Since SAG-AFTRA joined the WGA on the picket lines last week, some truly horrifying stories have emerged about one of guild member’s biggest complaints: comically paltry residuals. In the pre-streaming glory days, actors could once upon a time expect payments from re-runs of popular shows. Now, not so much. Indeed, one very famous star said she’s received some checks so small they needn’t have even bothered — and heard of ones that are even punier.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Mandy Moore, who was Emmy-nominated for This is Us, on the Disney picket line in Burbank, California. She had some things to say, namely that she’s received residual checks that were comically low: “very tiny, like 81-cent checks.”
That’s nothing. “I was talking with my business manager who said he’s received a residual for a penny and two pennies,” Moore added.
“The residual issue is a huge issue,” Moore said. “We’re in incredibly fortunate positions as working actors having been on shows that found tremendous success in one way or another … but many actors in our position for years before us were able to live off of residuals or at least pay their bills.”
At the time, Moore was picketing next to former Scandal star Katie Lowes, who told THR she’s never gotten much from her show, despite it getting streaming deals with Hulu and Netflix.
“If you are someone who has been fortunate enough in our positions to do 120-plus episodes of a successful show in previous years — 10, 15, 20 years ago — that re-airing would be the thing that could sustain you on years where I did this smaller project or I wanted to go do a play or you have kids and you have a family to provide for,” Lowes explained. “And that just not a reality anymore. The entire model has changed.”
It’s not just residuals that are the problem. Actors for streamers have long been paid terribly even when filming their shows and movies. Last week, The New Yorker ran a surprising story about the Orange is the New Black supporting cast’s tiny residuals despite their show exploding in popularity. Incidentally, last year the streamer’s current co-CEO Ted Sarandos saw his pay jump 32% to a whopping $50.3 million.