Brian Cox rages against ‘scary’ AI at SAG-AFTRA solidarity rally in London: ‘That is the worst aspect’

Brian Cox rages against ‘scary’ AI at SAG-AFTRA solidarity rally in London: ‘That is the worst aspect’

Succession star Brian Cox identified artificial intelligence (AI) as the position we “should really be fighting against” as he voiced his support for fellow US actors and writers who are currently striking against studios and streamers.

On Friday (21 July), the UK actors’ union, Equity, organised a rally in solidarity with its sister union, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), who joined the Writers Guild of America (WGA) on Friday (14 July) in the fight for increased base pay, higher streaming residuals and assurances that their work won’t be replaced by AI – a move which has effectively shut down Hollywood.

During the assembly, held in London’s Leicester Square, the Scottishactor, 77, honed in on the “scary” AI business, which he said is “the worst aspect” of this fight.

“The wages are one thing, but the worst aspect is the whole idea of AI and what AI can do to us,” Cox said in an impassioned tirade.

Relaying an earlier conversation, the Braveheart actor shared what a fellow actor had been told during negotiations for a new TV show.

“He was told in no unfirm terms that they would keep his image and do what the f*** they like with it,” Cox shared. “Now that is a completely unacceptable position. And that is the position that we should really be fighting against, because that is the worst aspect.”

Cox recalled his own recent appearance on a programme in which he was “given a list of things that artificial intelligence Brian Cox was going to say”.

Brian Cox speaks at Equity rally in support of SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike (Equity UK)
Brian Cox speaks at Equity rally in support of SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike (Equity UK)

“And the artificially intelligent Brian Cox was going to do animal impersonations. I’ve never done a f***ing animal impersonation in my life and I wouldn’t know where to f***ing begin. This was really interesting, this stuff that was coming off AI about me and I thought, this is weird and really a little scary,” he said.

“Now this is going to happen to everybody, nobody’s exempt in this. If you do a performance, if you’re on a film, on a movie, on a TV show, that’s where they’ll get you and that’s what we have to stop.”

Equity is the UK’s equivalent to SAG-AFTRA and represents 47,700 performers and creative practitioners in the UK.

It stands “110 per cent in solidarity” with its sister union, Equity’s General Secretary Paul W Fleming said at the rally. “The issues SAG-AFTRA face are the same as the issues that we face.”

Other high-profile British celebrities to join the rally included Imelda Staunton, Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter, Selma star David Oyelowo and Simon Pegg.

While a majority of US TV and movies have halted production amid the historic walkout, other productions comprised of mostly British actors working under Equity contracts, like HBO’s House of the Dragon, are set to continue production due to local union rules.

“Because of existing anti-trade union laws in the UK, SAG-AFTRA members currently working under an Equity UK collective bargaining agreement should continue to report to work,” a memo sent to Equity members read.

“A performer joining the strike (or refusing to cross a picket line) in the UK will have no protection against being dismissed or sued for breach of contract by the producer or the engager.

“Likewise, if Equity encourages anyone to join the strike or not cross a picket line, Equity itself will be acting unlawfully and hence liable for damages or an injunction,” the union said.

Similarly, fellow HBO show Industry also operates under Equity rules. According to Deadline, sources close to production have said that filming on Industry will also move forward as planned.