Those of us who are older than, what? 35 years old? We remember all of the highs and lows of Fran Drescher’s life. So it’s especially wild to see her as the president of SAG-AFTRA, summoning every nuance of her outer-borough accent to sound every bit like a tough union boss. Drescher has been giving tons of interviews since she broke off the “negotiations” with the AMPTP and called for a strike last week. She spoke to Variety this week about what led to the strike, how she came to the position of union boss and what SAG-AFTRA is trying to do. She also talked about vaccines and it got a little bit nutty, but Fran fans know that about her too. Some highlights:
Whether she thinks she was initially too optimistic about AMPTP negotiations: “This is my first negotiation. In hindsight, I could see how we were being manipulated. But at the time, I came into it with a certain level of trust, that we would actually be able to make a contract. But whenever we start getting to the meat of these situations, we start to see that we’re getting stonewalled. We’re coming back with open response counter proposals, and so, actually, in earnest we still gave them an unprecedented 12-day extension to come back with something really meaningful. And during that time, they canceled our negotiation meetings. And, again, I thought, maybe they’re duking it out behind closed doors, maybe they’re gonna come back with something that we can really start to roll up our sleeves. They just wanted to get more time to promote their summer movies and they had no intention of using that extension for anything else.
Whether she has regrets about being duped: “I’m always going to try and give a person the truth. I hoped to avert a strike — that is the ideal. Going on strike is not the original point. That’s when you feel like you can’t make a deal. But if you feel like you can make a deal… Hindsight is always 20/20. But even during that period when they woke up, they said, “We’re still in our room,” talking about how to counter your proposal. So, it’s like, OK, well, maybe that’s good. We wanted to avert a strike, if at all possible.”
The journeyman actors were the ones pushing for a strike: “Remember, Tom Cruise and top people make their own deals. That’s not who we are striking for. We’re striking for the journeyman…they’re the ones that were pushing us to strike, OK? They’re the ones that are living this level of oppression. They feel like they can’t take any more of it, because they are being economically squeezed out of their livelihoods. If they’re willing to take this huge step of sacrifice, then we’re in it to win it. If this was a different point in history, where the business model didn’t change so dramatically, and suddenly with streaming and digital and AI. It’s a whole new game! If you think that we don’t have to unpack the old contract and change it exponentially I don’t know what to say.
Whether she worries about being blacklisted as an actress: “My speech at that press conference reverberated around the world. It spoke to workers everywhere; it is bigger than the sum of its parts. I’m not going to worry about my career. I’ve had a fantastic career. If anybody in this industry wishes to blacklist me or being on the side of right and good, then whatever. I follow Buddhist teaching or call myself a Jew Bu. I let life unfold. I don’t have a crystal ball. I’m not going to speculate. I don’t know where this will lead. All I know is in the now, which is what Buddhism teaches you, to remain present. This is my calling and I’m going to meet this moment.
Figuring out the longer vision: “The greed of these entities and the shiny baubles that they put before the shareholders, obliterates a longer vision, a far sightedness of where this should go or how to manage it correctly. And they just jump in. They sell the shareholders, and all of this is bullsh-t. Then when they really get into the trenches with the costs, what do they do? They look right away to the performer to squeeze them, because God forbid they should take away from the CEOs. Do they do character driven smaller stories. No! They got all these flying dragons and bullsh-t and it’s expensive and all the big stars and it’s very expensive and all of that is what they wanted to do. The idea that if you spend 80% on production, maybe spend 79% and we can get our fair share. And the money that’s paid for all this, including the CEO salaries, is in subscriptions! It’s not in episodes or seasons anymore.
On Covid protocols & vaccine mandates: “I felt like the COVID protocols, pre-vaccine, were successful. People went back to work. It was a manageable situation. Then, with the advent of the vaccine, it turns into something else. In California, private business can determine their own health policy. And they decided that rather than constantly be shut down, everybody had to be vaccinated if they wanted to work. Even though there was constant information coming out that you can still get it. And once you got it, are you as good as inoculated by the virus. There was a lot of ifs ands or buts. And the dangerous aspect of it all was that people were being fed different news. There wasn’t one narrative. And since 80% of all ad dollars on most broadcasts comes from big pharma.
Whether she got vaccinated: “I did because I kept losing work! I did it, in spite of the fact that I was a little scared to do it. Because I have my own health issues, cancer survivor, all of this stuff, but I decided to just let the universe help me through this because I don’t know what to do. All I know is that I want to work. But a lot of people it was just that they didn’t have a choice. And they didn’t have a career during that time, either as a result, and I always felt like I’m not a dictator. I can only keep bringing the conversation to the board. I’m trying to get them to see that we should push back on this. I was not successful at that.
The vaccine stuff was totally cringe and she should have just left it at something like “I was trying to advocate for all actors, even the anti-vaxx dumbasses.” Unfortunately, it sounds like she was one of the anti-vaxx dumbasses who only got vaccinated because, oh right, those vaccine mandates actually did work. As for the rest of it – while I’m not a SAG member, I think it’s fine that she did the 12-day extension, even if it turned out to just be a scam. It showed that she was operating in good faith and she was willing to do what she could to avoid a strike and make a deal. When the scam was laid bare, that’s when she showed her backbone and walked away. Anyway… I hope she continues to burn the sh-t down.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.