'Raymond' cast shows love for WGA

4:00 AM PST 11/09/2007 by Kimberly Nordyke, AP

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There was a mini "Everybody Loves Raymond" reunion outside the Paramount lot Thursday morning as Phil Rosenthal, Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton walked the picket line in support of the WGA strike.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson also caused a commotion with his appearance at the studio, where he walked the picket line arm in arm with WGA West president Patric Verrone.

After bringing the picketers bagels and orange juice, the "Raymond" crew joined their march outside the Melrose gate of the L.A. studio. Romano noted that he's a member of the writers guild.

"I won't cross the picket line," he said, adding that "I was in the writers room every day for nine years (on 'Raymond'). ... Without the writers, (co-star) Brad (Garrett) and I would have been sitting on the couch looking at our feet for 22 minutes."

"Raymond" creator Rosenthal added that if the strike goes on long enough to force scripted TV shows into reruns, he hopes viewers "understand that it will be "temporary."

"And if people are upset, they should write to the studios and networks and ask them to do the right thing," he said. "It's all about fairness, not greed. Ray and I don't need the money, but we want (a contract that is) fair for everybody else."

Rosenthal also expressed disdain for reality shows. Asked his thoughts about the reality "trend," Rosenthal said: "The trend of reality might signal more than a trend of the moment -- that is, the end of civilization."

For her part, Heaton said that it's important for the actors to show their support to the writers during the strike since SAG's contract with the studios expires June 30, and it's expected that negotiations on a new pact will hinge on issues similar to those at the center of the writers guild talks.

"That's why the actors need to support the writers, because we're going to be in the same boat," she said.

She also expressed her hope for a quick resolution since so many people's livelihoods are being affected.

"It's sad: This going to affect everybody if it goes on," she said.

Rosenthal agreed, saying he wants the situation is revolved before "people start losing their houses and cars." He said the strike will hit those people who aren't in the upper stratosphere of financial earnings the most.

"I want everyone to be able to earn a living -- that's exactly what we're fighting for," he said, adding that if the actors' contract had expired before the writers', "we would be out here in support of the actors. No one wants work taken away, but" everyone should be compensated fairly.

Verrone made similar comments outside Paramount, saying that the guild is especially fighting for the "middle-class, working writers who live paycheck to paycheck."

Jackson, meanwhile, said the strike is reflective of broader workplace issues in America.

"You're fighting for the dignity of the American worker," he said, pointing to such business practices as outsourcing and downsizing. "You're fighting for the American dream, and that dream is worth fighting for. ... Keep fighting for your jobs, wages, benefits, growth. Your victory is America's victory."

He also took a swipe at consolidation in the entertainment industry.

"Prosperity must be shared," he said. "In the media industry, too few people control too much."

Jackson also expressed a desire to meet with the networks and studios.

"I also would ask the governor and mayor to use their offices to help convene forces," he said. "This strike will eventually impact and hurt everybody," with the effects trickling down even to people in non-industry jobs, he added.

Also supporting the writers in the picket lines were members of the NAACP, including national board member Willis Edwards, a former president of organization's Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch who also has executive produced the NAACP Image Awards and the telefilm "The Rosa Parks Story."

"We're supporting our brothers and sisters in the union; without the union, they would not be here as writers today," he said, adding that he also is hoping for a quick resolution. "This is hurting so many people behind the scenes too, like the cameraman and the cab drivers."

Also on the picket line at Paramount was writer/director/guild member Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, who is shooting some of the video that the WGA is posting online at UnitedHollywood.com and YouTube. He said the video, in part, is showing Web surfers the faces of those writers who aren't necessarily earning big paychecks.

"People are watching," he said. "We've gotten a lot of comments."
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