Actors who host podcasts are divided on how or whether to continue their programs, as the 8-day-old Hollywood actors’ strike reverberates through an adjacent industry that didn’t exist during the union’s last work stoppage 43 years ago.
The official targets of the strike are film and television productions associated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a group that includes all of the major Hollywood studios and streamers like Netflix, Amazon and Apple. But messaging from the actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA, barring promotion of past or future work for the studios has left some members unsure of whether their podcasts are in violation of union policy.
But similar podcasts — including ones about “Will & Grace,” “Gilmore Girls,” “New Girl” and “Beverly Hills, 90210” — continued as scheduled. An episode of “Office Ladies,” a podcast about “The Office,” was published two days behind schedule as the hosts, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, debated how to proceed, according to a person close to the show.
In an episode of the “One Tree Hill” rewatch podcast “Drama Queens” that aired on Monday, the actors Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton Morgan and Bethany Joy Lenz expressed uncertainty about whether their show could continue in its usual format and answered listener questions instead.
“Because our show currently is still streaming — even though we filmed it 20 years ago — is doing a rewatch pod considered promotion?” Burton Morgan asked, noting that she and the others awaited “a clear answer” from the union. Bush said later that “nobody really knows” what the guidelines allow.
The actresses Emily Deschanel and Carla Gallo, whose “Bones” rewatch podcast, “Boneheads,” was scheduled to debut this week, said in a statement on Wednesday that the show would be postponed.
“We’re waiting for additional guidance from the guild and will keep everyone updated with the new launch date as soon as we have it,” the statement read.
Pamela Greenwalt, a spokeswoman for SAG-AFTRA, said in a phone call on Friday that although the actors’ union considers rewatch podcasts promotional, actors under contract to produce such shows will not be considered in breach for continuing them.
Complicating matters further is the fact that many Hollywood studios and streamers also have podcast arms. Amazon, for example, owns or distributes several actor-led podcasts through its subsidiaries Audible and Wondery, including “Smartless,” hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes; “Life Is Short With Justin Long,” hosted by Justin Long; and “Baby, This Is Keke Palmer,” hosted by Keke Palmer. All of those shows released new episodes this week.
While neither Audible nor Wondery is directly affiliated with the film and TV alliance, their connection to Amazon may put the actors they work with in an uncomfortable position. Representatives for Bateman, Arnett, Hayes, Long and Palmer didn’t respond to requests for comment. Greenwalt, of SAG-AFTRA, said podcasts produced by members of the film and TV alliance are not necessarily in violation and that actors with questions should consult with the union.
If the strike keeps actors from film and television sets for months, as some on both sides fear, podcasts could become a significant source of work. The vast majority of SAG-AFTRA’s 160,000 members are working-class performers, many of whom say the economics of streaming film and television have made it harder than ever to make a living.
Some kinds of podcasts, such as those that have no affiliation with — and that do not feature discussions of work produced by — the A.M.P.T.P., are not in dispute. The actress and writer Natasha Leggero, who hosts the relationship podcast “The Endless Honeymoon” with her husband, the comedian Moshe Kasher, said their show was moving ahead. “People still need advice and have dirty secrets to air even when actors and writers are on strike,” Leggero said.
Actors are free to appear as guests on celebrity interview podcasts as long as they don’t “promote struck work” while doing so, according to union guidelines. But, in practice, asking a performer not to talk about their work may prove awkward for everyone involved.
On a recent episode of the comedy podcast “Lovett or Leave It,” the host, Jon Lovett, greeted his guest, the actor Jared Goldstein, by saying, “I like the thing that you’re in.” Goldstein, who appears in the most recent season of “Black Mirror,” replied, “Oh, thank you for liking the thing that I’m in, which for legal reasons cannot be discussed at this time.”