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Actors take to the internet to show their residual checks, with some in the negative

Updated September 5, 2023 at 1:47 PM ET

One of the demands that actors and screenwriters are making in trying to renegotiate their contracts with Hollywood studios is greater residual payments, and several people in the entertainment industry have come forward to share what those residual checks look like.

Mandy Moore, who starred as matriarch Rebecca Pearson in NBC's This Is Us, said she received streaming residual checks for a penny once and 81 cents another time.

"So you have to, like, let them add up for a while before you go deposit them at the bank," she said in an interview while on the picket line.

Residuals are payments made over the long term to actors and other theatrical workers when a TV show or movie is rerun or aired after its original release.

Kamil McFadden, who starred on three seasons of Disney's K.C. Undercover, tweeted a screen recording of his residuals, several of which had negative dollar amounts. He said his net income from the list was $2.77.

In an Instagram video, William Stanford Davis, who plays Mr. Johnson on the ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary, showed a residual check for 5 cents.

"That's what they think of us as actors," he said. "This is why we're on strike."

Aaron Paul, who played Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad, said he doesn't get any money from the hit AMC series streaming on Netflix.

"Shows live forever on these streamers, and it goes through waves," Paul said. "It's such common sense, and I think a lot of these streamers, they know that they have been getting away with not paying people, just fair wage, and now it's time to pony up."

Netflix was not immediately available for comment.

Jana Schmieding, who played Bev on FX's Reservation Dogs, said she gets a 3-cent residual every quarter for the show being streamed on Hulu.

"Listen, I'm an actor. I don't want a yacht. But I'd love to be able to save for retirement," she tweeted.

The Writers Guild of America is currently on the 19th week of its strike, while actors with the union SAG-AFTRA are on their seventh week. Both are striking against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). (Note: Many NPR employees are members of SAG-AFTRA, though journalists work under a different contract than the Hollywood actors.)

Writers and actors are demanding better wages, fair use of artificial intelligence and better contributions to health care and retirement.

The AMPTP did not respond to a request for comment, but in a document titled "What SAG-AFTRA Failed to Mention," issued last week, it said that in its negotiations with SAG-AFTRA, it offered a more than $1 billion increase in wages, residuals and pension and health care contributions over a three-year period.

In the document, the AMPTP says it offered a 22% increase in residuals for high-budget SVOD (subscription video on demand) programs from Hulu, Disney+, Netflix and Amazon Prime. It said it also presented a 76% increase in foreign residuals.

SAG-AFTRA also asked for revenue sharing, which means actors would get a fixed residual and also a separate residual tied to the amount of money a show brought in once it hit streaming platforms.

The AMPTP rejected that proposal and asked SAG-AFTRA to remove it from negotiations, calling it "completely illogical," as the companies that produce a program are not entitled to any revenue from streaming and receive only a licensing fee, it said.

"The Union is proposing that performers share in the rewards of a successful show, without bearing any of the risk. ... The Union proposes to 'share' in success, but not in failure," it said. "That is not sharing."

SAG-AFTRA said it additionally asked for an 11% increase in general wages in the first year of the new contract and a 4% increase in each of the second and third years but was met with a proposal of 5% in the first year, 4% in the second year and 3.5% in the third.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]