“Are the publicists on strike too?” asked journalist Hunter Harris this week. That question feels even more relevant as we watch Drew Barrymore further propel the news cycle about the controversial return of her talk show amid the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, deleting an emotional “apology” video she had posted to Instagram Friday, during which she repeatedly said she was not working with a public relations team to explain her show's return.
It's been a wild week few days for the actress turned talk show host, whose show announced its return from summer hiatus via press release and social media a few weeks ago. But as the show's writers heard that the syndicated daytime talk show would be heading to airwaves without them, the WGA stepped in, announcing it would picket the show's studio. Barrymore, whose representatives have not responded to Vanity Fair's requests for comment, first posted an apology/explanation to Instagram the day the picket news broke.?
This is typically where a crisis communications specialist would tell their client to leave things alone. But as opposed to allowing coverage of the pickets to burn itself out as the week went on, Barrymore followed up that text post with a video one, in which she “deeply apologized” to writers and unions but doubled down on her decision to remain in production. (A full transcript of the video is available at The Wrap.)
High-proflle actors—most of whom are also out of work due to the SAG-AFTRA strike—responded to Barrymore's video with rebukes, Deadline reports. “Drew Barrymore would like you to know that undermining union solidarity at the most crucial moment in Hollywood labor history makes her the victim,” tweeted actor Bradley Whitford. “You could shut it down and you’d be considered brave. You’d be forgiven," David Krumholtz responded in the comments. “You can choose now to halt production. You can choose to pay your employees like other talk show hosts who have stood in solidarity with the writers," Debra Messing wrote, also in the comments to Barrymore's post.
At some point overnight, Barrymore's post disappeared, but tickets to her show remain available online, suggesting that the post's deletion did not indicate a halt in production. Meanwhile, the WGA's East Coast strike schedule for next week includes planned pickets at Barrymore's studio at 530 West 57th St. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
As noted by Vulture's Josef Adalian and Kathryn VanArendonk this week, the reaction to Barrymore's return to production is far louder than that to Bill Maher, whose evening series, Real Time With Bill Maher, will be the first late-night talk show to return without writers. That might change if Power creator Courtney Kemp has her way. In an Instagram post reported by Deadline, she's encouraging past and present colleagues to assemble at the Los Angeles studio where Maher records his show, CBS Television City, on Tuesday. The goal? To “really screw up Bill Maher’s Day!”
The WGA will also picket Maher's show, saying via X (formerly Twitter) that it is “difficult to imagine how” the talk show “can go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place.” Unlike Barrymore, Maher has not issued any responses to those posts or to the slews of critics of his decision to resume production.
And by not responding, he likely ensures that fewer stories will be written about him as the strike continues—and its end seems less clear after a much-anticipated meeting between WGA leadership and some of Hollywood's top showrunners was abruptly canceled late this week. Per The Hollywood Reporter, folks like Kenya Barris and Sam Esmail were expecting to sit down at the WGA's LA HQ on Friday, but that confab was reportedly canceled after the WGA told members “The WGA and AMPTP are in the process of scheduling a time to get back in the room." (The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah also began at sundown on Friday, likely also a factor in the decision to cancel the meeting.)
A resumption of negotiations is a good sign, but writers like Cristina Kinon, the ?co-head writer of The Drew Barrymore Show, worry that decisions like her boss's might actually extend the work stoppage that will continue to hamstring Hollywood. With Barrymore seemingly taking the heat for the entire industry, "there's word that maybe some other shows are coming back,” Kinon told The Daily Beast. “So it is frustrating, because it will prolong the strike, and we just want it to end.”