Dispatches From The Picket Lines: Latine Writers & Actors In L.A. & NYC; ‘Roseanne’ And ‘The Conners’ Teams Reunite At Radford

This is Day 109 of the WGA strike and Day 36 of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

The WGA and SAG-AFTRA teamed up for its first bicoastal picket in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, and Latino Hollywood showed up in droves.

At Warner Bros. in Los Angeles, more than 2,000 actors, writers and supporters hit the sidewalks as temperatures hit the high-80s. Salsa and Bachata music blasted through the speakers near Gates 2 and 3 as patient strike captains including Vida star Chelsea Rendon, kept everyone moving safely. One captain was overheard saying, “You have to keep moving, but you don’t have to stop dancing!” And so they did.

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Shortly after 10 a.m., a table was set up for speakers, who included Latinx Writers Salon Vice-chair Jorge Rivera, Hector Garcia, Co-Vice Chair SAG-AFTRA National Latino Committee, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Edward James Olmos and Al Madrigal.

“Just as Covid dies down to a manageable level,” comedian Madrigal said, “just when we get our heads above water, these strikes happen. And why? Because trillion-dollar corporations made a bad gamble and now it feels like the burden is on us to fix it. This is a major setback.”

He added: “But let’s face it, this is nothing new for us because we’ve always been set back. Invisible in film and TV. They buy the scrips because they have to at least buy a couple to save face. But do they make them? Barely.”

Following the speeches, the SAG-AFTRA group Latinas Acting Up brought a flash mob for a performance that shut down the crosswalk between Gates 2 and 3. Attendees also included John Ortiz; Jon Huertas; Constance Marie; Jaina Lee Ortiz; Benito Martinez; Bobby Soto; Gino Vento and his Mayans M.C. co-stars Andrea Cortes, Andrew Jacobs and Frankie Loyal; Rick Gonzalez; Patricia Rae; Mayan Lopez; Isabella Gomez; Kevin Alejandro; and Mishel Prada and her Vida co-star Tonatiuh.

Police patrolled the area on West Olive Avenue in SUVs, and four cops on motorcycles were stationed in front of the parking garage. It all was very peaceful, and many of the officers seemed to be enjoying the show.

Photographers were positioned across the street to shoot the large group who were cheering “Si se puede,” which was much louder than honking cars on a regular Friday.

SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland quietly made his way through the crowd to greet picketers including Wilmer Valderrama.

Over at Radford Studios in Studio City, the writer and staff behind Roseanne and The Conners teamed to hit the picket lines. The group was joined by John Goodman, Sara Gilbert and Michael Fishman among others.

Fishman discussed writers’ demands about minimum staffing requirements in writers rooms along with the fact that long-running shows like Roseanne and even The Conners are becoming fewer and farther between in the current climate.

Meanwhile out in New York, outside the neighboring offices of Warner Bros Discovery and Netflix, more than 200 marchers joined the picket lines. It wasn’t the first labor rally in Manhattan this summer to highlight Latine film and television talent, but with striking SAG-AFTRA members on the picket line this time alongside Writers Guild of America members, it was the biggest.

They heard from speakers including actor Rosie Perez, The Bear co-star Liza Colón-Zayas, Star Trek: Discovery‘s Wilson Cruz and Los Espookys actor-writer-EP Julio Torres. Picketers also included actors Berto Colon of PowerDexter co-star David Zayas (married to Liza Colón-Zayas) and Oscar winner Ariana DeBose. Also marching were Susan Sarandon, F. Murray Abraham and Only Murders in the Building cast regular Michael Cyril Creighton.

The speeches were emceed by Bronx-born actor and writer Dominic Colón, who lobbed a few F-bombs at the studio chiefs represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in his introductory remarks. 

Perez, in her turn at the microphone, said, “I don’t want to call the CEOs mf’ers — ‘cause you know I can. 

“What I would like to say to them is, touch into your humanity,” she said. “Touch into your heart, if it’s still there. Understand that we’re just people. And as everyone has stated, without us, you ain’t got a job.” 

Colón-Zayas, a viewer favorite as Tina on The Bear, described feeling shortchanged even in a high-profile role. “I have struggled … in this profession for decades to get a foot in the door, to finally get seen, to finally get some traction,” she said. “I finally get it, and I look at my residuals, and they ain’t shit.”

Monet Hurst-Mendoza, a playwright and Law & Order: SVU writing alumna, said Latines like her who break into film and television can still feel like outsiders because they encounter so few people of similar backgrounds, and they work in an industry that has cut costs by walling off writers from the productions they work for.

“I had a really good room my very first time,” Hurst-Mendoza said. “I have friends on other shows who are at producer level, and they’ve never been to set. They’ve never sat in on a casting session or a notes discussion with the network. I know extremely talented writers who have to repeat levels or they’re the only woman/queer/writer of color. They have no one else in the room but themselves to share these hard experiences with.”

Torres, who has written for Saturday Night Live and is the writer-director-star of this year’s offbeat comedy film Problemista, said working in television readied him for the director’s chair. “I felt prepared because under my old-school writing job in broadcast,” he said. “I experienced production and post-production, I had been on countless sets and editing bays, I knew how to talk to costumes … and that a good wig could really break a budget.

“We strike so that younger, talented people get to learn this and be a part of the creative and grow up from it, and not just be replaceable, overworked freelancers,” he said to cheers.

Speakers teed off on artificial intelligence, increasingly a tool for generating scripts and replicating actors on screen. “AI can’t tell you what it’s like to give birth,” said writer, actor and playwright Guadalís Del Carmen. “AI can’t tell you what it’s like to have your heart broken for the very first time. AI cannot tell you what it’s like to get that first check when you’ve finally had your first show done.”

They also called for more Latine representation in storytelling and in the staffing of productions.

“I’m a very proud black Dominican woman, and I’m also a very proud American woman,” Del Carmen said. “My stories are just as relevant as The White Lotus or any of these others.”

With talks back on between the WGA and AMPTP, there also were signs of eagerness, if not hope, for a settlement of both strikes. Kathleen Bedoya, co-creator of the former Hulu series East Los High, told Deadline, “We’re getting better and better at the picketing, but sadder that we have to keep doing it.” 

Power actor Colon told Deadline, “What we’re fighting for here is very fair. Numbers don’t lie. I just want to get back to work.”

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