Actor Billy Porter may have won an Emmy and appeared in a string of major studio productions—but the ongoing Hollywood strikes are forcing even him to make tough financial decisions.
Actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, which has around 160,000 members, went on strike last month over pay, working conditions, and concerns relating to the use of A.I. in the film industry.
It joined the Writers Guild of America—a union representing thousands of Hollywood writers—which haven’t worked since early May, marking the industry’s biggest shutdown in more than six decades.
Ahead of SAG-AFTRA announcing its strike, Deadline reported that studio executives were gearing up for an extended stalemate between actors and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)—with sources telling the publication that studios were willing wait it out for months.
“The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” an anonymous studio executive told Deadline, with several other sources reportedly echoing the same stance.
Now, it appears that the strikes may be crossing that threshold.
Porter—who starred in television series Pose and Amazon’s 2021 version of Cinderella, as well as making history as the first openly gay Black man to win an Emmy—told British newspaper the Evening Standard he was being forced to make major sacrifices because of the strikes.
“I have to sell my house,” he revealed in the interview.
“We’re on strike and I don’t know when we’re going to go back [to work],” Porter said. “The life of an artist, until you make f***-you money—which I haven’t made yet—is still check-to-check.”
Representatives for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and AMPTP were not available for comment.
Porter told the Standard he was lined up to appear in a movie and a TV show from September—but now “none of that is happening.”
“So to the person who said: ‘We’re going to starve them out until they have to sell their apartments’—you’ve already starved me out,” he said.
For the actors on strike, much of the breakdown in negotiations with AMPTP has been related to residual payments, the amount actors are paid for reruns of a movie or show they appeared in, which have been squeezed with the rise of streaming platforms.
Many of those on the picket lines have taken to sharing their paychecks on social media, with some revealing they have received checks for as little as 3 cents for their parts in content made by major studios.
Taking on Disney
Porter also lashed out at Disney CEO Bob Iger, who publicly labeled striking actors’ and writers’ demands as unrealistic and “disturbing” last month.
“To hear Bob Iger say that our demands for a living wage are unrealistic? While he makes $78,000 a day? I don’t have any words for it, but: f*** you,” he said in the Standard interview which took place in London.
When Iger returned to the helm of the entertainment giant last year, the annual compensation package Disney offered him was worth $27 million (almost $74,000 a day).
A spokesperson for Disney was not available for comment on Porter’s interview.
“I’ve kept my mouth shut. I haven’t engaged because I’m so enraged,” Porter said in last week’s interview. “I’m glad I’ve been over here. But when I go back [to the U.S.] I will join the picket lines.”
Porter isn’t the only actor facing tough financial circumstances because of the strike. The SAG-AFTRA foundation, which assists striking members of the union financially, has been asking “high profile talent” for donations to help those on the picket lines who it says are facing “dire necessity.”