Martin Sheen Goes Full President Bartlet In Rousing Speech At National Day Of Solidarity Rally In LA As Kerry Washington & Ron Perlman Blast Studios

This is Day 113 of the WGA strike and Day 40 of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Martin Sheen led a reunion of the cast and crew of The West Wing and embodied his character President Bartlet at a major rally in LA.

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Sheen was joined by stars such as Kerry Washington and Ron Perlman at the National Day of Solidarity Rally, organized by SAG-AFTRA, the WGA and the AFL-CIO outside of Disney in Burbank.

Sheen told the large crowd that he has been a member of the actors union since 1961, the same year that he got married, so he’s pretty fond of unions.

“I was affectionately known in some quarters as the acting president of the United States. When the show ended its run in 2006, I became known in some quarters as the former acting president of the United States and I’m proud to have been part of that extraordinary company,” he opened.

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Sheen was joined by The West Wing stars including Allison Janney, Dulé Hill, Bradley Whitford, Josh Malina, Richard Schiff, Melissa Fitzgerald and Mary McCormack as well as creator Aaron Sorkin.

His character on that NBC show, Jed Barlet was known for his rousing oratory skills, and fond of a religious story or two.

“The Irish tell a story of a man who arrives at the gates of heaven and asks to be let in and St Peter says ‘Of course, just show us your scars’. The man says ‘I have no scars’. St Peter says ‘What a pity, was there nothing worth fighting for’. Clearly this union has found something worth fighting for and it is very costly. If this were not so, we would be left to question its value. Now we are called to support the union and stand together for the long haul and stick to it like a stamp,” he said.

“Let us continue to dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’. There’s so much going on in our country, it is so dangerously divided and quite often we come to gatherings like these and we’re inspired because we see the effect of unionism and unity,” he added.

Sheen closed on a prayer by the Indian poet laurate Tagore (see video below).

Ron Perlman, star of FX’s Sons of Anarchy, took a page out of his biker boss character Clay Morrow in a slightly more expletive-laden speech.

“I was born in 1950 and I have been a union man my entire motherfucking woke life,” he said. “My parents were union people, lower middle class, New York city, didn’t have a summer home or a yacht, didn’t have anything but love and humor, that’s what got me here today.”

Perlman said that there’s always been tension between management and labor, particularly right now, adding that the studios “somehow feel that they deserve all the toys”.

“The fucked up thing is however much they take, will never be enough, so what they need to do is make us feel small, devalue us, gaslight us with the thought that if we don’t walk in line lockstep, we can be replaced, because any motherfucker can do what we do. I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants a golden parachute or even knows what the fuck that is, or wants stock options or wants to buy one company and then fire 15,000 people so two companies with less workers looks better. What we want to do is tell stories about human beings. How the fuck can we tell stories about humanity, which is what we all do, which is what many of us do for free if they want to dehumanize us. It doesn’t make any sense. All that money that’s engendered every year by the work that you all do, there’s plenty of that to go around. If they’re claiming that they’re losing money, it’s just a fucked up model, don’t blame me for that,” he added.

Kerry Washington, best known for playing Olivia Pope in ABC’s Scandal, said that she never thought she could become an actor because that meant wanting to be famous.

“I wasn’t going to pursue my dream because I thought pursuing my dream meant reaching for the impossible and then I learned about unions. I learned that there are communities of people that were making a living being working actors, I learned I didn’t have to want to be famous, I could just pursue a career doing what I loved to do and I could raise a family and live a life doing that, being paid a fair wage,” she said.

“We have come to a point in our history where that is no longer possible, where just being a working actor… means I can’t make a fair living. It’s not ok. It’s not ok for other people to benefit for our hard work and sweat, when we work 16-hour days, when we put our vulnerabilities and hearts on the line, while we do the hard work, that’s no ok. We deserve to be paid a fair wage, we deserve to be able to have access to healthcare, we deserve to be protected from machines pretending to be us, we deserve to be working artists and to be paid fairly. The dream of being a working artist should not be impossible.”

She alluded to her fixer character, not naming her or the show, as its from a struck company.

“There is this tradition of storytelling that says there is one hero, who comes in and saves the day, that one person conquers the impossible. But when you stand here today and look around, know that the real way that we create change is standing together. It is about one for all, we are here for each other and we know that unions matter. Not only do we have solidarity within our unions, we have solidarity between our unions,” she added.

DGA Secretary-Treasurer Paris Barclay, who directed episodes of The West Wing, said his union was also standing with the writers and actors, despite having already agreed to their deal.

“It’s not enough that one of us has a meal on the table, until everybody has a meal on the table, nobody eats. [The studios] cannot take an AI generated script, put it in front of a camera and have an algorithm direct it, and have some weirdly shaped people acting it out, that’s not going to work. We need to look at the future and the future is ours,” he said.

“The world is not doing great on its own, it needs us to tell the stories about how we can find love, how transgender youth can be appreciated and respected, how families can raise their kids, those are the stories that we need to be acting out right now and the longer the AMPTP takes to bring us all back, the longer it will be before we can start telling the world what we imagine the future will be. Let’s join together, let’s not stop, let’s continue until this is over, we want to get back to work,” he added.

Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA Secretary Treasurer Joely Fisher joked that actors and writers in LA had survived a “once in a generation hurriquake”

“We are here, we are showing up and standing up to the second largest media company in the world. Hurricanes and earthquakes are nothing compared to the force of SAG-AFTRA and the WGA striking at the same time. Disney, the world of princesses and mice and heroes and villains of fairytales and fantasy, the world of Hulu, Pixar, Marvel, ABC, ESPN, 21st Century Fox, Lucasfilm, Touchstone and Searchlight, is saying none of those companies are making a profit,” she added.

Fisher was joined by SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA EVP Ben Whitehair, WGAW Board Member Liz Alper, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Yvonne Wheeler, Teamsters Local 399 Secretary-Treasurer, IBT Western Region V.P. and Motion Picture Division Director Lindsay Dougherty, LiUNA Local 724 Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer Alex Aguilar, Jr., AFM Local 47 President Stephanie O’Keefe and Burbank Mayor Konstantine Anthony.

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