Actor Drew Barrymore is resuming her talk show and filming its new season on Monday, even though her show’s writers are on strike and she initially expressed solidarity with Hollywood writers when their work stoppage began in May.
In a lengthy Instagram post Sunday, Barrymore claimed she made the decision to resume the show “in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind,” referring to a different but related strike by Hollywood actors with SAG-AFTRA. Under that strike’s rules, in most cases, actors who are members of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists cannot promote their upcoming films and TV shows, such as during talk show appearances.
However, the writers on Barrymore’s show are members of Writers Guild of America East and West, who are also currently on strike. According to the union, any writing on the show, like introductions, monologues, sketches and questions for the show’s guests, would violate the WGA’s strike rules because it would replace the work of union members. (HuffPost’s unionized staff are also members of the WGA East, though they are not part of the film and TV strike.)
“‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ is a WGA-covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers,” the WGA East said in a statement Sunday. “The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike. Any writing on ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ is in violation of WGA strike rules.”
When asked Monday who is now writing for the show, and whether the show is now using nonunion, or “scab,” writers, a spokesperson for CBS, which distributes the show, told HuffPost: “‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ will not be performing any writing work covered by the WGA strike.”
WGA members picketed in front of the show’s Monday-morning taping in New York.
At the time, Barrymore said: “I have listened to the writers, and in order to truly respect them, I will pivot from hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards live in solidarity with the strike. Everything we celebrate and honor about movies and television is born out of their creation.”
But on Sunday, she said the decision to resume her show was different.
“I made a choice to walk away from the MTV, film and television awards because I was the host and it had a direct conflict with what the strike was dealing with which was studios, streamers, film, and television. It was also in the first week of the strike and so I did what I thought was the appropriate thing at the time to stand in solidarity with the writers. And to be clear, our talk show actually wrapped on April 20th so we never had to shut down the show. However, I am also making the choice to come back for the first time in this strike for our show, that may have my name on it but this is bigger than just me.”
She added that she was approaching the new season, which premieres Sept. 18, “with an astute humility” — despite the optics of resuming her show during two strikes, which have called attention to inequitable working conditions in film and television.
“I own this choice. We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind. We launched live in a global pandemic. Our show was built for sensitive times and has only functioned through what the real world is going through in real time,” Barrymore continued. “I want to be there to provide what writers do so well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience. I hope for a resolve for everyone as soon as possible. We have navigated difficult times since we first came on air. And so I take a step forward to start season 4 once again with an astute humility.”
In addition to picketing in front of the show Monday, many WGA members criticized Barrymore on social media, saying her decision to bring back her show without its writers was disappointing and called on her to reconsider. Several pointed out that Barrymore, who has been among Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, could likely afford to pay her show’s staff while they are out of work because of the strikes, instead of putting them in the position of crossing a picket line.
“The Drew Barrymore Show” is the latest, but perhaps the most prominent show, to land itself in hot water for returning despite the strikes. ABC’s “The View” has continued to air new episodes while its writers are on strike. Members of the WGA have picketed in front of the show’s New York studio, and are planning to do so again this week.
“Jeopardy!” — whose writers are WGA members — is also slated to return this week. The show is planning to use recycled or previously written clues.
Some shows have resorted to hiring scab writers, such as the long-running daytime soap “General Hospital.” The show began using scab writers in July, according to one of the show’s WGA writers on strike.
This story has been updated with details about Monday’s picket.