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The Drew Barrymore Show Returns Without Its Writers - Breaking WGA Strike

Amidst the ongoing double strikes between SAG-AFTRA and the WGA, Drew Barrymore is continuing to host her talk show — and she's crossing picket lines as a result.

On September 10, 2023, months into the historic joint strike, the WGA-East responded to Barrymore's announcement that she supported the strike, but that her daytime talk show, "The Drew Barrymore Show," would work without any writers. On Twitter, the guild wrote, "The @DrewBarrymoreTV Show is a WGA covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers. The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike. Any writing on 'The Drew Barrymore Show' is in violation of WGA strike rules."

As the two strikes have stayed strong against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or the AMPTP, actors and writers have been making interim agreements or working with studios like Neon or A24, which have satisfied guild demands. Barrymore, however, is doing neither and is simply forging ahead without writers for her show. So what does she have to say about the situation, and why are WGA members so upset about her decision?

Drew Barrymore released a statement — and backed away from other industry jobs

Also on September 10, Drew Barrymore released a statement on Instagram confirming that the show would begin again on September 18, 2023, and brought up the fact that she backed out of hosting the MTV Movie Awards in order to respect the strike. 

"I made a choice to walk away from the MTV, film and television awards because I was the host and it had a direct conflict with what the strike was dealing with which was studios, streamers, film, and television," Barrymore wrote in her post. "It was also in the first week of the strike and so I did what I thought was the appropriate thing at the time to stand in solidarity with the writers. And to be clear, our talk show actually wrapped on April 20th so we never had to shut down the show. However, I am also making the choice to come back for the first time in this strike for our show, that may have my name on it but this is bigger than just me."

"I own this choice," she continued. "We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind. We launched live in a global pandemic. Our show was built for sensitive times and has only functioned through what the real world is going through in real time. I want to be there to provide what writers do so well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience. I hope for a resolve for everyone as soon as possible. We have navigated difficult times since we first came on air. And so I take a step forward to start season 4 once again with an astute humility.

How exactly is Drew Barrymore crossing picket lines?

Grappling with the intricacies of this double strike can, truthfully, be very complicated; in recent days, public figures like Adam Driver and Taylor Swift have spoken out about smaller studios providing what the AMPTP won't or have checked with SAG-AFTRA directly to figure out the best protocol, respectively. So if you're trying to figure out what missteps Barrymore made here, David Slack laid it on in a lengthy Twitter thread — because, as he and others have pointed out, Barrymore isn't scabbing against SAG-AFTRA, but specifically against the WGA. (Barrymore is a member of SAG-AFTRA but is not a member of WGA.

As Slack says, "The Drew Barrymore Show" is under the WGA's film and television contract, so forging ahead without writers means that she's effectively betraying writers on strike. "While the opening monologues, jokes, and interviews on talk shows may seem spontaneous, a huge amount of writing work goes into every episode," Slack wrote. "(I mean, if it didn't, does anyone really believe the studios would pay for writers they didn't need?) By going back on the air without her writers, Drew Barrymore is 100% ensuring that *someone* — either herself, one of her non-writing producers, or all of the above — will be doing the writing work that WGA writers normally do."

Not only that, but non-writers performing the duties of writers is against WGA policy: "So, by returning to work on her talk show, Drew Barrymore is not violating SAG-AFTRA's strike rules. But if she goes through with this tomorrow, she will absolutely be violating the WGA's strike rules — and those rules do apply to non-members." Slack provided a link to official WGA policy on the subject as well.

A fan of The Drew Barrymore Show had a bad experience on its set — and joined the strike

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the staff at "The Drew Barrymore Show" has been openly hostile when it comes to the strike — and they even went so far as to kick out two audience members. Two New York City students, Dominic Turiczek and Cassidy Carter, got free tickets to a taping but didn't know the writer's guild was even striking; when they were handed two buttons supporting the WGA, they donned them. Upon entering the set for "The Drew Barrymore Show," the students say they were instructed to remove the pins showing support for the guild. Carter removed hers, but Turiczek kept his on, and says he was hassled over it and then asked to leave.

After being kicked out, the two, amazingly, joined the picket line. "If they think we're part of the strike, we might as well be," Turiczek told THR, while Carter said, ""It really has changed my perspective on her and the show in general. I've been completely alarmed and disheartened by this whole process."

Turiczek took to Twitter to talk about the experience as well, writing, "Went to @DrewBarrymoreTV after winning tickets, unaware of the #WGA strike. We took pins & went in, got kicked out, & verbally assaulted by @DrewBarrymore's crew. It's clear they don't support #WGAStrong, writers or fans! #DrewTheRightThing So we took shirts and joined. F**k that."

The SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes show no signs of slowing down

Barrymore may be choosing to return to her show, but the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes remain strong on both coasts; in fact, the WGA is, according to a tweet from The Hollywood Reporter, currently picketing "The Drew Barrymore Show" in New York City. 

The WGA has been striking since May, while SAG-AFTRA joined the effort in July, and both are fighting against policies that harm their likelihoods; the rise of artificial technology is dangerous for writers and actors alike, and both camps have also claimed that they see a total lack of residuals thanks to streaming services. Talks between the guilds and the AMPTP have, to put it lightly, been unproductive overall, and the studios seem to be gearing up for a longer fight; they recently paused huge deals with showrunners like Greg Berlanti, Mindy Kaling, and J.J. Abrams. Still, the guilds are still out there each day fighting for a better entertainment industry, and one can only hope that Barrymore might reverse her decision after some thought and join actors and writers in this battle. 

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. To learn more about why writers and actors are currently on strike, click here for an up-to-date explainer from our Looper team.