Actors reveal pay from streaming services as they dig into Hollywood strike

Hollywood plunges into all-out war on the heels of pandemic and a streaming revolution

Actors have been revealing the pay for their work on big hits on streaming services, as they justify the strike that has brought the entertainment industry to a standstill.

In May, Kimiko Glenn, who starred in original Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black, posted a clip of residual payments totalling $27.30 (£23.46).

After the post began drawing attention again once the strike had begun, she posted on her TikTok: "We did not get paid very well ever.

"And when I say 'did not get paid very well,' you would die. People were bartenders still. People had their second jobs still."

In response to the clip, several other actors who appeared on the show revealed they had also struggled to make a living while it was in production and earned the minimum union-backed amount of $900 a day.

Beth Dover, who also appeared on the show, said "It actually cost me money to be in Season 3 and 4 since I was cast local hire and had to fly myself out."

Grace Duah, who played Shan Barnes on the recent HBO Max reboot of Gossip Girl, posted on her TikTok account on Friday, saying she kept her job at a pilates studio because she did not earn enough working on the show.

She said: "Going straight from the picket line to my desk job at a pilates studio cause my series regular job pay me enough to survive even six months without it."

On Thursday, Mara Wilson, who is perhaps best known for playing Matilda in the 1996 film, said she did not earn enough working as a voice actor on the Disney show Big Hero 6: The Series to qualify for healthcare.

Over the weekend, Hellboy actor Ron Perlman responded to rumours alleging Hollywood studios aimed to prolong a strike long enough for writers to lose their homes.

Mr Perlman leaned into the camera in a since-deleted Instagram live video to vent his anger.

Ron Perlman criticised the productions studios over the weekend. Credit: AP

"Listen to me, mother-(expletive)," Perlman said. "There’s a lot of ways to lose your house."

Mr Perlman later apologised for losing her temper and urged studio executives to find "a degree of humanity."

Last week tens of thousands of Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) members hit the picket lines last week and joined 11,000 Writers Guild of America screenwriters who have been on strike since May.

Several actors on the red carpet the London premiere of Oppenheimer, including Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Matt Damon, walked out of the ceremony last Thursday as the strike began.

Emily Blunt and Cillian Murphy walked out of last week's premiere. Credit: AP

Why are actors striking?Their main complaint focuses on streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix.Actors claim the platforms do not compensate talent in the same way traditional film and TV productions do, and this has led to stars losing out on a significant amount of income.

Actors have been sharing images of their residual payments for streaming hits to underline the point.

Actor Nachayka Vanterpool, speaking from the picket lines last week, said: "You used to be able to work on a broadcast show, one show and you’re good for the year because of the residuals.

"And then you have streaming coming along and you got 20-cent residual checks. That impacts you."

What are residuals?

Residuals are payments writers and actors receive for re-broadcasts of their work and are usually a collective agreement negotiated by a union.

These are different from royalties - which are payments made to the owner of a copyright for the use of their work.

However actors often surrender rights to these as part of their contract and take a wage instead.

Hollywood is still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, which brought curtains down on major productions for years and cost studios millions.

Box office income remains about 20-25% off the pre-pandemic pace.

Several high-profile celebrities, including Kevin Bacon, have been seen on US picket lines. Credit: AP

Disney chief executive Bob Iger defended his company's position and hit out at the strikes last week.

He said: "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."

Many of the demands of the two unions leading the strike have been long-standing.

But the catalyst of monumental growth by streaming giants utilising their advantage in the pandemic has brought things to a head.

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The last time screen actors and writers struck simultaneously, in 1960, the guilds established the residual payments that are at the heart of the dispute today.

These payments garnered from reruns on TV often made up a significant amount of an actor's income when they were between gigs.

That strike came as television began exploding in growth, with many comparing the new shift to streaming as a similar event.

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