After extended negotiations failed to come up with a new agreement the SAG-AFTRA union of actors has called a strike against the Hollywood studios for work related to television and film. This is the first general actors strike in decades; the guild feels their members are facing an existential threat. According to the guild, the AMPTP (the group representing the studios, including Paramount Global) “has refused to acknowledge that enormous shifts in the industry and economy have had a detrimental impact on those who perform labor for the studios.”
The actors are joining the Hollywood writers, who went on strike in May. While they have some similar issues, the actors also have unique concerns over AI and likeness rights, pay minimums, and the costs of auditions. Since the WGA called for a strike in May, the AMPTP has not returned to the negotiating table, and there are reports the studios will not return to the table until the fall, hoping the writers will feel the financial pressure to cut a deal.
Picketing for the actors started on Friday as they joined the writers on the picket lines. Star Trek is already being represented, including Picard star Michelle Hurd who is also on the SAG negotiating committee. She can be seen below talking to Variety from the picket lines about why the actors are striking.
#StarTrekPicard actor Michelle Hurd on the #SAGStrike: "All the TV shows you watch, you see someone like me: 'Who's that? What's her name? I don't know, but I've seen her in a bunch of stuff.' We are the ones as well who aren't able to make our rent." https://t.co/ZxyhOOnavK pic.twitter.com/gb6kxCiWns
— Variety (@Variety) July 14, 2023
This double strike is historic. It’s the first time both SAG and the WGA have been on strike at the same time since 1960. It will have a big impact on the industry in terms of both productions and how previously filmed projects are promoted. While some specifics are still being sorted out, there are already immediate implications that will impact Star Trek.
No live-action Star Trek production any time soon
The most obvious impact of the double strike will be on the live-action production of Star Trek. Currently, there are three different upcoming Star Trek live-action projects yet to go into production: the third season of Strange New Worlds, the Section 31 streaming movie, and the first season of the new Starfleet Academy series. Before the strikes, Strange New Worlds season 3 was set to go into production this summer, the Section 31 movie was scheduled for the fall, and the Academy show was going to start filming in early 2024.
Writing for all these projects ceased in May, and production for Strange New Worlds season 3 was already confirmed to be delayed by the WGA strike. With the actors now striking as well, that eliminates even the possibility of any production based on available scripts, something that other film and television projects have been doing in the last couple of months. The SAG strike also disallows auditioning or even negotiating for parts, so no casting can be done for any of these projects . As the studios appear to be digging in against both striking unions, it seems like it may delay any production that was scheduled for this year, so it’s likely that none of these projects will arrive on Paramount+ any earlier than 2025.
The fifth (and final) season of Discovery has already finished production, including the additional footage shot in the spring to turn the season finale into a series finale. Paramount had already set early 2024 for the release and they can probably still meet that date; however, the SAG strike disallows actors from doing ADR (additional voice recording) so any dialogue that needs fixing can’t be done. As the SAG strike was a known risk, the producers may have already gotten as much ADR done as possible. Paramount+ could also move the release of the final season of Discovery to later in 2024 as this may be the only live-action Star Trek content for the year.
For now, all the actors are on strike, including Discovery’s Anthony Rapp, who walked the picket line with his new baby boy on Friday.
Raising a Labor Activist pic.twitter.com/NtuXCBtXBx
— Anthony Rapp SAG-AFTRA National Board Member (@albinokid) July 14, 2023
For Star Trek animation, it’s more complicated
Things can be a little more complicated when it comes to the animated series. For Lower Decks, both writing and voice work appears to be complete for season 4, set to arrive this summer, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Paramount+ pushed that date to later in the year just to spread out what Star Trek content they already have. Paramount has also ordered a fifth season of the animated comedy. Writing for that was allowed as animated shows fall under The Animation Guild (TAG) contract, which is still current. As for voice work, there are conflicting indications about whether SAG members can still work on animated shows, so it’s not clear when work on the fifth season can be completed. If the actors cannot provide voice work this year, it will be difficult for season five to arrive in 2024.
As for Star Trek: Prodigy, which also falls under the TAG contract, all indications are that all or most of the voice work for the second season has already been completed. Even though the show has been removed from Paramount+, the studio has confirmed work continues on season 2 as they shop both seasons to another outlet. The first half of season 2 was originally set to debut on Paramount+ this winter; its debut is obviously now in flux, but more tied to Paramount licensing the show to another streamer than the strikes.
Prodigy co-creators Dan and Kevin Hageman retweeted a fan who saw some irony when it comes to the show and the strike:
Paramount executives reading today’s strike news, looking at the next quarter, and thinking oof…if only we had 20 almost completed episodes of a critically acclaimed animated show belonging to a beloved IP lying around. Hmmmm. #SaveStarTrekProdigy #Story pic.twitter.com/QzlEmdMYWy
— David Trumble (@Drumble) July 13, 2023
Extended strike could have Paramount rethinking Star Trek plans
The extended double strike could also result in changes to Paramount’s plans for the franchise. It may not be as simple as starting the clock again on planned productions due to the availability of the writers and the actors. Michelle Yeoh has been in especially high demand after her Oscar-winning performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once so they will have to work around her schedule for the Section 31 movie. Paramount may also take this time to rethink its Star Trek plans in general, although this won’t include developing any new projects as even discussing anything new with writers is disallowed by WGA strike rules. This would include the Star Trek: Legacy spinoff from Picard that many fans have been calling for.
The company could also scale back plans for the franchise, especially as the company faces pressure to cut costs from Wall Street. Just yesterday, Disney (a much healthier company) reacted to the same pressure by announcing a pullback on Marvel and Star Wars content.
Discovery actor Anthony Rapp had some thoughts on Hollywood CEOs which he share with Variety from the picket lines on Friday.
Anthony Rapp: "I don't think it's realistic for Bob Iger and other CEOs to make 27, 35, 200 million dollars a year and expect that the labor that allows them to make that kind of money demands fair wages." https://t.co/ZxyhOOnavK pic.twitter.com/JDqEvlY0VG
— Variety (@Variety) July 14, 2023
Bottom line: There will be less Star Trek television content in 2024 than originally planned, a scarcity which could possibly extend into early 2025. As for feature films, the Star Trek 4 project remains in development hell with bigger problems than the strikes, but this only ensures we won’t see the franchise back on the big screen for at least a couple more years, and probably longer.
No publicity allowed
In addition to working on new film and television projects, the SAG strike also disallows any promotion or publicity for previously completed film and television projects, including promotional events, panels, and more including interviews. [NOTE: TrekMovie’s Jess Bush interview published on Friday was conducted before the strike.] So don’t expect any more actor media interviews for the rest of season 2 of Strange New Worlds and possibly beyond. However, Paramount’s official aftershow The Ready Room with Wil Wheaton has been banking interviews in advance, so that show should continue through the rest of the season.
Actors are not even allowed to do promotions on social media. Shortly before the strike began at midnight on Thursday Strange New Worlds actress Melissa Navia sent out one last tweet promoting next week’s episode and how it has a personal connection to her.
Tonight we go on strike, but first: Star Trek & my late partner Brian Bannon changed my life. Next week’s #StrangeNewWorlds honors him. He was a force of nature, larger than life, and too bright for this world. So a nebula seems fitting. #BannonsNebula @AkivaGoldsman @alonsomyers pic.twitter.com/bNla1QaxRe
— Melissa Navia 🚀 (@melissaCnavia) July 14, 2023
Promotion ban impacting SDCC, STLV, and more
Another big impact will be felt at conventions, especially San Diego Comic-Con, which kicks off next week. Paramount has planned a Star Trek Universe panel for next Saturday, and even though some other studio panels were canceled on Friday, the Star Trek panel is still on the official schedule. It appears Paramount will still go ahead, but there obviously won’t be any WGA writers or SAG actors appearing. The schedule calls for the panel to focus on Strange New Worlds, Lower Decks, and Discovery. Even without any of the cast or writers, the studio executives, producers, and directors (not in SAG or WGA) could attend and the studio can certainly release new trailers and key art.
Of course, Star Trek actors from both the new shows as well as legacy shows are lined up to attend fan conventions all summer long, with the biggest one being the 57-Year Mission convention in Las Vegas set for the first weekend of August. Photo ops and autographs are still allowed under SAG rules, as they are considered personal appearances. However, panel appearances will likely be impacted by the strike. It is clear that actors for upcoming projects cannot promote them on a panel, however, that doesn’t preclude attending the convention and even potentially appearing on a panel, as long as certain topics are avoided. So far there have been no announced cancellations for the Las Vegas convention, but the situation is in flux, as noted by Anson Mount in this tweet from Friday.
Apparently, I may have been incorrect in my earlier assessment regarding conventions. From what I hear, convention owners are currently trying to work out parameters w/ SAG. So we shall see.
— Anson Mount 🖖 (@ansonmount) July 14, 2023
While the rules for promoting upcoming releases are clear, this may also apply to previous work, including the legacy Star Trek show actors. This Friday tweet from Deep Space Nine actor Armin Shimerman indicates how the actors themselves are seeking clarification.
To all those interested, I may have spoke too fast in my last tweet about actors not having a conflict going to conventions during the actors strike. There may indeed be impediments to going. I have a call into the union and expect deffinitive answers by the end of next week.
— Armin Shimerman (@ShimermanArmin) July 14, 2023
Creation Entertainment (who runs the annual Las Vegas convention) are also trying to work out the details, as can be seen from this Friday’s tweet regarding a Vampire Diaries convention they are running this weekend. They asked attendees to not ask performers questions regarding the Vampire Diaries franchise.
With this in mind and to keep all our performers comfortable this weekend in Orlando we are requesting fans not ask specific questions about working on the TVD franchise. Please join us in coming up with some creative and fun questions for our great guests.
— Creation Entertainment (@CreationEnt) July 15, 2023
It’s also likely that the strikes will cut off any plans Paramount may may have had for a Star Trek Day celebration. In the last couple of years Paramount has celebrated the anniversary of the franchise in early September with a live streamed event in Los Angeles full of Star Trek celebrities. They have used this event as a promotional opportunity for the new shows as well as celebrating all of the Star Trek legacy shows and movies.
TrekMovie will continue to monitor events regarding the strikes and how they are impacting Star Trek productions, releases, and promotions.
Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.