As the Hollywood union battle continues to march forward with no sign of possible capitulation by either side, actor Billy Porter has claimed that he has had “to sell my house” in order to financially steel himself against a potential indefinite lack of work resulting from the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike.
The actor behind Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins in Disney’s The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder made this revelation during a recent interview with UK news outlet the Evening Standard.
Offering his own recollection of the reason behind SAG-AFTRA’s current battle, Porter told the outlet’s Craig McLean, “In the late Fifties, early Sixties, 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.”
“There’s no contract for it, continued the Amazon’s Cinderella actor. “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”.
Turning to criticize one of the strike’s most prominent critics, Porter next asserted, “To hear [Disney CEO] 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: f–k you.”
“That’s not useful, so I’ve kept my mouth shut. I haven’t engaged because I’m so enraged,” he explained. “I’m glad I’ve been over here. But when I go back I will join the picket lines.”
To this end, the actor then told McLean that, as a result of the strike, “I have to sell my house”.
Pressed by the reporter as to whether or not he was being serious, Porter adamantly exclaimed, “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 f–k you money — which I haven’t made yet — is still cheque-to-cheque,” he said. “I was supposed to be in a new movie, and on a new television show starting in September. None of that is happening.”
Making reference to the assertion made by an unnamed Hollywood executive to Deadline that the studios’ “endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” Porter concluded his thoughts on the topic by admitting, “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.”
As noted above, unfortunately for Porter’s hopes of returning to Hollywood work, one of SAG-AFTRA’s biggest opponents in this matter is the aforementioned Iger, who has gone on record describing the guild’s recent actions as “very disturbing”.
“You know, we’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges that we’re facing and the recovery from Covid, which is ongoing, it’s not completely back,” the Disney boss told CNBC’s David Faber during a July 2023 interview. “This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption. I understand any labor organizations’ desire to work on the behalf behalf of its members to get, you know, the most compensation and to be compensated fairly based on the value that they deliver.”
“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 continued. “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 a set of challenges that this business is already facing that is quite frankly very disruptive and dangerous.”
Asked why he believes the writers and actors are being unrealistic, Iger punted the question, “I can’t, I can’t answer that question. I, again, I respect their right and their desire to get as much as they possibly can in compensation for their people, You know, I completely respect that.”
“I’ve been around long enough to understand that dynamic and to appreciate it,” he proclaimed. “But you also have to be realistic about the business environment and what this business can deliver. It is and has been a great business for all of these people and it will continue to be even through disruptive times. But, you know, being realistic, is imperative here.”