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Shonda Rhimes on WGA Writers Strike During BAFTA Special Award Event – The Hollywood Reporter



“I am a writer on strike right now,” mega-producer and Queen Charlotte showrunner Shonda Rhimes informed an intimate crowd on the Midnight Theatre in New York on Wednesday as a part of her BAFTA tribute occasion.

Rhimes was responding to a query from moderator and journalist Wajahat Ali, who requested if she supported putting writers and what she would say to fellow scribes who spent the final two days on the picket strains as a part of the primary strike in 15 years. Writers Guild of America members started putting on Tuesday after the guild and the Alliance of Movement Image and Tv Producers failed to achieve a brand new deal by the Could 1 deadline.

“I really wish that we didn’t have to be on strike, and I feel the pain of the people who are dealing with the strike, but for me, for writers to get paid for what they do in a fair way is far more important,” the author, producer and TV creator behind hit reveals like Scandal, Gray’s Anatomy and Netflix’s Bridgerton mentioned. “To have somebody devalue art, it’s bad enough as it is right now. That’s happening everywhere. But for writers to not be able to make a living wage while making a television show or making a movie is a problem.”

The feedback from Rhimes, who expanded her take care of the streamer in 2021, got here simply hours earlier than her Bridgerton spinoff Queen Charlotte was set to launch on Netflix. On the identical day, members of the WGA — with help from stagehands from IATSE Native One, musicians from Native 802 AFM and members of SAG-AFTRA — picketed outdoors of Netflix’s New York headquarters as a part of a sequence of protests demanding higher pay and contract language round AI for the union’s 11,500 members.

Throughout Wednesday’s Netflix protest, Cynthia Nixon, Bowen Yang, Ilana Glazer, Jeremy O. Harris and Matt Rogers have been among the many notable faces who confirmed their help for the guild’s work stoppage. Members like Greg Iwinski, a former author for Final Week Tonight with John Oliver and a negotiator for the WGA, in addition to Steve Bodow, former govt producer of The Day by day Present in addition to Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, additionally spoke to current feedback Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos made through the firm’s April 18 earnings name.

“If there is one, we have a large base of upcoming shows and films from around the world. We could probably serve our members better than most,” Sarandos mentioned in response to how the streamer would tackle a strike. For Bodow, it was “pointing out the problem, not the solution.”

“The fact that we have this stuff stockpiled with streaming is one of the major structural changes that’s happened in the industry since the last strike, and that’s a lot of the reason why we need to do this,” he mentioned.

For Iwinksi, Sarandos’ remark was odd, contemplating Netflix and different streamers companion with main studios who’ve extra urgency in wanting to finish the strike swiftly. “It’s very interesting to me for one partner to say, ‘Actually we’re fine with a strike,’ when there are other ones who have Upfronts and need to sell ads this week and have fall schedules that have to get filled up right now and have late night shows that are off air,” Iwinski informed The Hollywood Reporter.

As a part of the writers strike, the WGA has known as on studios to not solely improve pay for writers however institute staffing necessities, higher residuals and shorter exclusivity offers — each points which have cropped up for the reason that rise of streaming.

Throughout the remainder of the 40-minute hearth chat, Rhimes opened up about how her experiences rising up in Chicago, her household’s philosophies, attending colleges like USC and getting an internship at Denzel Washington’s manufacturing firm formed her profession. Rhimes famous that seeing Black ladies like writer Toni Morrison, Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg made her consider her goals have been attainable.

She additionally shared her expertise coming into the TV trade, realizing nobody and having no mentors when she started on Gray’s. Whereas Rhimes spoke about different individuals who had been her confidants, she mentioned that she finally believed a mentor didn’t need to be a single individual however may very well be others’ tales.

Range and inclusion have been repeatedly touched on through the evening, with Rhimes discussing how she creates her numerous writers rooms, the monetary success of numerous tales, and why she doesn’t suppose she must be telling white showrunners the right way to do higher.

“Whenever everybody asks that of me, I say, ‘Did you ask John Wells, did you ask this person?’ Like ask the white guys who aren’t doing it,” she informed Ali. “It’s not hard, but I do think a lot of it is getting uncomfortable and looking around and realizing that your circle is not inclusive of anybody. If you can look around the table and only see yourself, something is wrong with your table. Something is really wrong.”

The super-producer additionally spoke about her work on a number of of her main sequence, together with the newest, Queen Charlotte. At one level, Rhimes was requested concerning the present’s portrayal of Charlotte as Black — one thing that has been questioned by some historians. “We don’t know what her heritage was exactly, but the thing I find the most interesting is how hard people are working to make sure that people know she couldn’t possibly be brown,” she mentioned. “That’s the weirdest thing in the world to me. Why does it matter? Think about that.”

The Shondaland CEO was honored with the BAFTA Particular Award, which is given to individuals who have made a “significant, inspiring and outstanding contribution to film, games and TV.” Along with the fireplace chat with Rhimes, the occasion — a return of BAFTA’s in-person awards shows in North America — featured a cocktail reception for an invited trade viewers.

“It’s amazing. It’s such an incredible honor and I thank everybody so much because this means a lot,” Rhimes mentioned. “This award specifically.”

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