ESSENCE is sitting down with creatives as part of a weeklong conversation #FromTheFrontLines centering their stories, triumphs, and struggles amid the WGA/SAG strike.
“You remember when gas was 25 cents. When we go to the gas station, it still says 87, 89, and 93. But now we’ve reached the point where gas is 7 dollars, it’s 4, and it’s 5. That’s the profit that these companies are making,” she shared.
“But we’re still getting paid 5 and 25 cents, so we can’t afford the living and inflation is going up everywhere, not just with groceries, with housing, with everything.”
Bean asserted that “what’s at stake [for Black women] is our longevity, our livelihood…so I think it’s necessary…The decisions that are made directly affect me. I have two projects that are literally sitting on a shelf because of the strike.”
Talking about the larger implications of the strike, Bean emphasized, “there are numerous people I know that are being affected by this, and I’m not just talking about actors even though the actors are striking. I’m talking about people who are location scouts, and the people who are extras, the people who drive transportation… the people who write, who do wardrobes and costumes, the people who do marketing, sound, and lighting… this is also their livelihood.”
Advancements in technology have had an outsized impact on the entertainment industry, and Bean illuminated the implications of AI. “They want to pay us to come in, they shoot us, and then they store our likeness and our voice, and our images, and they use it even long after we are dead. We’ve seen the holograms of Tupac and Michael Jackson and other critically acclaimed people.”
“If they use my likeness and image, but I’m long in the grave, and they’re still getting paid, she noted.”
“But my trust isn’t getting paid, not my estate, and not my family. But no, the companies are reaping the benefits long after I’ve passed.”
“We’re not trying to get rich off of them [the companies]. But don’t leave us out the fold…We’re not trying to fight it. We’re just trying to move along with it, but they’re trying to leave us out, so it’s very unfortunate,” said Bean.
This year, Equal Pay Day was March 14, but we didn’t have Black Women’s Equal Pay Day until July 27. Bean believes this strike is “start[ing] the conversation to bridge the gap.” She doesn’t “think the strike necessarily solves the problem in no way shape or form, but [does] think it is a step forward in the right direction.”
The actress also described how this isn’t unique to the entertainment industry.
“There is a huge disparity in pay when it comes to people of color, when it comes to Black people in general in every field, and not just entertainment. We’re fighting it, but I think it’s an ongoing battle.”
In looking forward, Gail wants other actors striking to know “you can still continue in your art. Go to [the] theater, still get out there and play with friends and other artists, still create. Speak your truth. Don’t hold it in. Let it out, and have your freedom of free speech. Find other things in life that you enjoy, because there’s more to it than the entertainment industry. It’s a lot, it’s a huge part, but it’s not the only part. Last but not least, this will come to an end, this too shall pass.”
Watch in-article video for the full conversation.