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The 34th annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York doubled as a show of solidarity for the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike on Saturday night, as Jon Stewart, Fire Island writer-star Joel Kim Booster, GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre all shared messages of support before and during the show.
Stewart, who won for best variety or talk show episode with Apple TV+’s The Problem With Jon Stewart, was among the night’s first winners to make a statement. The writer, producer and actor did not appear during the show to accept his award, with Alex Schmider, GLAAD’s director of transgender representation, taking to the stage to accept on Stewart’s behalf.
“Jon is a member of the WGA. He would be here otherwise,” Schmider said. “GLAAD, of course, stands with Jon and all the WGA writers. Fair pay, fair working conditions and queer representation in writers rooms are urgent and necessary issues facing this industry.”
The statement was met with loud applause, like many of the shows of solidarity during the nearly three-hour event held at the Hilton Midtown. Ahead of Stewart’s statement, show host and What We Do in the Shadows star Harvey Guillén made a statement on behalf of GLAAD, clarifying that the event was “not a WGA show.”
“It is a fundraiser for GLAAD, which is a nonprofit organization powered by your contributions,” he continued. “But we stand in solidarity with the guild writers, especially those who get LGBTQ shows and characters on the air.”
Later in the evening, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre took a moment out of her speech, which was more broadly aimed at discussing the importance of LGBTQ representation across industries and support for the country’s trans youth, to note the significance of showing support for writers.
“I want to say one other really important thing. Nights like these are the reminder of stories and the importance of treating storytellers with dignity, respect and the value they deserve. I sincerely hope the writers strike gets resolved and the writers are given a fair deal they deserve as soon as possible.”
She added, “We need all writers and workers and everyone involved to tell the stories of our nation and the stories of all of us.”
While accepting the award for best streaming/TV film on behalf of the Fire Island cast, writer and star Joel Kim Booster shared that he was “so proud to be a member of the Writers Guild of America,” which earned a roar of applause, before adding that writing has not only been “just a hobby, but life changing for me.”
“I hope that you’ll stand in solidarity with us as we move forward in this,” he continued. “Labor issues are queer issues.”
On the event’s red carpet, Fire Island director Andrew Ahn also showed support for the WGA strike and Booster, telling The Hollywood Reporter that the work stoppage is about finding ways to support voices that are marginalized and “were the first ones to get hit, so let’s find a way to stop that from happening.”
“I think the U.S. has been built on capitalism and systemic racism and I think what the writers strike is trying to do is make this about artists, make this about people, about creating a livelihood for us to thrive and succeed and not have it just be about dollars and cents,” he said. “So for me, I’m not a part of the WGA, but I think it’s so important that we support the WGA. WGA strong for me.”
Bob the Drag Queen offered a long-term perspective ahead of their outstanding reality series win for We’re Here, saying, “This is one of those things where people now may be taking a pay cut or losing money, but down the line we’ll reap the benefits, and that’s really important.”
Ahead of a rousing speech that addressed The New York Times coverage of the trans community and Bob Iger and Disney’s ongoing battle with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, GLAAD’s CEO and president Sarah Kate Ellis also spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the significance of the strike for LGBTQ writers and stories.
“Until we all have a fair and equal seat at the table, we need to see more,” she explained. “Hollywood’s always looking for the next great story — the new way of telling a story — yet they still stay with the same old, same old. These folks are bringing new stories and new ways of telling stories, and I think an industry would invite that in, not shut it out.”
The night showcased how various artists within Hollywood’s writing community are approaching bringing attention to the WGA strike. While Stewart drew attention for his absence, Fire Island‘s Matt Rogers, who is in the guild alongside Booster and fellow co-star Bowen Yang, told THR while on a picket line in New York on the second day of the strike that the decision for multi-hyphenates with other platforms that don’t clash with WGA strike rules was “a delicate walk.”
But that he, at least, wanted to use platforms like the GLAAD Awards to speak on behalf of fellow writers. “I think if you can be somewhere where you can use your platform to push our agenda here and get everyone listening to what we need, that’s fine,” he said.
And Just Like That… star and executive producer Cynthia Nixon agreed. “I certainly feel like I’m going to make statements about supporting writers anywhere, and everywhere I go,” she told THR before sharing she planned to interview the HBO Max series’ writer Samantha Irby at Symphony Space and discuss the strike.
The WGA work stoppage — the second in 15 years — began on May 2 after the guild and The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed to reach an agreement on a new contract by the May 1 deadline. Among the issues on the table are pay increases, minimum staffing, AI, residuals and shorter exclusivity deals.
The 2023 GLAAD Media Awards in New York honored Maren Morris and Jonathan Van Ness with special awards and featured a performance from Idina Menzel singing her new single “Move.”
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