Members of the Writers Guild of America picketed a taping of “The Drew Barrymore Show” on Monday after it resumed production during the dual Hollywood strikes.
An estimated crowd of more than 100 people demonstrated outside the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City, where the daytime talk series is taped, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. The eastern branch of the WGA announced plans to picket outside the studio the same day that Barrymore released a statement on social media explaining why she made “the choice to come back for the first time in this strike.”
“I own this choice,” Barrymore said Sunday.
“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.”
The Times has confirmed that all three writers from “The Drew Barrymore Show” participated in Monday’s guild action.
“I can understand why, if someone feels responsible for an entire staff and crew, they would want to get back to work so that they get paid,” said Cristina Kinon, co-head writer on “The Drew Barrymore Show.”
“If you feel like you’re sacrificing three writers for a crew of hundreds, I see that perspective. But then if you zoom out a little bit more, you’ll see that it isn’t about those three writers. It’s about an entire union of 11,000-plus writers. And if you zoom out even more, it’s about labor and unions all over the world and respecting that people need to fight for a fair deal. That’s what the Writers Guild is doing, and I support that.”
Barrymore’s program “is a WGA covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers,” the WGA said Sunday in a statement.
“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.”
On Monday morning, two audience members said they were kicked out of the taping for wearing WGA buttons given to them by striking writers.
“We took pins & went in, got kicked out, & verbally assaulted by @DrewBarrymore’s crew,” one of the booted audience members, Dominic Turiczek, posted on X (formerly Twitter).
Turiczek said he was unaware until he arrived for the taping that “The Drew Barrymore Show” staffed WGA writers, “thus crossing picket lines by starting again.”
A spokesperson for “The Drew Barrymore Show” confirmed Monday to The Times that “due to heightened security concerns … two audience members were not permitted to attend or were not allowed to access” the taping.
“It is our policy to welcome everyone to our show tapings,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Barrymore “was completely unaware of the incident,” and the production team is “in the process of reaching out to the affected audience members to offer them new tickets.”
The controversy over Barrymore’s return to the air has raised questions about how the show can continue operating without writers and why other daytime programs have been in production since the strike began.
A spokesperson for CBS Media Ventures, which produces the “The Drew Barrymore Show,” told The Times on Sunday that its on-camera talent “will not be performing any writing work covered by the WGA strike.”
But Travis Knox, an associate professor of producing at Chapman University, said he seriously doubted that the show could move forward without any sort of writing. He went so far as to speculate that the show might have hired non-WGA “scabs” to do that work during the strikes.
“There’s gotta be some sort of writing, even if it’s a loose outline,” Knox said in a phone interview. “Of course there’s some kind of writing.”
Before the writers’ strike went into effect, “The Drew Barrymore Show” filmed two episodes per day. Before each taping, a team of about five staff members — including at least one WGA writer — would sit at a table and go over a script with Barrymore, who would provide feedback and suggest changes.
The Emmy-nominated writers on the show also typically compose the “Drew’s News” segment — when the hosts comment on headlines of the day — and help formulate questions for guest interviews. They were tasked with writing and presenting Barrymore with a script before each taping.
“You can say you’re just gonna wing it, but who really just wings it?” Knox said.
“Somebody still has to come up with topics. … Maybe they’re not hiring scabs. Maybe they’re just doing it internally. But there’s still a level of writing that’s violating the very thing they’re not supposed to be violating.”
“The Drew Barrymore Show” is not the only daytime program that has continued production amid the writers’ and actors’ strikes. The WGA has also been picketing tapings of another struck show, “The View,” weekly.
The Times has been told that “The View” is largely unscripted but employs two WGA writers, and that no one else has been tapped to do their jobs since the writers’ strike began.
Other daytime talk series, such as “Tamron Hall” and “Live With Kelly and Mark,” are not covered by the WGA and have therefore proceeded as usual during the strikes. Knox explained that some programs that “fall under the category of a news show” are permitted to continue during the work stoppage.
While the fourth season of “The Drew Barrymore Show” is scheduled to premiere Sept. 18, similar titles such as “The Kelly Clarkson Show” have remained off the air (not counting reruns) since the beginning of the WGA strike.
Shortly after the WGA walkout went into effect in early May, Barrymore withdrew from hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards in support of striking writers.
“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 said Sunday.
“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.”
On Wednesday, CBS Media Ventures announced that “The Drew Barrymore Show” would return later this month “with a lineup of cutting-edge guests and key influencers.” It’s worth noting that no Hollywood actors — who are also on strike — are among the confirmed guests.
“I think people are angry right now,” Kinon said. “But I also always want to … encourage that anger to be pointed at the AMPTP. … It’s so easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of, ‘Well, this person did this. This person crossed the picket line.’ But the whole reason all of us are in this position is the AMPTP and their refusal to negotiate.”
The WGA is asking the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for higher pay, extended benefits and protections against technology in the era of streaming and artificial intelligence.
Times staff writer Wendy Lee, editorial library director Cary Schneider and archivist James Kim contributed to this report.