Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston was among the famous faces addressing a Sag-Aftra union rally supporting the US actors’ strike in New York.
Academy Award winners Jessica Chastain, Brendan Fraser and F Murray Abraham were also among those gathered in Times Square, joined by Christian Slater, Wendell Pierce, Christine Baranski, Rachel Zegler, Chloe Grace Moretz and Corey Stoll.
It came almost a fortnight after the start of major industrial action by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (Sag-Aftra).
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) July 25, 2023
The Rock The City For A Fair Contract rally also saw stars including Vanessa Williams, Matt Bomer, Michael Shannon, Lauren Ambrose, Bellamy Young, Melissa Joan Hart, Hill Harper and Arian Moayed supporting the strike.
Cranston, who has won six Emmy awards, was the final speaker on the stage on Tuesday, with a message for Disney’s chief executive Robert Iger.
He said: “Putting forth negotiations is not unreasonable, it is not unfair, and I find it very ironic that we are all gathered here today in unity in front of an entity that is run by Disney.
“We’ve got a message for Mr Iger: I know, sir, that you look at things through a different lens. We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to hear us, and beyond that, to listen to us when we tell you we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots.
“We will not have you take away our right to work and earn a decent living.
“And lastly, and most importantly, we will not allow you to take away our dignity. We are union through and through. We will win this fight.”
Sag-Aftra, which represents around 160,000 actors across the US, failed to agree new contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), joining striking members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which began industrial action on May 2.
Cranston said he was “overjoyed” to be standing on the rally stage looking out to “energy of love and togetherness in unionisation”.
The #solidarity is amazing out here in Times Square! The talent on our stage today is amazing! Let's fight together because together we will win this battle! Watch our #SAGAFTRAstrike rally rocking Times Square on Insta Live or here 👇👇👇https://t.co/GkVKImeUBo pic.twitter.com/bZnj9pN6XP
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) July 25, 2023
He said: “There have been a lot of conversations between the AMPTP and what Sag-Aftra is looking for in this contract.
“But there is one thing that we all agree on – even they agree on it – and that is our industry has changed exponentially.
“We are not in the same business model that we were even 10 years ago.
“And yet even though they admit that that is the truth in today’s economy, they are fighting us tooth and nail to stick to the same economic system that is outdated.
“They want us to step back in time. We cannot and we will not do that.”
Abraham, who won an Oscar for his 1984 role playing Antonio Salieri in Amadeus, told the rally: “Without a union there is no middle-class, without a middle-class there is no democracy.
“Unions are good for America… everyone should have the same benefits.
“We’re fighting for this country, we’re fighting for integrity, respect and honour.”
Tony-award nominated actor Pierce, who starred as Meghan Markle’s on-screen father in TV series Suits, told the rally the actors are “on the right side of history”.
He added: “I stand here in the shadows of the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice because there’s blood in the fields – this is no small matter when you become a union member.
“Stay together, because when you unify you can never be defeated, when you fight, you win.”
Golden Globe winner Steve Buscemi, who starred in hit TV show Boardwalk Empire, said AMPTP has “got to do right by us”.
He told the rally: “Nobody wanted this, but we are here because so much is at stake.
“Revenue sharing, health care, retirement, a fair casting process, AI protection and fair conversations. These are not unusual or unreasonable things to ask for. They are essential.
“We are here because this moment is crucial, we stand together strong for ourselves and with our fellow union members of the WGA.”
Hollywood star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made a historic seven-figure donation to the Sag-Aftra Foundation Relief Fund for actors who face “financial ruin” during the actors’ strike, according to US outlet Variety.
The rally came days after actors including Succession’s Brian Cox and Lord Of The Rings star Andy Serkis protested with British union Equity in Leicester Square in solidarity with the striking US actors.
Rob Delaney, Simon Pegg, Jim Carter, Hayley Atwell, Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton were also among the famous faces who gathered in central London a week after the start of major industrial action by Sag-Aftra, Equity’s sister union in America.
The strike has brought many productions across the entertainment industry to a halt, with film premieres and associated events also affected.
On Tuesday, the European premiere of Disney’s fantasy comedy Haunted Mansion at Cineworld Leicester Square in London went ahead without its cast in attendance.