The actor Billy Porter said he has had to sell his house as a result of the actors’ strike, according to a new interview with the Evening Standard. After speaking on his music and theatre career, Porter touched on the now month-long strike by the actors’ union, Sag-Aftra, which along with the writers’ strike has ground Hollywood to a halt.
“I have to sell my house,” Porter said. “Yeah! Because we’re on strike. And I don’t know when we’re gonna go back. The life of an artist, until you make fuck-you money – which I haven’t made yet – is still check-to-check.”
The Emmy-winning Pose star said he was supposed to begin filming on a new show and movie in September, which is now indefinitely delayed. “None of that is happening. So to the person who said, ‘We’re going to starve them out until they have to sell their apartments’ – you’ve already starved me out.”
He referred to a Deadline article published in July in which anonymous executives said the endgame for studios was to allow the strike to drag on until guild members began to lose their apartments and homes.
The Tony winner also criticized Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, who called the demands by striking actors and writers “unrealistic” in a television interview in July. “In the late 50s, early 60s, when they structured a way for artists to be compensated properly through residual [payments], it allowed for the two percent of working actors – and there are 150,000 people in our union – who work consistently … Then streaming came in,” said Porter.
“There’s no contract for it … And they don’t have to be transparent with the numbers – it’s not Nielsen ratings anymore. The streaming companies are notoriously opaque with their viewership figures. The business has evolved. So the contract has to evolve and change, period. To hear Bob Iger say that our demands for a living wage are unrealistic? While he makes $78,000 a day?
“I don’t have any words for it, but: fuck you,” he added, directed at Iger. “That’s not useful, so I’ve kept my mouth shut. I haven’t engaged because I’m so enraged … When I go back I will join the picket lines.”
In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box in July, Iger said the decision by the actors’ and writers’ unions to go on strike was “very disturbing to me. We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from Covid, which is ongoing, it’s not completely back.
“This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption.”
“We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the directors guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business,” he later added. “We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic.
“And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”
His comments were immediately rebuked by members of the actors’ union. The Sag-Aftra president, Fran Drescher, said in a statement: “The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics, and on others completely stonewalled us. Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal. We have no choice but to move forward in unity, and on behalf of our membership, with a strike recommendation to our national board.”