Black actors, traditionally underpaid, celebrate end to SAG-AFTRA strike

Hollywood jumped into planning mode Thursday at the news of a tentative agreement between striking actors and the major entertainment companies.

And perhaps nowhere was the jubilance more heartfelt than among Black actors, who experience the same wage gap as do Black employees in other industries. The four-month actors’ strike was so devastating to some in the industry that even A-lister Billy Porter revealed in August that the loss in income forced him to sell his home in Long Island, New York.

SAG-AFTRA member Sheryl Lee Ralph speaks during a rally outside Paramount Pictures Studio on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Los Angeles. Photo credit: Richard Shotwell, Invision/The Associated Press
SAG-AFTRA member Sheryl Lee Ralph speaks during a rally outside Paramount Pictures Studio on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Los Angeles. Photo credit: Richard Shotwell, Invision/The Associated Press

Black screen actors relied on HBCU bands, praising God and other means to express their joy.

“Let me go get some holiday braids right quick before I gotta put Alberta’s wig back on,” actor/comedian Danielle Pinnock, Alberta Haynes on CBS’ “Ghosts, posted on X.  “Ahhh! We are BACK baby!!!!

Niecy Nash posted Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” with this message on Instagram: “God you are FAITHFUL! Thank you @sagaftra negotiating team and every colleague and member that brought us a tentative deal!!! And to every crew member and business affected may we rebuild together stronger!!”

She ended with, “I miss our stories, I miss our art, I miss the MAGIC of acting and I can’t wait to go to WORK!!”

After 118 days of most productions shut down and most stars unable to promote projects, publicists, studios and awards strategists went into hyperdrive plotting out how to best use their newly available talent for what’s left of the year — and awards season.

Just hours after the tentative agreement was announced, “The Marvels” star Iman Vellani was already being offered to press for interviews. The Walt Disney Co. movie, which cost over $200 million to produce, opens this weekend with showtimes starting as early as Thursday afternoon. Searchlight Pictures also started actively planning things for Michael Fassbender, who stars in Taika Waititi’s “Next Goal Wins,” out next week.

One of the top priorities for the industry is getting actors back on set to try to salvage the 2024 movie release calendar that’s already been impacted by the six-month stretch during which writers and actors were striking.

Others were scrambling to kickstart promotion for holiday movie season blockbusters, with Jason Momoa on the hook for “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” and Timothée Chalamet now able to talk about “Wonka.” Both had been announced as the next two “Saturday Night Live” hosts before the agreement was reached.

Awards season strategists will also be looking at schedules as studios and publicists try to make up for lost time in telling the stories of their Oscar and Emmy hopefuls.

Although the agreement still has to be approved by Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists members, there was widespread relief that the standoff would not continue into 2024. President Joe Biden applauded the agreement, saying that “collective bargaining works.”

“When both sides come to the table to negotiate in earnest they can make businesses stronger and allow workers to secure pay and benefits that help them raise families and retire with dignity,” Biden said Thursday. “SAG-AFTRA members will have the final say on this contract, but the sacrifices they’ve made will ensure a better future for them, their families, and all workers who deserve a fair share of the value they helped create.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the tentative agreement “will benefit our economy statewide and kickstart a new wave of exciting projects.”

He added: “I am thankful that we can now get this iconic industry back to work, not only for our writers and actors, but also the more than two million workers who power our world-class entertainment sector.”

Octavia Spencer posted video to Instagram of the Jackson State University Drum Majors with this message: “Who else is dancing right now??? Ready to work now that the strike is over! Congratulations and thank you to our @sagaftra negotiating committee. Proud to standi in solidarity with all the SAG members over the last 118 days.”

“Abbott Elementary” creator and star Quinta Brunson wrote “we’re very back” in her Instagram. Brunson’s writing team had already been back in the room, but the strike’s suspension clears the way for filming.

The holidays will surely be busy for Hollywood’s top actors, especially awards hopefuls. Several contenders have had interim agreements that have allowed stars to do press, but others will be starting fresh with their actors hitting the campaign trail including TIFF winner “American Fiction, ” with Jeffrey Wrightm and “The Color Purple.”

Others are already in theaters or streaming but can now play catch-up too like “Nyad,” with Annette Bening and Jodie Foster.

Share This article on