Billy Porter is making a serious life change to ensure he makes ends meet amid the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.
“I have to sell my house,” Porter, 53, said to the Evening Standard in an interview published on Friday, August 4. “Because we’re on strike. And I don’t know when we’re gonna go back. The life of an artist, until you make f–kyou money — which I haven’t made yet — is still check-to-check.”
“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,” Porter quipped, referring to an article published by Deadline in July that claimed the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTPT) — which is the association that represents TV and film production companies — didn’t plan on negotiating with the WGA (Writers Guild of America) until “union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”
Porter shared that while some individuals assume all actors are well-off, that’s not the case for most members of the SAG-AFTRA (the labor union for the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) union.
“They think we’re entitled. Meanwhile, we’re getting six-cent checks,” he said, referring to low-paying residuals actors receive from streaming services. “It hurts my feelings”.
In May, the WGA was the first to authorize a strike after failing to reach a new contract agreement with the AMPTP. Two months later, SAG-AFTRA followed suit after AMPTP did not address any of their concerns regarding fair wages, the use of artificial intelligence, lack of residuals from streaming services and more issues during their respective contract negotiations. Since the strikes began this summer, many actors have come forward with their abysmal earnings despite being on successful TV series.
“In the late ‘50s, early ‘60s, when they structured a way for artists to be compensated properly through residual [payments], it allowed for the two percent of working actors — and there are 150,000 people in our union — who work consistently,” Porter explained to the outlet. “Then streaming came in. There’s no contract for it … And they don’t have to be transparent with the numbers — it’s not Nielsen ratings anymore. The streaming companies are notoriously opaque with their viewership figures.”
Porter noted that since the way viewers consume media has changed, it’s time for streaming companies to adapt as well and fairly pay their workers.
“To hear [CEO of Disney] Bob Iger say that our demands for a living wage are unrealistic? While he makes $78,000 a day?” Porter said, referring to the Disney CEO’s recent controversial comments on the strike. “I don’t have any words for it, but: f–k you. That’s not useful, so I’ve kept my mouth shut. I haven’t engaged because I’m so enraged. I’m glad I’ve been [in London] but when I go back I will join the picket lines.”