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Writers Strike Primer: Special SAG Edition

Actors have zero obligation to join the picket line -- none. That so many have is stunning. More would always be merrier, yet the numbers have grown as the strike has gone on.
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In an apparent unanimous decision, members of the Screen Actors Guild nominated for a Golden Globe Award will not cross the picket line to appear on the show.

If this is the only thing good that comes out of the Writers Guild strike, it may almost be worth it.

This action of SAG and its membership is pretty remarkable. Keep in mind that the most unsafe place in Los Angeles is standing between an actor and a camera. Throw in an award, and you're in a hot zone. For these wonderful people to go to this length is seriously admirable. Quips aside, appearing on camera for an award can help one's career. And these people are not on strike. They're just gallantly supporting others who are.

Indeed, actors' support for the writers during this strike has been noteworthy. All the more so because the history between the two has been love-hate, ever since Thespis stood backstage in 572 B.C. and said to the playwright, "Wouldn't it be better if my character had the jokes, instead of that supporting actor?"

There's always been a battle between actors and writers in Hollywood. And the actors usually win. ("Usually" will be defined here as "pretty much always.") There's a famous story about a movie written by a legendary, Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy writer. After ridiculing the script during filming, one of the stars finally called out, "Whoever wrote this doesn't know how to write comedy!" -- with the author present. He left, wouldn't do rewrites, and the movie bombed.

To be sure, the mutual admiration is there, as well, with both sides understanding and appreciating what the other brings to the process. But it's been a rocky history.

Until this past November, when the writers went on strike. SAG's support has been truly impressive. Certainly, it's in their best interest -- if writers get a good, fair contract, then actors won't have to strike. But people don't always recognize their best interest. SAG has.

Actors have zero obligation to join the picket line -- none. That so many have is stunning. More would always be merrier, yet the numbers have grown as the strike has gone on.

At my Fox picketing location, Debra Messing and Emily Deschanel have walked in circles with their picket sign for hours. Ms. Deschanel all the more hilariously so because she kept passing under a massive billboard for her series, Bones. And I saw Ms. Messing at the big Hollywood rally, as well. (I wish she'd stop following me around. But that's the burden of being a writer.) Lots of character actors. Actors from countless TV shows have picketed, either on "tribute days," or just on general principal. Most remarkable are those actors you wouldn't recognize. One stands out on the Fox line, an actor named John Kelly. I didn't know the fellow before. But he showed up -- and has showed up, every week, several times a week. Picketing selflessly because he wanted to support the writers -- and help protect his own guild. May he get hired often when the strike ends. May they all.

And there are all the actors in the "Speechless Without Writers" campaign. And those appearing in the "viral videos."

And now this latest action, refusing to appear on the Golden Globes. And the decision of many actors to only appear on the two late-night shows that signed WGA contracts. This impacts their careers, as well.

Admittedly, there is a certain unfairness at what shows actors will appear on. But a strike is unfair, and you pick your battles to bring an end to the strike and reach a fair conclusion. The SAG Awards, for instance, won't be picketed because --'s SAG! Their tremendous support deserves thanks from the Writers Guild. It's a no-brainer.

(By the way, the Writers Guild isn't picketing awards. It's picketing "awards shows." Y'know, the TV-broadcast part. Any organization that wants to honor its industry at a dignified, private ceremony, like most industries, they are free to. Not a soul will picket them.)

All of this actor support has been built up through lengthy efforts by WGA president Patric Verrone and SAG president Rosenberg. Mr. Rosenberg has been intimately involved in the process - and been treated royally, as he deserves. And his efforts to involve his own guild have had their impact.

The Writers Guild owes much thanks to Alan Rosenberg -- and all of those actors in SAG who've put in time to help the writers cause... as well as, ultimately, their own. They don't have to -- but they're there. They get it. They understand that the deal offered to the WGA by the AMPTP corporations would destroy the Writers Guild, and that if it was accepted, it would destroy SAG, as well. Directors have their own agenda, but hopefully they at least grasp the concept, too.

The actors have been ad-libbing their way through the strike with great aplomb. Each and every one of those participating deserve not only great thanks, but a standing ovation. Whenever they look at a picket line of writers on their feet for hours every day, just know that that's what it is.

Read more strike coverage on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.