Bryan Cranston sent a message to Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger at a SAG-AFTRA protest rally in Times Square on Tuesday that corporate greed cannot take away an actor’s dignity and right to work.
By variety, the “Breaking Bad” actor gave an impassioned speech at a “Rock the City for a Fair Contract” rally in New York City, talking about the terms of the strike but also explicitly speaking words for Iger. The CEO, whose Disney contract was extended through 2026 literally the day before the SAG-AFTRA strike began, called calls for actors and writers out of the ongoing strikes “unrealistic” and “very disturbing.”
“We have a message for Mr. Iger,” Cranston said. “I know, sir, that you look at (at) things through a different lens. We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to listen to us, and beyond that, to listen to us when we tell you that they are not going to take our jobs away and give them to robots. We will not allow you to take away our right to work and earn a decent living. And finally, and above all, we will not allow you to take away our dignity! We are a union through and through, to the end!
Not long before the strike, Iger joked during a Disney earnings call in May that he “was looking forward to a time where maybe AI does the earnings for me” (via New York Post). The threat of AI as a strategy to reduce casting costs and own likeness of actors forever is a major concern of SAG-AFTRA in its fight with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
Early in the speech, Cranston called on the AMPTP to be behind the times in terms of negotiating writers and actors on antiquated contracts that ignore 21st-century concerns: namely streaming residue and the pervasive reality of AI as a storytelling tool.
“Our industry has changed exponentially,” he said. “We are not in the same business model as 10 years ago. Yet even as they admit that this is the truth in today’s economy, they are fighting us tooth and nail to stick with the same economic system that is outdated, outdated! They want us to go back in time. We cannot and we will not.”
According to Variety, those in attendance for the reality show included Steve Buscemi, Wendell Pierce, Christian Slater, Christine Baranski, Stephen Lang, Tituss Burgess, Michael Shannon, BD Wong, Brendan Fraser, Jessica Chastain, Matt Bomer, Chloë Grace Moretz and Corey Stoll.
Shared video variety of speech Here.