workers around the world, triggering what forever be remembered as the hot labor summer.” She added that “this was a seminal moment in our union’s history that has set the trajectory for many generations to come, not afraid but brave, not weak but powered, not peons but partners.”

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She also took a shot at AI — which SAG-AFTRA’s 2023 TV/theatrical contract tackles — saying it will “entrap us in a matrix where no one knows what’s real.” Rather, she said, “We should tell stories that spark the human spirit, connect us to the natural world and awaken our capacity to love unconditionally.”

The 2023 actors’ strike was also fresh in the minds of contenders, presenters and union officials at Saturday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards. Noting the past year had been a difficult one due to the strikes, Luther actor Idris Elba took a moment in his opening monologue to “honor and appreciate all of you both here and at home that stood up for SAG-AFTRA in solidarity and support.”

Accepting the best performance by a cast in a motion picture award for Oppenheimer, Kenneth Branagh noted that the SAG-AFTRA ceremony was a “full-circle moment” for the ensemble, because during the film’s London premiere on July 14, 2023 the cast walked out due to the then-upcoming strike. “Thank you, thank you, thank you SAG-AFTRA, thank you for this, thank you for fighting for us. Thank you for every SAG-AFTRA member whose support and whose sacrifice allows us to be standing here better than we were before,” he said.

On the red carpet, Lawmen: Bass Reeves star David Oyelowo emphasized the joy of getting back to work after his union’s strike ended on Nov. 9, 2023. “It’s that thing, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “So of course there’s a level of appreciation and gratitutde that we get to go back and do what we love.” He said he was reminded of the importance of solidarity from the strikes because as an actor it’s a “lonely journey” but “in a moment like this, where everyone was in this thing together as actors, I think that was very galvanizing and brought people together as a community again in a more broad way. I think hopefully we can hold on to a bit of that.”

Succession star Alan Ruck added that the biggest lesson he gleaned from the strike was to “just stand up for what you believe in. If something’s wrong, you need to say something about it.”

Abbott Elementary actor Chris Perfetti noted, “We had a wild year and here we are still celebrating, and we have a lot to celebrate. It’s kind of emotional that we’re all dressing up and carrying on as usual. It’s a good feeling.” He added that the strikes “solidified the fact that this business and any endeavor as an artist is a roller coaster.”

SAG-AFTRA executive vp Linda Powell had a ringside seat to the negotiations, as she served as vice chair of the 2023 TV/Theatrical negotiating committee. On the red carpet, Powell said of the energy in the room at the SAG Awards, “Everybody is ready to celebrate, everybody is looking forward to this year, taking advantage of the wins and the new sense of collective energy that we’ve got going into this.” She added, “One of the big things we talked about throughout the strike was the importance of the humanity that we bring into the room when we go to work, and tonight we celebrate the people who bring a human face to these films.”

The 2024 SAG Awards took place at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall, and streamed live on Netflix, a little over three months following the end of SAG-AFTRA’s strike.

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