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'Star Trek' stars join the picket lines in Hollywood

<em>Star Trek</em>'s George Takei and LaVar Burton on strike outside Paramount Pictures
Mandalit del Barco
Star Trek's George Takei and LaVar Burton on strike outside Paramount Pictures

As Hollywood actors and writers continue their strike against major studios, one special picket line honored Star Trek and its many spinoffs. Castmates from the various generations of the show met on the picket line outside the the gates of Paramount Pictures, where they once taped episodes.

Among them was OG Trekker George Takei, who played Lieutenent Sulu in the original 1960s series. He stood alongside LeVar Burton, who played Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 1990s. Burton had a message for studio executives who they've been on strike against:

"Y'all are losing profits, hand over fist. And I know that there are meetings happening in backrooms all over this town," Burton said, adding "greed isn't good for any of us. So let's get real. Let's come back to the table. Let's make a fair and equitable deal and let's get back to work."

Takei said actors are struggling to make a living in the changing entertainment industry. "We're here to ensure that the young actors coming up, building their careers, will have the incentive to keep on keeping on, rather than giving up and opening up a restaurant or something," he said. "We want them to be able to survive on their art of acting. We're here in solidarity to support their careers so that they can enjoy the career that LeVar and I have enjoyed."

<em>Star Trek: The Next Generation</em> actor Will Wheaton on the picket line outside Paramount Pictures
Mandalit del Barco / NPR
Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Wil Wheaton on the picket line outside Paramount Pictures.

Actor Wil Wheaton, who grew up acting in Star Trek: The Next Generation was also on the picket line and also talked about supporting up-and-coming actors, who are on strike for higher pay, more residuals and protections from artificial intelligence.

"Star Trek teaches us that we can create and sustain a world where everyone works together, where everyone has equal access and equal opportunity," Wheaton said. "I am out here today to do for the future of my industry what SAG and WGA did for me back in the '60s. I have a pension and health care and I was able to receive residual checks during the years that I did not work on camera. That really kept me going. And actors are coming up today in a world with streaming. And AI is really a threat that needs to be looked at and negotiated and managed."

<em>Star Trek</em> Day for striking screenwriters and actors during their double strike against Hollywood studios
Mandalit del Barco / NPR
Star Trek Day for striking screenwriters and actors during their double strike against Hollywood studios

Screenwriters in the Writers Guild of America began their strike on May 2, after negotiations broke down with studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Actors in SAG-AFTRA began striking in July, after their contract negotiations hit a wall. Since then, the AMPTP has made one counter offer to the WGA, which was rejected.

The Star Trek picket happened the same day the WGA sent a message to its members suggesting that leaders of some of the "legacy" studios may have to soften their hard-line stance in order to end the strike, or else break away from the AMPTP.

Hours after the WGA message, the AMPTP said in a statement that it had made a counter proposal to the screenwriters in August. Responding to the WGA's message, the statement read," AMPTP member companies are aligned and are negotiating together to reach a resolution. Any suggestion to the contrary is false."

<em>Star Trek: Picard</em> actresses Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan outside Paramount Pictures. Behind them is Clint Howard, who has been in five different <em>Star Trek</em> series.
Mandalit del Barco / NPR
Star Trek: Picard actresses Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan outside Paramount Pictures. Behind them is Clint Howard, who has been in five different Star Trek series.

Holding a picket sign in Hollywood, Dominic Keating, who played Lieutenant Malcolm Reed on Star Trek: Enterprise, stood with the others outside the gates of Paramount Pictures. "It's a mixed bag being here, because those were very fun days for all of us. And it was we really enjoyed shooting the show and we made lasting lifelong friendships," he said. Since then, he's seen gotten residual checks for as low as $15. He says the pay and the roles in TV are not what they once were. "I have not made health insurance in over eight years, and I was on a hit show for this studio. That's not right."

Michelle Hurd, who plays a former Starfleet first officer in Star Trek: Picard, says the streaming platforms are multi million dollar businesses. "There's enough of that money to give us a tiny, tiny slice of that pie so that we can make an honest living," she said. "Writers and actors, this is a sacred art form that's been around forever. Just compensate us for our work."

Hurd said the fight going on in Hollywood is a microcosm of the labor movements around the world.

"We've been ready since July 13th to negotiate. We've asked every week for them to come back to the table," she said. "I have faith and hope that they will come to a respectful contract and then come to the table and bring it to us too, because we are ready to get back to work. Writers and actors are at the table. Where are they?"

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: September 8, 2023 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of Wil Wheaton as Will.
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.