Bryan Cranston, Demi Moore among actors urging SAG-AFTRA to hold out for best deal

Fatih Aktas

In the last 48 hours, nearly 5,000 actors have signed a letter directed at the SAG-AFTRA union saying they would "rather go on strike than take a bad deal."

The letter, which was written by some of the union's strike captains and published late Thursday, has been obtained by NBC News.

In reads in part, "Back in June, before we went on strike, a large group of members signed an open letter telling our leaders that we would rather go on strike than take a bad deal."

It goes on to say: "We have not come all this way to cave now. We have not gone without work, without pay, and walked picket lines for months just to give up on everything we’ve been fighting for. We cannot and will not accept a contract that fails to address the vital and existential problems that we all need fixed."

Among the high-profile actors who have signed it are Demi Moore, Helen Hunt, Mark Ruffalo, Bryan Cranston and Freddie Highmore.

"We know that our union leaders are doing everything in their power to achieve that goal as they negotiate in good faith with the companies to arrive at a new contract that will protect us and our fellow performers, now and for generations to come," the letter continues.

Pedro Pascal, Zachary Quinto, Ed Harris, Edie Falco, Bobby Cannavale, Debra Messing, Matthew Broderick, Amanda Seyfried, Helent Hunt, Lena Dunham, Sandra Oh, Kal Penn, Jean Smart, Sarah Paulson, Chelsea Handler also are among the famous faces who have signed the letter in solidarity.

Alex Plank, one of the union's strike captains behind the letter told NBC News on Saturday the impetus for it.

“We shared this letter because we were disheartened to hear that a small group of elite actors, whose interests align more with the AMPTP than with most of our members, were pressuring the negotiating committee to cave when the vast majority of our members (88% of whom make less than the $27,000 a year required to get healthcare) are struggling and need our negotiating committee to get a deal that includes our reinvented streaming residual proposal that rewards success," he said.

Kate Bond, Rati Gupta, and Lizza Monet Morales are also strike captains who spearheaded the letter.

The monthslong actors strike which has left thousands out of work and cost the California economy over $5 billion.

SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, known as AMPTP, met virtually Friday for the third day of talks this week, which did not result in a deal. The AMPTP represents Hollywood’s studios and streamers (including NBC’s parent company, Comcast).

Three sources familiar with the negotiations said progress was made on numerous issues during Thursday’s negotiations, with one source saying, “It feels like the end is in sight.”

But two of the three sources said Friday’s meeting was “challenging,” with one saying: “It’s a volatile situation. Both sides are far apart on some key issues.”

SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a statement to members Friday evening, the union’s TV/theatrical negotiating committee said, “We completed a full and productive day working internally and will continue into the weekend.”

It added, “We thank you for the incredible solidarity and support you have shown on the pickets and across the country all week long.”

Among the main sticking points are residuals in the streaming era, protections around artificial intelligence and a levy on subscribers.

All sources confirmed a report by Variety that the AMPTP offered a 7% increase in minimum rates. When it comes to AI, the union wants oversight and veto power in how AI is used with its performers, which AMPTP is not prepared to agree to, the sources said.

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said this month that the main issue keeping both sides from making a deal was a levy on subscribers.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said at the time that the union had proposed that the streamers pay 57 cents per subscriber for the three-year deal. Sarandos publicly slammed the suggestion, saying it would cost the AMPTP over $800 million annually, a figure Drescher said was exaggerated. All sources said Friday’s talks were primarily centered on that issue.

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