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The Hollywood writers strike is over, but the actors strike could drag on. Here's why

Movie and television writers are, overall, delighted with how things turned out in the recent contract negotiations with the studios.

"I think that we got everything that we really, really wanted," Writers Guild East president Lisa Takeuchi Cullen told the still-striking performers at a rally in New York for the actors union SAG-AFTRA a few days ago. "We didn't get everything, and you guys won't either. But I think you're gonna get most of it."

As SAG-AFTRA leaders head into talks Monday with the big Hollywood studios, the union's members are hoping for as favorable a deal as the writers union managed to secure with the studios last week. But the months of strikes may not be over as fast as some people think.

"We've got a great negotiating team," said actor Jeff Rector, whose credits include Star Trek: The Next Generation and American Horror Story among many other films and TV shows over a career spanning more than 40 years. "Hopefully it will be resolved rather quickly now that the writers strike has been resolved."

Entertainment industry experts are also hopeful about a speedy end to the strikes, which began in May with the writers union, the Writers Guild of America (WGA). The actors union went on strike in July. (Note: Many NPR employees are members of SAG-AFTRA, though journalists work under a different contract than the Hollywood actors.)

"The fact that this deal has been reached, I think really bodes well moving forward for SAG-AFTRA," said Todd Holmes, assistant professor of entertainment media management at California State University Northridge.

Holmes said the actors union should feel encouraged by the writers' wins, like higher residuals and protections against being replaced by artificial intelligence.

"This is what you would call 'pattern bargaining,' where usually one deal is worked out with one union, and then when the other union has a lot of similar things that they've been asking for, then that usually falls in line pretty quickly and agreement is reached," Holmes said.

The actors and writers went on strike with different demands

But SAG-AFTRA strike captain Kate Bond, who's best known for her role in the reboot of the TV series MacGyver, said she isn't so certain about a speedy outcome.

"A lot of people don't understand how different our demands are from the WGA's demands," Bond said.

Bond said unlike the WGA, the actors union represents many types of performers — actors, dancers, stunt people — each with specific needs that need to be addressed.

Artificial intelligence, for example, is an especially existential threat for background actors, some of whom say they've already had their bodies scanned for reuse.

So Bond said negotiations with the studios' trade association, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) could take a while.

"The AMPTP is just going to use every union busting trick that they have," Bond said.

The AMPTP did not respond to NPR's request for comment.

Bond said she's grateful for the continued support of writers as the actors continue to struggle. But now that the WGA's members are busy getting back to work, she's not expecting to see so many allies on the picket line in the weeks ahead.

"It's not that they're not interested," Bond said. "It's that all of a sudden they have a lot to do."

Some writers, such as Keshni Kashyap, who was a writer the Netflix series Special, are still planning to show up. Kashyap said her union wouldn't have been able to cut a good deal if it hadn't been for the actors' support.

Kashyap said she plans to join the actors on the picket line in Los Angeles on Monday.

"It feels really important to go out there and support them because visibility on the picket line is important to getting the kind of leverage and deal that they should be getting," Kashyap said. "Nothing can happen in Hollywood unless they get back to work."

Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly implied that Keshni Kashyap was the sole writer of the Netflix series Special, when in fact she was one of the writers.

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

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.