May 9, 2023
EP. S2E42 — Writers Strike Explained w/ Nick Wiger & Niccole Thurman
The WGA is on strike! Ashley welcomes TV writers Niccole Thurman (Everything’s Trash) & Nick Wiger (Doughboys) to help break down what the writers are fighting for in their battle with the greedy studios.
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S2E42 — Writers Strike Explained w/ Nick Wiger & Niccole Thurman
[00:01:10] NICK WIGER: Hi.
[00:01:11] NICCOLE THURMAN: Hello.
[00:01:11] NICK WIGER: Thanks for having me.
[00:01:12] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, thanks for having me.
[00:01:14] ASHLEY RAY: And will you two introduce yourselves. Niccole, what do you do?
[00:01:18] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah. I am an actress, comedy writer, voiceover person. I’ve written on shows for Phoebe Robinson called Everything’s Trash. I’ve written on, like, reality shows. I’ve written on Sherman’s Showcase, which is a sketch show. So, I come from an acting background, but now I’m more writing.
[00:01:34] NICK WIGER: I come from a writing background, and now I’ve shifted over more to podcasting. I feel like these days people most know me from my podcasts Doughboys and Get Played. But yeah, I’ve written for TV a bunch, you know. I wrote for a Comedy Central show called At Midnight that’s about to be rebooted on CBS. I wrote for a Sarah Silverman show on Hulu called I Love You America. I wrote on a Disney+ show recently called Earth to Ned. And yeah, I’ve just kind of generally been working a string of jobs. The sector I work in is comedy variety. So, sketch shows, talk shows, late night shows, award shows, specials, that sort of thing for about a decade and change now.
[00:02:04] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. And what I noticed is you’re both writers, but you have other jobs.
[00:02:08] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah.
[00:02:08] NICK WIGER: Yes, that’s the thing.
[00:02:12] ASHLEY RAY: Seems like that might have something to do with the problem. So why are the writers on strike? Let’s just start there.
[00:02:19] NICCOLE THURMAN: From what I’m getting and from kind of my perspective on it is that it’s a job that is not being paid a living wage. So, people are not being paid nearly enough to create the shows they create. And times have changed. They’ve gone from network TV shows, where there’s only a limited amount of channels and things to watch on TV, to everything is streaming and there’s a million shows being made. And I think that what hasn’t caught up to the shows being made is how people are getting paid that that create those shows. And so, I just think that the writers have reached this point where they came to a negotiation, their contracts are up, they’re ready to, like, renegotiate, and they’re trying to bring things into the 21st century. And the studios and network heads are like, “No thank you. We like to keep it how it is because we make a lot of money and it’s more fun when you guys make little, little change.” So yeah, that’s the main thing that I’m seeing.
[00:03:10] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, but I mean, Nick, you know, most people assume TV writers are billionaires. You’re all millionaires.
[00:03:14] NICK WIGER: It used to be a more lucrative profession, and it’s gotten to be sort of a thing where… You know, one of the stats I have is that ten years ago, 33% of members of the union working in TV made the minimum. So contractually, that is the least amount they can pay you. Today, that number is up to 49%. So, we’ve gone from a third of all TV writers making the minimum to half of all TV writers making a minimum. You extrapolate that, that number is not going down. So, it’s becoming a thing where, in addition to compensation being lower, your contracts are getting shorter. Niccole, I’m sure you sense that as well as on your end. You’re working for fewer weeks, so less money per week, fewer weeks in a year. “How am I supposed to cobble together a living? That’s all the side hustles that everyone has.”
[00:03:55] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, it’s actually really interesting for me coming into this as an actor. Like, I think I really started writing mostly in 2020. That was when I fully was taking staffing room jobs. And I noticed that it has even progressively gotten worse since I started doing it. The rooms have gotten smaller. I’ve been in interviews where… I finally, you know, was promoted to story editor on the last job I worked on. And then I go into an interview and at the very end of the interview, they’re like, “By the way, the network is only hiring staff writers.” And so, I’m like, “Well, that’s a big pay cut. Not to mention, as you go through all this work, you’re constantly being told, “We don’t have the budget to pay you X amount of dollars.” And it’s like, “You do, though.” So, yeah, I feel like it’s a lot of fighting. You know, the money is all over the place for, you know, older, white dudes writing versus, like, younger people of color–marginalized people–coming in, too. And I think that’s also been a huge, huge issue that I’ve noticed and that I was disappointed in.
[00:04:57] ASHLEY RAY: I mean, you said 2020, and that is the big year that all the white people on Twitter were like, “We got to get Black people–people of color–into the media and into Hollywood.” And then they got us in, and they were like, “Oh, you wanted us to pay you a lot, too? Oh, no.”
[00:05:09] NICK WIGER: The opportunity isn’t like, “We welcomed you in. Isn’t that enough?” Yeah, that’s the thing that I’ve seen. And even in my time in the Guild, from basically 2011, 2013–somewhere in that range–on is that rooms have gotten more diverse. But as they’ve got, like, more diverse, compensation has fallen. And so, I feel like it’s an attitude that sometimes gets packaged with diversity from corporations, which is kind of like the “you’re lucky to be here” attitude. And so, it’s shitty. It really sucks.
[00:05:37] NICCOLE THURMAN: It’s one of those things where it’s like, “We had the meeting. Remember? We had the meeting where we educated everyone on diversity. What do you want from us?” And it’s like, “We want pay.”
[00:05:47] ASHLEY RAY: “We want to have a way to become story editors and be on set and become showrunners one day.”
[00:05:51] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah.
[00:05:52] ASHLEY RAY: Another big issue is that we’ve gone from these 22-episode seasons to a show having eight episodes, ten episodes. So, they’re making smaller writers’ rooms. These days, the kids don’t even remember 22-episode seasons. They don’t even know how much TV we used to have. Like, you would just watch so much of a show for so much of the year. And I miss that as a viewer. Obviously, as a writer, I miss that. How do you feel about it?
[00:06:19] NICK WIGER: Yeah, this episode of Lost, they’re just going to kind of hang out on the beach for 44 minutes?
[00:06:27] NICCOLE THURMAN: I feel like it’s really interesting because it’s become such a different experience of watching TV. Remember, we used to have, like, “Thursday night is Friends or whatever the hell was on Thursday night!” And then Friday was, you know, TGIF and… What was that one where they have the rollercoaster at the beginning? Like, the stepparents?
[00:06:42] ASHLEY RAY: Step by Step.
[00:06:44] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yes! Step by Step! Yeah, it was more of an event. It was more of a thing. And I also was watching some documentary. I can’t remember what it was. But it was also talking about famous people in the same way, where it used to be, like, in the ’90s– Oh, it was Brooke Shields’ documentary.
[00:06:56] ASHLEY RAY: Oh, yeah, yeah.
[00:06:57] NICCOLE THURMAN: Where it used to be in the ’90s, we had, like, ten famous people, and we’re like, “Those are the famous people!” And now it’s just, like, millions and millions. And so, it’s just become such a different– There’s no excitement. We’re not all tuned into one thing anymore.
[00:07:11] NICK WIGER: Right. I think the other thing that’s happened is that the gulf has increased between the very top and, you know, the bottom-line workers–the people who are working for a minimum. Partly that comes because it’s like, “Hey, we’ve got this name showrunner. And they’re going to have all these shows, and, you know, they’re giving people opportunities.” But when they’re actually employing the writing staffs–I’m not talking about the showrunners now, I’m talking about the studios–their compensation is lower and lower. So, I think we’re headed towards a… Like, we see so many places in our economy where it’s just like there’s the super-rich and then there’s just everybody else on the bottom.
[00:07:47] NICCOLE THURMAN: Right. They’ve been talking a lot about the middle class and how there’s no middle class of writers.
[00:07:51] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, and I don’t know. One of the things I thought was scary is that the studios came back and said that they want to give comedy writers a day rate for doing comedy and late night. I am not in the WGA, I’m in TAG, the Animation Guild. Because there are all these little loopholes that shows use, so they aren’t in the WGA and instead some animated shows are in TAG, we get paid even less. And so, seeing that, I was like, “Oh no.” They want to do to comedy what they’re already doing to us animation writers, where I get, like, $200 to go write something for a day. They can’t do that for late night.
[00:08:26] NICCOLE THURMAN: No. And you were working in late night–Comedy Central–right?
[00:08:29] NICK WIGER: Yeah.
[00:08:30] NICCOLE THURMAN: I’ve had the same experience of working in Late night where they renewed our contract, I think, every 13 weeks or something like that. And even that is stressful. You have a job for 13 weeks, and you’re like, “Oh God, am I going to be fired? Is the show going to get canceled?” They can do anything with these contracts. And so, to think that you’d have day rate. You could get fired on a Friday.
[00:08:50] ASHLEY RAY: And that just shows how little value they put in the writers.
[00:08:53] NICCOLE THURMAN: They want it to be a gig. And it’s like, “How many gigs are we supposed to take?” People are having families, they want insurance, they want to grow and have a stable life.
[00:09:01] ASHLEY RAY: And also, just work on one show for a while. You know, when I hear older writers who are like, “I just got to work on Grace Under Fire for four years. It’s like, “Aw, the glory days.”
[00:09:12] NICCOLE THURMAN: Oh my God. Sounds beautiful. Right.
[00:09:13] NICK WIGER: I kind of love some of those, like, older writers who are just like, “We benefited from it, and now I’m pissed off on your behalf.” We’ve seen a lot of those people on the picket lines, and that’s been honestly, really, really encouraging because they’re aware of the generational divide. And they’re aware that they got in while the getting was good. And now today’s writers, like, you know, deserve what they used to have because the companies can afford it. These are the largest companies on Earth. We’re talking about Amazon. We’re talking about Apple. These are two of the biggest corporations on Earth, period. Not just in media.
[00:09:41] ASHLEY RAY: 3% of their annual revenue–all the studios–that’s what the writers are asking for. Just 3%.
[00:09:47] NICK WIGER: Number I heard was 2%. Either way, that’s a small percent.
[00:09:49] NICCOLE THURMAN: It’s so low.
[00:09:52] ASHLEY RAY: And I think the AMPTP came back, and they were like, “We looked at their math, and actually it’s more like 9%.”
[00:09:58] NICCOLE THURMAN: Still.
[00:09:59] ASHLEY RAY: And it’s like, “Oh, are we supposed to believe that’s too much?”
[00:10:03] NICK WIGER: What you mentioned about tag–which is the animation guild which I’m also a member of–of, like, yeah, this kind of speaks to… And I think you used the word “loophole.” These studios are the masters of finding loopholes. So, it’s like, “Hey, we have this new thing now we can call a ‘mini room.’ It’s like a writer’s room, but it’s a tiny, teeny, mini room. And so, you guys get a little, teeny, tiny contract and a little bit of pay.”
[00:10:25] ASHLEY RAY: “You’re not making a mini show, but…”
[00:10:27] NICK WIGER: I’ve talked to people on the line who are like, “I wrote an entire season of TV in a mini room, and they just sort of, like, ran with it.”
[00:10:34] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. The two shows I’ve written for–they were mini rooms–did a whole season, and it’s like, “Okay, we’re just going to act like it wasn’t a season of TV?” I want to ask… So, you know, if you’re not familiar, every three years the WGA negotiates a new contract with the Hollywood studios. Usually this just goes pretty smoothly. There have been, I believe, four other strikes throughout history. There’s one in the ’80s, one in the early ’90s, maybe one in the ’70s. Who knows?
[00:11:02] NICK WIGER: 2007 was the most recent.
[00:11:04] ASHLEY RAY: That’s the most recent, and that’s the one I want to talk about because 2007 was the big one. The strike lasted 100 days. It started November 2007. Do you two remember where you were–what you were doing?
[00:11:16] NICK WIGER: Well, I will say that I was in LA, but I was not in the Writers Guild yet. So, it was like, “Oh, this is going on.” I was conscious of it, but, you know, I was working in the video game industry. So, yeah, I wasn’t even a part of it.
[00:11:27] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, I wasn’t either. I think I was living in Chicago or something. Like, I wasn’t as involved in the industry as I am now. But I do remember that shift from TV to reality TV because it was like, “Oh, well, these people don’t know that they’re gonna get screwed.”
[00:11:43] ASHLEY RAY: “These people aren’t in a union. This is all new.”
[00:11:47] NICCOLE THURMAN: “So we can take advantage of these people, pay them jack shit, and then, like, put them on TV and that’s TV now.”
[00:11:51] ASHLEY RAY: “And come up with brilliant shows like Kid Nation.”
[00:11:54] NICK WIGER: I’ll also say those shows should be covered–those should be union as well. That’s another way they kind of get out of it.
[00:12:00] NICCOLE THURMAN: Loopholes.
[00:12:02] ASHLEY RAY: “Yes, they have writers, but they’re not really writers.”
[00:12:04] NICK WIGER: Exactly. Yeah. No. Yeah, but what you were talking about–2007/2008 writer’s strike birthed Celebrity Apprentice. So, you can draw a direct line from studio intransigence and that work stoppage to the Donald Trump presidency.
[00:12:18] NICCOLE THURMAN: But for real, though. Yes.
[00:12:20] ASHLEY RAY: You look at the ratings on The Apprentice in 2007, they were going down. Advertisers were like, “The show is done. It’s so boring. We’re not getting ad time.” Clearly, it was going to be canceled. Writer’s strike happens, and NBC is just like, “Well, I don’t know. I guess a lot of celebrities aren’t in production right now. Want to just get them on a reality show with Donald Trump?” And it blew up. It revitalized the brand–kept it on air until, like, 2014.
[00:12:55] NICCOLE THURMAN: I’ve always said that reality TV was a direct pathway to Donald Trump being president, so I think that’s amazing that you just said that because it’s true, though.
[00:13:02] ASHLEY RAY: It’s true. And it’s how we got our sort of modern version of celebrity because that’s when the Kardashians started and we stopped going, “Oh, reality TV is about your next-door neighbor who can sing and go on American Idol and everybody’s surprised.” And it’s more like this level of celebrity we get to look into now–this level of class. It’s not about the talent. It’s just about the look. ”
[00:13:24] NICCOLE THURMAN: It’s really funny because when we were talking about this, it reminds me of, like, dating. And you know how dating used to be, like, super analog? Like, you’d meet somebody, fall in love, have chemistry, and be, like, into it. And then, like, all of a sudden, OkCupid came out. And then ever since OkCupid, dating has completely changed now. It’s hookup culture. Now, everything is super, like… whatever the word is for nobody cares about anybody. Everybody is just kind of like, “Whatever. I can just go to the next thing.” And I think once you get to that, it devalues the brand in a way. And so, then people think less of it. But for us, the people that are creating it, working our asses off– I have to wear glasses now. I didn’t have to wear glasses before. I wear glasses because I look at screens all day. Those people are like, “Oh, wait, hold up. We still need what we used to have, which is a home and a life.”
[00:14:12] ASHLEY RAY: We’re not, like, these starving creatives. You should be able to have a career in writing. One thing that I think is very different from 2007 to now–and the way this usually goes is, you know, the union strikes and then the studios put out a lot of misinformation. They work with the papers.
[00:14:29] NICK WIGER: And all the big radio programs.
[00:14:33] ASHLEY RAY: And broadcast channels, and they get Dan Rather on. They put out misinformation that tries to make the writers look bad, and you’re probably going to see a lot of stuff that’s like, “Oh no, Stranger Things canceled! What will we do?” Or, you know, “paused for production.” That’s not the fault of the writers. That’s the studio’s fault for not giving the writers what they want. And back in 2007, it was hard for writers to fight against that messaging. I feel like I’m so old. “Back in 2007, we just had our internet news and no social media, so it was hard.” But now I feel like they’re trying to do that. And the writers are just on Twitter like, “Hey, I’m the Duffer Brothers, and we are standing with the union.” You can’t make them look bad. And every TV writer today has, like, a podcast with a little army of fans who just want to see them paid well. So, I’m curious, Nick–you have a whole platform that you can use.
[00:15:29] NICK WIGER: Yes, I do.
[00:15:33] ASHLEY RAY: It feels like that’s some power in the writer’s pocket this time around.
[00:15:38] NICK WIGER: And honestly, though, that’s a great point. And, you know, social media–I think there’s been a lot of excellent posting out there. Shout out Brittani Nichols, who I think just has the best posts in the game. But, like, I have a podcast; I just talk about the strike on my podcast. And the listeners totally get it because it’s happening across industries. And obviously you look at something like TV writing and, look, this is a dream job for a lot of people. It was certainly a dream job for me. And it’s not working at Starbucks. It’s not working at, you know, Chipotle. But you look at the union movements that happen in those industries–it’s the same sort of thing. These are very profitable corporations that are not paying the workers who are essential–who are the core part of their product. And so, you have no choice there but to collectively bargain. And that’s what’s happening here. And the other thing I’ll say–and I apologize for ranting a little bit here–but one thing that I’ve seen out on the picket lines is that all the other entertainment unions and other unions are coming out and supporting us and walking with us and saying they have our back. IATSE has been out there, which represents a lot of the crew that works on shoots. SAG-AFTRA has been out there in force. I’ve seen the Laborers have been out there. A dude who works at Pizza Hut just came by our picket line and just walked with us. He was like, “This is fucked up.” And it’s just like, “Yeah, it is.” We had someone who came out to the picket line today, and she was a woman who I’ll just say was the Karen demographic. And she was just kind of standing around. I went over to her, I talked to her, and she was like, “My son drove me out here. I don’t walk so well anymore, but I was a bus driver. I was on a strike in 1973. I was in the transportation union. I just want to come out to support you.” This is great that all of the plasterers–the steel workers–are all supporting the same cause because it’s the same struggle everywhere.
[00:17:27] ASHLEY RAY: Exactly. LA is a union town. And when I’ve been out on the picket line, every bus driver honks their horn. Every bus driver or truck driver–they are honking that horn.
[00:17:37] NICCOLE THURMAN: I think it is hard because people will see a TV writer–anybody that works in entertainment–and they’re like, “Well, what are you complaining about? You work in entertainment.” And it’s like, “Absolutely. But that is a job. And we should be striving to get the best out of our job.” Just like if you’re a teacher, you should be challenging the education system. If you’re delivering packages for, you know, FedEx or whatever, you should be making sure that you guys are getting all of the things that you deserve. And I feel like that’s part of the messaging and people having these platforms now. Was it Deadline that put out that weird article that was like, “Guess what? You guys aren’t going to have a Stranger Thing because there’s a writers strike.” And it was like, “It isn’t because of the writers’ strike.” It’s because they’re treating employees like gig workers and offering 150 bucks a day to write something and, like, that’s not okay. So, I feel like it’s been cool to, like you said, see all these people because I’ve seen it going both ways, where it’s people being like, “Why are you complaining? You have no right to complain.” It’s like, “Well, listen. If you listen to what’s actually happening as opposed to just seeing someone in Hollywood and being like, ‘But it’s Hollywood…’”
[00:18:44] ASHLEY RAY: “George R. R. Martin doesn’t need more money.”
[00:18:45] NICCOLE THURMAN: And it’s like, “You guys should all be fighting for more money as well. You should be fighting for better care, better health care, whatever it is that you need.”
[00:18:53] ASHLEY RAY: And can we also get into residual pay? I think some people believe TV writers are rich because you write an episode and then every time it reruns you get money. Which is true. You know, that is true if you worked in the ’90s and you wrote on Friends. But today–now things are streaming. And in that 2007 negotiation, one of the things that they didn’t really get was residual rights on streaming video on demand for writers. So now you’re probably writing a show for HBO Max or Netflix and you’re not getting money every single time someone watches that episode.
[00:19:27] NICCOLE THURMAN: No, I will say, too, I was shook by that because the first show I wrote on was in 2020 (for HBO Max), and then in 2023, I got the residuals for it. First of all, that’s crazy; that’s three years later. And then I looked at the checks and I was like, “Huh?” It was ten episodes of a show. And I mean, we made $100 per episode. I think that’s actually good residuals for what I’ve been hearing. But that’s $1,000 for writing a whole TV series, you know what I mean? And as an actor, I can definitely see the difference in residuals. I remember, too, when commercials first started going on Hulu and whatnot, they were paying people as if they were web series. And we’re like, “Excuse me, this is not a web series. This is a national commercial that people are seeing a million times.” And so that has been worked out now so that you actually get paid. And so, to me, of course you should raise residuals. People should get a bigger percentage of what they’re creating. Of course.
[00:20:21] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah.
[00:20:21] NICCOLE THURMAN: They’re still fighting that.
[00:20:22] ASHLEY RAY: And in fact, they don’t even tell the viewership numbers to the showrunners, right? They keep that all secret.
[00:20:28] NICK WIGER: A lot of that stuff is just under lock and key. I mean, that’s an information asymmetry where it’s just like they… You know, “knowledge is power” is the cliche. They are more powerful because they have that information and it’s not being dispersed. I think that that needs transparency there. We need to know how many views these things are getting. And then if they’re monetizing things again and again as they have when they re-air, say, a show in syndication, if they’re using this to, you know, drive viewership because it’s re-airing on their streaming service, then yes, the people who create it should be compensated for it.
[00:20:58] ASHLEY RAY: And it drives me crazy, especially with Hulu, because if you watch an old program on Hulu, they will still put commercials in it. Even if it’s on Netflix without commercials on Hulu, they will run ads in it. And it’s like, “I know you’re making more money off of this. Give it to the writers.”
[00:21:12] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah. That’s the thing is, like, seeing those types of things and knowing that they have that money and knowing that, at this point, the majority of TV is streaming, and you can put ads in it and you guys are obviously raking it in. So, it’s like, you know, 2%, 3%, whatever it is–it’s nothing.
[00:21:29] NICK WIGER: That’s a great point. Like, yeah, TV is streaming now. That’s what the model has changed to. And also, we see things where they’ll air something that’s streaming and then they’ll re-air it on television.
[00:21:42] ASHLEY RAY: Which, you know, I do think is going to be what we see maybe this summer when they all run out of content–or in the fall, if that’s, you know, how long this goes. They did that in 2007. People might remember they aired edited versions of Dexter on CBS. One of my favorite 2007 strike notes is just there were truly people who were watching Dexter on CBS like, “Did someone just get killed? We didn’t see any murder or blood.”
[00:22:08] NICK WIGER: They took an hour long show and edited it down to 22 minutes.
[00:22:11] NICCOLE THURMAN: Right? Oh my God. Wow.
[00:22:14] ASHLEY RAY: So, there are some people who are like, “Okay, okay, fine. The studios have money. They can give you money. But why won’t you writers shut up about this artificial intelligence thing?” That’s been a big sticking point in this year’s negotiations. Obviously, it was not something that came up in 2007. Wasn’t really something that came up three years ago because the studios were just like, “We don’t really know where this technology is going.” And now today they’re still trying to go, “Well, we don’t really know where this technology is going.” And the last time they did this was 2007 with streaming platforms. They were like, “We don’t really know where streaming is going, so we don’t want to pay you residuals on it.” And now it’s “Well, we don’t know what’s going to happen with AI,” which is kind of a big giveaway.
[00:22:57] NICCOLE THURMAN: Right! They’re going to be looking.
[00:23:01] ASHLEY RAY: More actors are seeing AI clauses in their contracts. This is clearly something the studios want to take advantage of. And, you know, mostly what I’m seeing on Twitter are people who are just like, “Whatever. You human writers suck anyway, and I want the robots to write everything.” But can you explain why this is such an important point for the Guild to stay focused on?
[00:23:22] NICK WIGER: It’s fundamentally still about money because any time industry can automate labor and replace it with a machine, they will do that. And so that’s really because that saves money on labor costs. And so, it’s their ultimate goal. Now, this technology is still fundamentally in its infancy, especially when applied to writing narrative. It just isn’t quite up to the job yet, but they’re going to be looking to do this. And so that’s part of the reason we need to get it into contract language. Like, towards what you were saying, if they don’t want to talk about something, that means it’s something that we have to talk about. If we went along with what they were saying back in 2007, if the writers who were before me went along with what they were saying and just sort of like, “Okay, we won’t talk about the internet. Let’s figure out DVD residuals because that’s the big thing right now. We’ve got to lock in a good number here.” You had to be focused on the future as well as the present. And so, I think it’s a great thing to address.
[00:24:09] NICCOLE THURMAN: Absolutely. I feel like that’s been something that’s been coming up in different industries across the board. And then you see these videos of, like, actors that aren’t really there, but the AI is creating them.
[00:24:18] ASHLEY RAY: Moving their mouths. That’s creepy.
[00:24:21] NICCOLE THURMAN: And it looks real. And so, it’s just like that is something that needs to be worried about, just like what you said, because we said we weren’t going to worry about streaming and now here we are. So, we need to look to the future. We need to think of an evil, like, you know, twisting the mustache guy on the train tracks. Like, what would he be doing?
[00:24:38] ASHLEY RAY: What would the villain be doing?
[00:24:40] NICCOLE THURMAN: He working with the robots. He working with them. And so, it’s like we have to get ahead of it because they really will just start feeding scripts into, you know, AI, have it read 1,000 pages, and then…
[00:24:50] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, the other thing is writers–we don’t want AI trained on our scripts. If studios own them and they’re just feeding them into the ChatGPT machine, what does that mean exactly for the future?
[00:24:59] NICCOLE THURMAN: And for art? I mean, it’s art. Like, are we really going to have machines…? That’s like math projects making art.
[00:25:10] ASHLEY RAY: You know, the only thing I like to see CGI and AI on is if it’s the last season of The Goldbergs and they are CGI entering Jeff Garlin into a wedding scene, and then I’m all for it.
[00:25:21] NICK WIGER: Give me all that you got.
[00:25:22] ASHLEY RAY: Give it to me then.
[00:25:23] NICCOLE THURMAN: Absolutely unhinged, and I love it. So good.
[00:25:26] ASHLEY RAY: I was like, “I don’t need to believe that’s a real human.” So, another thing that we’re, you know, kind of all fighting for is greater minimum pay across the board. Can you kind of explain for people what that means because I think a lot of people don’t realize that, you know, there are these minimums. It’s not like you get into writing and the studios can be like, “Here’s $3 million.”
[00:25:45] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, I can take that one actually, as an actor that recently transitioned to writing because I’m telling you, I was like, “Ooh, these checks! Ooh, these checks are good! This is money!” You do, you know, a voiceover job, you don’t get nearly the money that you get as a writer. But that was the thing that gets people caught up; you’re hearing $4,000 or $5,000 a week is the minimum. Somebody had a really great tweet about this. 4,000 to me was what I thought the minimum was. So, if you’re getting 4,000 as a staff writer, we forget that these things are being taxed, you have to give 10% to your agent, 10% to your manager, and if you have a lawyer, 5% to your lawyer. So, there’s 25% more of your paycheck. And 10% they took for taxes. And then with, you know, rent it’s absolutely insane. I mean, I was looking for new apartments today, and I was like, “This is a joke. I’m not going to do this anymore.” So, you forget how easily your money can be completely just dispersed so quickly. And so, if you’re only working for nine weeks in a room. Making $5,000, that’s only $45,000. And you might not work for a year, two, or three. I haven’t had a WGA job in a year. I’ve been saving my money like a little squirrel with their nuts because you don’t know what’s going to happen with your career. It’s not guaranteed. And the rooms are so short.
[00:27:01] NICK WIGER: I think that’s the key point. It’s a lot of money per week, but if you look at that over the course of a contract–how long a contract is–if you’re not on a show that’s ongoing… I was on a limited contract that ended at the start of March 2020, and then we know everything that happened then. So, I was like, “Oh, okay. So that was my chunk of writing income that’s going to sustain me through this global pandemic.” And, you know, that sort of shit comes up. So, it’s a very uncertain field. But also, where do you want the money going? Because, like, here’s a thing–if they’re not paying the writers, if they’re not paying the actors, if they’re not paying the crew, if they’re not paying the people who make this content, they’re not just giving that money to charity. They’re keeping it for themselves. So, do you want it going to the CEOs, or do you want it going to the writers? Do you want it going to the actors? Do you want it going to the gaffers and the cameramen and the directors and the makeup artists and the costumers? It’s the same sort of thing that I think starts to happen with athlete unions, where people are like, “These spoiled rich athletes.” Do you want the owners to have more fucking money? Do you want Steve Ballmer–who’s stomping his feet courtside–to have more billions? Or do you want the people who are actually playing the game–who are creating the product that you enjoy–to be compensated for it?
[00:28:11] NICCOLE THURMAN: It’s one of those industries where it’s like you see the front facing people of the movement. And if you disagree, you’re going for them. But don’t go for us. Go for Netflix in its 15th yard or whatever.
[00:28:24] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. Go for them and their 300 billion whatever salaries. It is not the writers.
[00:28:30] NICCOLE THURMAN: We’re hoarding our ten weeks of pay, maybe just in case we work for three more years. They’re hoarding millions and billions of dollars that they’re making by not giving it–dispersing it–to the people that are creating their work.
[00:28:41] ASHLEY RAY: Exactly.
[00:28:42] NICK WIGER: I got so riled up during my rant I spilled coffee.
[00:28:46] ASHLEY RAY: You can’t see it, listeners, but he was riled.
[00:28:53] NICCOLE THURMAN: So, there are people who will say, “Okay, okay. I get it. Writers, you need a living wage. Fine. I don’t live in LA. I don’t live in Hollywood. This doesn’t impact me. Why should I care? There’s already too much TV. I need time to catch up with my TV, so you guys could strike for forever. I don’t care. Or I just watch old episodes of The Office anyway. I don’t like new TV. Why should I care?”
[00:29:15] NICK WIGER: My favorite was when someone sent me a New York Times comment that was a guy saying, “Entertainment peaked with Greek tragedy.”
[00:29:24] ASHLEY RAY: I love that one. I’ve been getting so many DMs that are just like, “TV today sucks. There hasn’t been a good TV show made in the last five years.” And then I just replied with, like, “Barry, Succession, Abbott Elementary…” And he just went, “Damn, you’re right, never mind.”
[00:29:40] NICCOLE THURMAN: What’s the thing where it’s like, “First they came for the blah, blah, blah, and I said nothing. Then they came for the dah, dah, dah, and I said nothing.” I’m obviously very smart in quoting it. But you know what I’m talking about? It’s the same concept as it is in politics. It’s like, “Oh, I don’t care about, you know, immigration because I’m not an immigrant.” But guess what? You know, it’s going to come to your door eventually in some way, shape, or form–including, you know, your TV could be written by AI, and you don’t want that. Guys, come on. Stop playing. But it really is, I think, that everybody needs to understand that you should never just take shit lying down. You should never just sign the first contract you get. You should never accept the first offer. And I think a lot of people–because it’s that scarcity mindset–they’re like, “Well, I gotta take it.” And so, I would hope that people would see something like this and be inspired to do it in their line of work–in whatever way that is. And so, I think that, sure, it doesn’t affect you. But first of all, yes, it does because it’s pop culture; we literally create pop culture. And then second of all, it’s going to come to you in some way, shape, or form when they set you down for a review and then they don’t give you a promotion because they don’t have the money right now. You know what I mean?
[00:30:44] NICK WIGER: Yeah, something doesn’t have to be for you for it to be popular and profitable. So, I don’t really pay attention to the MCU, but that’s a huge thing that a lot of people are huge fans of. And notoriously, Marvel is not great about compensating the people who work for them. Again, that comes from Disney+. I talked to an IATSE lighting tech who worked on a Marvel show and he’s just talking about how onerous the working conditions were and how poorly he was paid. Just because something’s not for you does not mean that the people who make it should not be benefiting from its success. And I think there’s also a larger issue–and it just speaks to what Niccole was getting towards–which is, like, this is about labor in America. And, you know, some of the most encouraging things I’ve seen as a big union guy over the past few years have been Amazon warehouses unionizing. I mentioned Starbucks and Chipotle unionizing. Burgerville up in Portland–a local chain restaurant–unionized. When we see that happening, that is great for everybody because it asserts the strength of the worker versus ownership. And it’s the same sort of thing with WGA. We are a very visible union. We are a reasonably powerful union in the context of America. So be rooting for us because we are you. We are also workers.
[00:31:56] ASHLEY RAY: And also, if you like those old episodes of The Office, guess what? They were written by staff writers–staff writers who probably could make more shows you like if they could get a living wage writing shows. I think there was a story of one Black guy who wrote for the Office for, like, three seasons, and he had to work at Macy’s after. And it’s just like that’s the reality for so many of us.
[00:32:19] NICCOLE THURMAN: Absolutely. I mean, before the strike even started, I was like, “Okay, time to get a survival job” because you’re constantly planning ahead for, like, poverty–when you run out of money. It’s a terrifying way to live. And I can’t even imagine if I had kids. A dog is enough for me. I’m like, “You kinda cheap, so I’m good with you.” Yeah, I mean, it’s crazy.
[00:32:41] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. And, you know, a lot of people say about 2007 that TV got worse. It made TV worse. One of the big examples they always use are Heroes, Friday Night Lights, Gray’s Anatomy, which all had huge drops in quality. I think that’s what the fans noticed. I don’t know that today people will notice that because we don’t have 22-episode seasons. Like, there aren’t things that are going to be being written while things are on air. Abbott Elementary is probably the only one that would have come close, and they shut down production. But what I do think is maybe kind of important–what we saw this week–is that the studios are now trying to cancel their overall deals with certain creators. And so, this is kind of the one thing they have that they can do.
[00:33:25] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah.
[00:33:27] ASHLEY RAY: I know personally when I hear about an overall deal with someone I love, I get so excited about it. Say there’s someone out there who’s like, “I am so happy Lena Waithe has a deal with Prime Video.” And Amazon–in this, they go, “Well, we’re canceling all of our overall deals because the writers won’t write.” That is work that now will not exist. They did this back in 2007. We saw tons of writers, who are amazing–worked on wonderful shows–lose their overall deals. And there was just this lack of content and quality shows for two to three years. Can you kind of explain for people what is an overall deal? Like, why is that something that matters?
[00:34:03] NICK WIGER: What I can bring this back to is that this is the same playbook that they always do. And that’s what we can at least look at from the 2007-2008 strike. Like you were saying, they did that same thing. So, we know what their moves are, and we understand that they’re going to deploy them cynically. Typically, overall deals are people who have some prominence and some success in the industry and, you know, are kind of just like, “You’re just kind of on the hook to help develop stuff for us to create content for us. And we’re going to pay you over the period of this deal.” And so, when they have a work stoppage like this, a lot of times I feel like that’s used as an excuse, right? It’s just like they were looking to do this anyway and now they have a thing they can point towards and then try to, again, blame their workforce for it. And it’s also a way to try to divide the workforce.
[00:34:50] ASHLEY RAY: Exactly. And also, you know, there are other entertainment groups and unions that are impacted by this who could be manipulated with that kind of messaging, when there are like hair and makeup teams who are like, “I am being hurt by your strike because I can’t get work.” And I’ve only really seen that so far at Netflix. There were three counter-protesters, but otherwise everyone has been coming together so wonderfully.
[00:35:14] NICK WIGER: That’s what’s encouraging. It’s just, you know, again, you see people out there. I was talking to a prop master. I was talking to a costumer. They’re coming out, and they’re picketing with us because they know they have their own struggle. DGA has their deal expiring. SAG-AFTRA–the actors union–their deal expires at the end of June. We might be on the picket line at the same time because they’re trying to–
[00:35:35] ASHLEY RAY: I hope so.
[00:35:36] NICK WIGER: Hey, I would love that shit. But they’re trying to get the middle class everywhere.
[00:35:39] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. And I think the Directors Guild–
[00:35:43] NICK WIGER: DGA. Directors Guild is up soon. Yeah.
[00:35:46] ASHLEY RAY: Are you excited? Are you hoping you’re double striking?
[00:35:48] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, I’ll be double striking. Yeah, I already am. I mean, I was supposed to record a voiceover today. I can’t record because we don’t have any writers, you know what I mean? So, it’s already hitting us. It’s already hitting the actors. And also–speaking of overall deals–I think what people don’t always think of is how the machine is never done. The machine doesn’t stop. Like you’re saying, people are like, “Ooh, I got to catch up on my ten episodes or whatever anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” It’s like, “Sure. But you do understand that TV takes a very long time to get made.” These people with the overall deals are working on shows that you might see in five years or working on shows you’ll never see. They’re pitching, pitching, pitching all the time. And I think that’s stopping. And people don’t understand that when we roll around to the fall it’s going to be, you know, a mess.
[00:36:35] ASHLEY RAY: It might not be as bad as Heroes or the second season of Friday Night Lights, but yeah. It’s going to be bad.
[00:36:41] NICK WIGER: What happened with the second season of Friday Night Lights? I’ve never seen it.
[00:36:45] ASHLEY RAY: My God. It basically happened during the 2007 writers’ strike. And they decreased the episode order. And you could tell they had a lot of big plans for that season. There’s, like, a murder plot that gets started–all this stuff. And you’re like, “Oh, where’s this all going to go?” And then just to clean it all up, they have this character, Landry–who is the most docile person–played by…
[00:37:08] NICCOLE THURMAN: Jesse Plemons.
[00:37:09] ASHLEY RAY: Yes, Jesse Plemons. Just, like, the sweetest boy. And they have him commit a murder.
[00:37:14] NICCOLE THURMAN: I literally only know that because I’ve seen that meme.
[00:37:17] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, where it’s like, “The last time there was a writers strike, Landry killed someone.” And that’s the moment that season went off the rails and was so bad that the next season they were just like, “Let’s just not even ever talk about that again.” Like, they just moved on–kind of like Heroes did–where they had like all these plotlines up in the air. And they were just like, “You know what? We never have to go get Peter’s Irish girlfriend back from her timeline. Let’s just let that go.”
[00:37:42] NICCOLE THURMAN: Hilarious.
[00:37:44] ASHLEY RAY: So, you know, I think some of the strike TV was brilliant in how bad it was. You know, we got Kid Nation. We got A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.
[00:37:55] NICK WIGER: Endearing shows. Yeah. One more thing on that–a lot of people, I think, don’t realize that Jeopardy! is WGA. Those are union writers. I’ve been walking the line with a lot of Jeopardy! writers. They’re going to run out of Jeopardy! at a certain point. You talk about the content pipeline just needing to continue. Like, at a certain point, they’re going to run out of shit. And it’s not like the studios are going to stop making scripted content for all time. At a certain point, they need more stuff. And I think that’s a big part of our leverage.
[00:38:21] ASHLEY RAY: And I think late night is already…
[00:38:23] NICK WIGER: Shut down. Yeah
[00:38:25] NICCOLE THURMAN: Niccole Byer was telling me about how, like, Nailed It!– Like you were saying, these reality shows–the reality competition shows–they can’t work! They have writers on them that are WGA, and they can’t do it. So, it is like, “Oh, I’ll just watch, you know… Shaq shoot a basketball.” I don’t know why that was my first thought. I’m apparently in 1996.
[00:38:44] NICK WIGER: I’m in.
[00:38:44] NICCOLE THURMAN: I’ll just watch that.
[00:38:45] ASHLEY RAY: Two months from now that’s going to be on NBC.
[00:38:47] NICCOLE THURMAN: Shaq Shoots Basketballs. And it’s just Shaq. He’s got nothing to say because nobody’s writing for him. Yeah. I would say also something that’s been really cool that I’ve seen–speaking of, like, double strikes or it just affecting other industries–is support workers, literally, like, writers’ assistants who make very little money, work very hard, and are immediately now out of jobs, which could easily be like, “I don’t know how to pay rent next month.” But they have also been on board with this because they know that, like, “This is a tough time, but it will benefit us in the future. We can make this better. We just have to kind of buckle down right now and work for it.”
[00:39:25] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. And I feel like from what you’re saying, a lot of people don’t understand shows like Jeopardy! have writers–reality shows. WGA was going to picket the MTV Fan Awards. I believe they announced it, and within, like, 20 minutes MTV was like, “Never mind, we’re canceling it. We’ll just do a streaming awards show.” Can you explain how those types of shows have writers because there were so many, you know, teenagers who don’t know, who are just like, “Why are the writers ruining my Best MTV Kiss Award moment?”
[00:39:55] NICCOLE THURMAN: I wrote on a couple of award shows, and I think what’s funny is I don’t think I had even ever thought about how much writers are involved in that. But my God, those people aren’t saying one word that they are thinking. They’re reading off of prompters. The games and the bits where somebody comes into the audience and delivers pizza–that was created by a writer. Like, anything you see that goes viral and you’re cracking up over it–unless it’s some random drunk celebrity wandering on stage–writers are creating this. And you work your ass off pitching jokes, jokes, jokes all day, every day. And so that’s not something that can go on without writers. And I think what’s so hard to always remember is it’s not us causing the problem. Like, we’re the ones that make the memes that you see, the jokes that you make with your friends, the That’s What She Saids–those type of things–they don’t just come from nowhere. They come from writers creating. And yeah, the awards shows are very much writers.
[00:40:54] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. You think celebrities can be charming live on camera at an awards show? No. You got to have writers making them seem charming and so relatable in their speeches. Come on.
[00:41:04] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, giving them their little quips and their little bits. Yeah.
[00:41:08] NICK WIGER: I actually wrote for the MTV Movie Awards previously. And I would say, if anything, there was too much writing going on. At a certain point I was like, “Guys, can we relax? What are we doing?”
[00:41:17] ASHLEY RAY: “I think we can just give out the Golden Popcorn. Let’s, let’s ease up on it.” Something I’ve also noticed is that I think today the way TV is made is so removed from the viewer. Like, back when this was happening in 2007, I had an idea of, like, “Oh, there’s a showrunner and a writers’ room. And this is how it kind of goes.” And nowadays people truly will be like, “Donald Glover wrote every single episode of Atlanta. The actors weren’t acting, and they were just geniuses who were adlibbing the whole time.” And so, people aren’t seeing the value of the writer. They’re really just like, “What do you need that for? Issa Rae wrote all of Insecure. Why would you need 12 writers?” Why do you think that has happened? Do you think it’s because the studios know they benefit from just making the viewer as ignorant about that as possible?
[00:42:21] NICCOLE THURMAN: I think so. But I also think that, to me, showrunners are more visible nowadays. Like, I always would see Marta Kauffman and whoever the other person was for Friends.
[00:42:30] NICK WIGER: David Crane.
[00:42:30] NICCOLE THURMAN: You would see that, but you wouldn’t necessarily know. But now I know what Issa Rae looks like, and she’s a celebrity in her own right. David Simon is a celebrity in his own right. These showrunners–it could seem like there isn’t this big production going on behind the scenes. I don’t know. What I’ve noticed as an actor and a writer sometimes is, like, something will go viral or be memeable, and you’ll never see an actor be like, “Yo, that was the writer. The writer is fucking funny.” You know what I mean? You’ll never see that. They’re like, “Thank you so much.”
[00:43:06] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. “It really was funny when I…”
[00:43:07] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, there’s just, like, a little bit of erasure of writers. But I do think that because people aren’t seeing that and because they’re so used to the bloopers–they think that’s behind the scenes. But it’s actually like we’re pitching line after line after line–on set, too.
[00:43:26] NICK WIGER: I think that’s also, you know, kind of sometimes the nature of the job. The person saying the line is–in certainly comedies–the person who’s going to get the laugh or is going to get the reaction in anything. But the people writing the lines should at least be compensated. And fundamentally, I think that’s what it’s about. It’s what you’re talking about–room sizes getting smaller and an auteur showrunner writing every episode. You know, there are some people who wanted to do that workflow. I will say that one thing that we should note is that the number of writers required in a room in the current contract is zero. And so, there are showrunners who want to not have a staff. But there are a lot of showrunners who have no say over how large their staff is. Like, for every one showrunner who gets to be like, “Oh, I just want to write everything myself,” there are 20 or 30 or 50 who are being given a writer’s room the size that the network says they can have–that the studio says they can have. And so, I think it’s important to preserve those jobs so that people who do want to have a room can have one.
[00:44:29] ASHLEY RAY: And could you give listeners an idea of, like, what is the writer’s room process like? I think a lot of people just think you sit around eating snacks and making jokes about high school.
[00:44:39] NICK WIGER: Yeah, that’s right. You got a problem with that?
[00:44:43] NICCOLE THURMAN: That is all you do.
[00:44:44] ASHLEY RAY: And also, there’s a whiteboard, usually. And maybe some post-it notes.
[00:44:50] NICCOLE THURMAN: Well, yeah, I think that it’s been interesting for me just learning that process because I was on my first narrative room. That was the last job I did. I mean, it’s such a process, mainly just breaking the story–just deciding what’s going to happen in every single episode. Working together by pitching story ideas or just jokes and riffing together and creating literally the outline and the template for every episode like, “This is going to happen.” And then eventually after kind of you’re all pitching together… That’s why I love a big writer’s room. That’s where the jokes are made, man. That’s why they’re punched up.
[00:45:25] ASHLEY RAY: Diversity of ideas.
[00:45:27] NICCOLE THURMAN: Diversity of ideas. Your characters have different voices because of it. And so, yeah, after that’s done, a writer will go off and script it by themselves. But then it’ll come back to the room and then everybody in the room will rewrite it and punch it up. I come from, like, Second City Chicago world. And so, it’s very improv. Six people create a thing together and you always have each other’s backs. And so, to me, I think that that process is so necessary. Like, you have to have different voices and different people creating so that the products can be the best it is.
[00:46:03] NICK WIGER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s a collaborative medium–TV and film–at every level. And it’s, you know, the PAs and the production designers and the costumers and the makeup artists and the actors. Everyone is collaborating, and that extends to the writer’s room. And I always feel like, you know, two brains beat one, eight brains beat two. You just want more minds in there to try to crack a story or beat a joke. I mean, this process has endured for a long time, I think, for a reason. I don’t think it’s just path dependency. I think it is like, “This is the best way to craft something where you need a lot of episodes or you have, like, an ongoing narrative arc over a season or multiple seasons.” I think you just need lots of bodies in there to try to track this thing.
[00:46:48] NICCOLE THURMAN: How many frigging people on Twitter want to tell you how to have the next episode of your show be. It’s the same damn thing. You guys are doing what we’re doing. We’re saying, “No, I don’t think you should go there.”
[00:46:58] ASHLEY RAY: And you’re working with all these people to make it happen.
[00:47:01] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, definitely.
[00:47:02] ASHLEY RAY: I love it. So, you’re both on strike right now. You’re not writing. Is there anything you’re watching right now? You got any strike TV watchlist? Is there anything you were doing with all this new free time?
[00:47:13] NICK WIGER: My wife and I are watching YellowJackets, and we have been ongoing. Loved Season One. Still on board with Season Two. Interested to see where it’s going. The other show we’ve been watching is on Freevee–which you can get on Amazon Prime–Jury Duty. Jury Duty cracks me up.
[00:47:29] ASHLEY RAY: It’s so good. Amazing, amazing cast. David Brown, who is just so funny, is in it. I was so just surprised by that show. I didn’t know what to expect. At first, I was just like, “I’m going to be uncomfortable with this because they’re being so mean to this guy who doesn’t know.” And then by the end, you’re just like, “He’s the most precious person in the world.”
[00:47:51] NICCOLE THURMAN: I still haven’t seen that show, but I did interview for a writing position for it. And I was like, “What? Huh? I didn’t even understand how they would do it.” And apparently, they did it so well it’s incredible.
[00:48:03] ASHLEY RAY: And you see the scripts and how they had so many “Okay, if he says this, we’ll do this. If he says this, we’ll do this. Maybe we can get him to do this.” And just all of these backup plans. And just being able to, like, pivot so quickly. It’s incredible.
[00:48:17] NICK WIGER: So, the actors are all, like, improvising different characters. The one guy that they’re pranking, it’s the one guy who–if anyone, hasn’t seen the show–is just, like, a real person, who thinks it’s an actual trial that’s being filmed. And like you were saying, like, he’s so wholesome. And whatever work they did to figure out that this was the guy to center it around… Because, like, you’re just so worried, like, “Oh, don’t say something problematic.”
[00:48:41] ASHLEY RAY: “Don’t be rude. Don’t be mean.”
[00:48:46] NICK WIGER: At a certain point, one of the actors who’s playing a character who’s kind of, like, you know, a nerdy guy–he’s like, “I’m going to show him A Bug’s Life because this movie is about how you can, like, use your own talents to stand out in a crowd.”
[00:49:00] ASHLEY RAY: Each person was just like, “Oh, this guy. He’s actually going through a separation with his wife.” And he’s like, “We’ll always be there for you, man. Like, even after this.” And I’m just thinking how I’d be in that situation. I’d be like, “Yo, buddy, you got to vote.” I would not have gotten the money at the end.
[00:49:18] NICCOLE THURMAN: Oh, they get money at the end?
[00:49:19] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. So, at the end they’re like, “And because you were such a good person and had a pure heart…” So, James Marsden is in it and plays a big part. And my favorite thing is that you can tell this guy really wants to be friends with James Marsden.
[00:49:32] NICCOLE THURMAN: I love it.
[00:49:34] ASHLEY RAY: He just thinks he’s so cool. And he is just like, “I got to go hang with James, man. I got to go help James. I’m doing this with Marsden.” And then slowly, James Marsden does the best job just, like, turning into this asshole over time. And still the guy just, like, will not flip on him, won’t tell everybody that he’s being a jerk. He’s still just like, “Okay, James.” You see him kind of fed up, and he’s just still…
[00:49:58] NICCOLE THURMAN: That’s incredible.
[00:49:58] NICK WIGER: Yeah, I like that he’s not really familiar with a lot of Marsden’s work, but he’s like, “You’re the guy from Sex Drive!”
[00:50:08] ASHLEY RAY: And bought it and, like, asked him to sign it. Are you watching anything, Niccole?
[00:50:13] NICCOLE THURMAN: I’ve been watching Succession. I just… I can’t. It’s so good.
[00:50:17] ASHLEY RAY: It’s so good. It’s so, so good. This last episode? Ooh, it was spicy.
[00:50:25] NICCOLE THURMAN: That’s one of those shows to me that almost feels improvised. It feels so quick and so smart. And it feels like they’re just playing. But then you realize it’s all scripted and it’s just incredible. Like, it just flies by so.
[00:50:36] ASHLEY RAY: Just so fast.
[00:50:37] NICCOLE THURMAN: Some of those jokes, I’ll be like, “Ah!” It literally will fly by me, and I’m like, “Oh my God, that was funny.” The drama of it. I don’t know–episode three–if we’re giving away spoilers or what. They said they shot it the regular way you shoot TV, where it’s just, like, scene by scene. And then one time they went through all 27 minutes of it, and I’m just like, “That’s my shit.”
[00:51:01] ASHLEY RAY: That’s the stuff I love.
[00:51:02] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, it’s just been really good. And I mean, obviously everybody loves that show. But seeing how it’s kind of going to wrap up has been very good.
[00:51:11] ASHLEY RAY: One of the shows where I’m like, “Oh, if you like that show and the people who write it, you should probably support the Writers Guild. And then maybe they can write other shows you’ll like.”
[00:51:18] NICCOLE THURMAN: That’s the thing.
[00:51:19] ASHLEY RAY: That’s the thing that we all work for. If you want to support the writers, anyone in LA or New York can join a picket line or drop off food and water. That’s anyone. If you’re a fan of television, if you want to be a writer someday–pre-WGA–if you’re in another guild, another union… Anyone can come out to support. You can also donate money to the Entertainment Community Fund, which helps non-writer Hollywood crew members–all those costumers we were talking about, the prop masters, those people who are suffering hardships due to the strike–this is the fund for them. You just go donate at entertainmentcommunity.org and make sure to direct your gift to the film and television category when asked.
[00:51:57] NICCOLE THURMAN: I’ll say something about that because I worked with them a couple of years ago. Every two years, I’m like, “I’m going to be a teacher. I got to do something different with my life.”
[00:52:06] ASHLEY RAY: Sure.
[00:52:07] NICCOLE THURMAN: That’s just how I roll. If I even sense a little bit of a pause in my career, I’m like, “I’m dying!” No, but I did work with them. They offer a ton of programs. Also, they teach you how to be a teaching artist and they work with dancers to get them in new careers when they kind of get too old to be dancers. They have a lot of different programs, and as soon as you go in there, they’re immediately there to help you. They help you with your resumé. They help you look for jobs that you never considered. It’s just one of those places that, like, I highly recommend donating to and I highly recommend for people who might feel weird about going in there, like, go. Even if you don’t end up being a teaching artist in high school–I was trying to do that–you at least know that you’re empowered by it. You have the resources to get the kind of skills, the training, and you can write your resume for it.
[00:53:01] ASHLEY RAY: That’s amazing. I really just thought they were like, “I don’t know, here’s money for rent for a while.”
[00:53:06] NICCOLE THURMAN: They do all of that, and they give money to people who need it. So yeah, it’s very important.
[00:53:10] NICK WIGER: Yeah. That’s awesome context to know about the org. But that aspect right now is, I think, the focus of this donation drive because, you know, as we’re talking about earlier, there’s writers’ assistants, there’s writers PAs, there’s set PAs, there’s script supervisors, there’s script coordinators, there’s a bunch of writing adjacent jobs where, you know, people are potentially going to be struggling as the stoppage continues. And so, it would be great to have people’s support there.
[00:53:35] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. We don’t know how long this one’s going to last. Could go 100 days like 2007. Who knows?
[00:53:42] NICK WIGER: Who knows?
[00:53:42] ASHLEY RAY: Who knows? Niccole, Nick, thank you so much for joining me. Do you have any final thoughts? Things you want to plug?
[00:53:48] NICK WIGER: What a treat. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:53:51] NICCOLE THURMAN: Yeah, this was great.
[00:53:51] NICK WIGER: Love just getting angry.
[00:53:54] NICCOLE THURMAN: Get fired up, spill coffee on yourself, and go back into the world.
[00:53:59] NICK WIGER: Yeah. Again, if anyone wants to join a picket line, you can join if you’re in New York or LA. wgacontract2023.org. And there is a picket schedule and location. We’re out there most days, 9 to 5, so just come on by. I have a podcast all about chain restaurants called Doughboys. I have a podcast about video games called Get Played. Check those out. And also, I want to shout out Ross Kimball, who’s on Jury Duty. A buddy of mine. He’s great.
[00:54:21] NICCOLE THURMAN: He’s on Jury Duty the show or jury duty in real life right now?
[00:54:24] ASHLEY RAY: Good question.
[00:54:25] NICK WIGER: Maybe both. I don’t know. But he’s definitely on the show.
[00:54:30] NICCOLE THURMAN: That’s why I said that. I was like, “I don’t know.” Follow me on Twitter, Instagram. I like followers. I do voiceovers for a show called Jellystone on HBO Max. We do have, like, two seasons up there. And then Tooning Out the News. We will pick that up after the strike, but yeah. It’ll still be there.
[00:54:46] ASHLEY RAY: I love Tooning Out the News. Wonderful group of writers there. Also, if you can’t make it to the picket line but you’re in New York or LA, when you drive past, honk your horn.
[00:54:55] NICCOLE THURMAN: Truly.
[00:54:57] ASHLEY RAY: Love a honk. Every time you honk a horn, a TV writer gets their wings, and a studio exec gets a migraine. So, you should do it. Thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you.
[00:55:06] NICK WIGER: What a hoot. Thank you.
[00:55:08] ASHLEY RAY: Thank you. TV, I Say with Ashley Ray is an Earwolf production made by me, Ashley Ray-Harris. It’s engineered by Abby Aguilar, produced by Scott Sonne, executive produced by Amelia Chappelow. And our original theme song is by RaFia. It means so much to me if you go rate, review, subscribe. Follow TV, I Say. Let us know what you think and tell your friends. Share with your Golden Girls. Tell your Boys. If you love my TV recommendations, let everyone you know know. For special TV Club members, join my Patreon. And you can also find my full archive of ad free episodes of TV, I Say over on Stitcher Premium. Use Promo code “tvisay”–all one word–for a one-month free trial at stitcher.com/premium.
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