Striking writers in New York made a bid on Monday to disrupt work on American Horror Story by picketing outside a production facility in Queens where the popular FX series known for its macabre plot lines and star-studded casts is filming season 12.
Members of the WGA East, joined by members of SAG and other supporters of the strike against film and television studios, said they began arriving at Silvercup Studios at 5am, about two hours before members of the stagehands union, Queens-based IATSE Local 52, who then refused to cross the picket line.
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The effect on the show, which stars Emma Roberts and Kim Kardashian, was unclear. A WGA representative told Deadline that demonstrators caused filming delays on Monday for AHS, but sources close to the production told us that while some crew members were held up briefly at the picket lines, the horror drama never fully stopped production and was filming as of late Monday afternoon.
It was the latest of several skirmishes in New York between picketers on one side and others trying to keep shows on track as the strike entered its fourth week. While as many as four dozen people walked the picket line outside Silvercup, a WGA organizer — former Law & Order: SVU showrunner Warren Leight — tweeted out a call on Monday afternoon for reinforcements at a location shoot in another part of Queens.
Strikers in New York said that one day earlier they again succeeded in shutting down the Showtime Wall Street drama Billions, a frequent target of WGA pickets since the strike began on May 2, after producers tried to squeeze in a day of filming on Sunday at a studio in Brooklyn.
“You shoot on Sunday, we picket on Sunday,” Leight tweeted.
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, the WGAE’s VP for film, television and streaming, who has served as a co-EP on The Endgame and consulting producer on Law & Order: SVU, said on social media on Monday that the union is now “fine-tuning” its rapid-response site pickets in order to “cost studios $$$ so they return to the table” and to “stay engaged, united and in the public eye”.
Three bands of strikers raised picket signs if not their voices outside entrances to Silvercup on Monday. “Everybody’s taking a day from shouting today, which is nice,” Sean Crespo, a former staff writer at Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and a member of WGA and SAG-AFTRA, told Deadline.
“Poor Josh Gondelman’s vocal cords are just Sloppy Joe meat right now,” Crespo joked, referencing the former Desus & Mero and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver writer who was with strikers at Silvercup on Monday and has been a vocal presence — with and without a bullhorn — on picket lines across the city since early May. “He probably goes to sleep hearing, ‘What do we want? Contracts! When do we want ‘em? Now!’”
Voice fatigue aside, “I’m fired up,” Crespo said. “I think everybody’s still fired up.” He said the ranks of picketers were “spread a little thin” by the push for multiple, targeted actions at different shoots. “And the shifts are getting longer, too,” he added. “But [for] the people who are here, especially with cross-union support, it’s fine, it’s good. We’re strong. We’re stable.”
The picketers were watched from across the street by a group of people who identified themselves to Deadline as IATSE members, but wouldn’t comment further. Seated on and around benches in front of a staff parking lot that faces Silvercup’s canopied main entrance, they would remain there — about ten people in all — until the picket line disbanded at 3pm and they finally went inside.
A call for comment on Monday to IATSE Local 52 president William Klatt was not immediately returned.
Throughout the morning and afternoon, handfuls of workers who did cross the picket line were visible in and around Silvercup’s garage bays, some pushing heavy equipment inside, others in paint-spattered work clothes leaning against the entryway or sitting in folding chairs looking at their cellphones.
The level of activity appeared to increase after 3pm, though not dramatically, in the hour after the IATSE crew went inside through a door with a sign marking it a “signatory entrance” for union members.
Meanwhile, in LA, it was Jersey Day for the main strike players. Outside of Warner Bros. Discovery, the LA Sparks, who compete in the WNBA, joined writers on West Olive Avenue.
Layshia Clarendon was on the picket line this afternoon and was expected to be joined by Chiney Ogwumike and Nneka Ogwumike.
— Writers Guild of America West (@WGAWest) May 22, 2023
Other big names on the picket lines today included Michael Connelly, the author whose books have been adapted as Amazon’s Bosch and Netflix’s The Lincoln Lawyer. He was outside Disney with Chris Gorham, who plays villain Trevor Elliot in the latter as well as folk from Grimm, Lopez Vs. Lopez, The Magicians, Gotham Knights, Covert Affairs and A Million Little Things.
— Michael Connelly (@Connellybooks) May 22, 2023
In terms of food options, tabs were picked up by Shonda Rhimes and the cast and writers of Star Trek: Picard.
Rhimes paid for Savage Tacos outside of Netflix, where the Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte exec producer has an overall deal. “It’s Taco Time with Shonda Rhimes,” pointed out Stargirl co-exec producer Alfredo Septién, who also wrote on the streamer’s upcoming Sofia Vergara series Griselda.
Over at Paramount, the team behind the Patrick Stewart-fronted Star Trek series, which was created by Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer and Alex Kurtzman, paid for ice cream (toppings included) and shaved ice. “Stand with the crew of the U.S.S. WGA in sci-fi solidarity,” a note from the team read.
Elsewhere, Producers Guild President Stephanie Allain and PGA members joined WGAW President Meredith Stiehm and other writers at the CBS Radford picket line to show their solidarity. Other PGA members were alongside picketers at Paramount, where Ted Lasso’s Cristo Fernandez was also spotted, and Fox and will also be picketing in New York.
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