ESSENCE is sitting down with creatives as part of a weeklong conversation #FromTheFrontLines centering their stories, triumphs, and struggles amid the WGA/SAG strike.
“Some of them have so much money that they won’t be able to spend it for generations, and they’re still hoarding,” actor and activist Kendrick Sampson told ESSENCE as he called out film and television executives during the ongoing actors’ and writers’ strike.
The studios get “this huge amount of profit but they’re always finding out how to give us less, even though our faces are upfront or they can’t do a show without a script. In the negotiations we’re not asking for a ridiculous amount. We’re asking for a path toward a full time job. The way they have it now is so no one can work full time in Hollywood and pay their bills and get health care.”
Sampson then shared this sobering statistic: “You only need to make [about] $26,000 as an actor to qualify for health care [through the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan],” however about 90% are not qualified and are earning below the poverty line.
The outspoken actor also highlighted the broader repression of Black stories and history with recent policies against critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion.
WATCH: Actor Kendrick Sampson Calls Out Industry Execs Amid Strikes
“When you’re talking about right before an election– the attack on CRT, the attack on DEI programs– what’s happening right now is we’re losing Black institutions.”
“All of that is Black narratives, Black stories, Black voting blocs,” Sampson commented after the interview. “Now you have the most dedicated, strongest, and powerful voting bloc, which is Black women, and [conservatives] are trying to divide that with who owns womanhood through this fight between cis women and trans women. It’s a super calculated move ahead of an election year.”
Because of those efforts, “we’re losing Black mentorship programs, Black writer programs, queer-led Black writer programs, and production companies,” he notes. “People are having to move out of the city. They’re having to find other jobs as this strike goes on.”
“That [may] sound like ‘oh no someone lost their production company, sorry to that rich person,'” Sampson says sarcastically. But, he notes, “that is one of the few pieces of infrastructure we have to protect our stories and push and advocate for our stories.”
Sampson also pulled no punches in calling out the Hollywood “facade.”
“Studios, and I would say the people at the top, that are hoarding all the money are counting on us keeping up the Hollywood facade: that we’re doing okay, that we’re a celebrity that everybody wants to be, and so they want to dress like us. We don’t own none of these clothes. We give them back at the end of the night or the next day. That piece of clothing probably cost more than my rent,” Sampson confides.
“Y’all gotta be real about the [small minority] of actors that can actually afford that lifestyle and be real about the struggle that’s happening and who it’s because of. Who’s the culprit? Who’s guilty?” Sampson says rhetorically.
“Labor is speaking up…[The public doesn’t] necessarily see us as labor, but we are. And that’s why we gotta organize and act as labor and act in solidarity and expose how greedy they are and how shi*** our lifestyles can be. They depend on us staying in that survival mode in order to increase their profits.”
Watch in-article video for the full conversation.