Stephen Amell, an actor who got his big break playing Oliver Queen on CW superhero series ‘Arrow’ (and went on to appear as the character in the various other DC shows on the network including ‘The Flash’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow’), has spoken out against the industrial action under way by the union that represents him, SAG-AFTRA.
Here’s what Amell said at the Galaxycon event this past weekend, as reported by Variety:
“I support my union, I do. And I stand with them. I do not support striking. I don’t. I think that it is a reductive negotiating tactic. I find the entire thing incredibly frustrating. I think the thinking as it pertains to shows — like the show that I’m on that premiered last night (Starz’ wrestling series ‘Heels’, which launched its second season) — I think it’s myopic.”
The statement makes Amell one of the highest-profile actors to speak out against the strike so far, though his sentiments are unlikely to be shared by most of his peers.
Related Article: ‘Arrow’ Star Stephen Amell Will Return as Oliver Queen in the Final Season of ‘The Flash’
What’s happening with the strike?
The actors’ strike, which began on July 14th, follows similar action by the Writers Guild of America, the workers looking for a better deal. The WGA went on strike on May 2nd, after its own contract ran out with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
Much like the Writers’ Guild, the actors’ unions had been negotiating with the AMPTP to secure a new contract. Actors have long been unhappy with reduced residuals brought about by streaming services and are displeased by studios claiming they can’t pay more while company CEOs earn millions. And roughly 12% of actors working today make the minimum required to trigger health benefits and keep their livelihoods.
Here’s SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher on the strike announcement:
“The gravity of this move is not lost on me or our negotiating committee or our board members who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike. It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands, if not millions, of people all across this country and around the world.”
Another key issue has been studios’ concerning efforts to bring in new technology to replace physical performers. When the strike was called, SAG-AFTRA revealed one pertinent detail of a studio offer –– digitizing the likeness of background players (or extras), paying them for one day’s work but then being able to use their image in perpetuity and however they please with no other payment.
The AMPTP replied to that with the following statement:
“The claim made today by SAG-AFTRA leadership that the digital replicas of background actors may be used in perpetuity with no consent or compensation is false. In fact, the current AMPTP proposal only permits a company to use the digital replica of a background actor in the motion picture for which the background actor is employed. Any other use requires the background actor’s consent and bargaining for the use, subject to a minimum payment.”
When SAG-AFTRA voted to authorize the strike, an overwhelming 98% majority of returns gave guild leadership the green light to walk out of negotiations if needed, with roughly half of eligible members submitting ballots. Amell’s comments show there is a minority who would prefer not to take the strike action, but few have been prepared to speak out until now.
Amell walks back his comments
Following an understandable backlash from fellow actors, Amell hit Instagram to clarify his statement.
Here’s the opening to his statement, which you can read in full above:
“Understandably, there has been a lot of reaction to the comments I made this weekend about our strike. To ensure there is no misunderstanding about my thoughts and intentions I’m providing what I actually said and clarity/context to ensure my feelings aren’t unintentionally misinterpreted. We all know soundbites can be taken out of context and I have too much respect for my fellow union members to not clarify the record.”