Viola Davis is pressing pause on her next project despite receiving a greenlight from SAG-AFTRA to film amid industry strikes. Although the dual SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes have halted nearly every major production in Hollywood, dozens of independent films and TV shows have been cleared to continue filming under interim agreements, including Davis’s upcoming political thriller, G20.
“I love this movie, but I do not feel that it would be appropriate for this production to move forward during the strike,” the Oscar winner told Deadline in a statement on Saturday. “I appreciate that the producers on the project agree with this decision. JuVee Productions and I stand in solidarity with actors, SAG-AFTRA, and the WGA.”
The union previously permitted the film to proceed, despite its being distributed by Amazon Studios, because it is produced by the studio MRC, which is not affiliated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Davis stars as a US president who must fight for the future of her country after the G20 summit is taken over by terrorists, according to The Hollywood Reporter. G20 is directed by Patricia Riggen and written by Noah and Logan Miller.
Davis’s stance came two days after Sarah Silverman spoke out against SAG-AFTRA waivers on her Instagram. “What the fuck? I got offered an indie movie, I fucking said no, and so did a bunch of my friends. And now some of my friends are saying yes,” she said in her video. “I’m really pissed.”
While more than 300 companies are members of the AMPTP, production companies including A24, which won the best-picture Oscar earlier this year, exist outside of the organization. A24 is still making films now despite the strike, as are other “truly independent” producers; films still in the works reportedly feature actors such as Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, Paul Rudd, and Jenna Ortega.
Silverman said she didn’t know if she should be “mad at these movie stars making these indie movies that are obviously going to go to streaming” or angry with “SAG for making this interim deal for these indie movies” during the strike. “It’s scabbing. You’ve made that so clear that it’s scabbing,” she continued in her video. “Now, all of a sudden, movie stars can make movies if they’re indie movies…where they promise they’ll only sell it if X, Y, and Z? That’s called the end of the strike, motherfuckers!”
In response to some of the discord, SAG-AFTRA released a statement about interim agreements on its website on Sunday. The union said that it offers “many of our journeyman performers and crews the opportunity to pay their rent and feed their families. This approach maintains our strength, solidarity, and upper hand with the AMPTP until they yield to the deal we deserve.”
The statement from the SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee further maintained that an interim agreement “is not a waiver” and that each project seeking such an agreement is rigorously vetted. “Regardless of the size of the budget or the renown of the cast, these projects have been confirmed to be separate from the AMPTP and entirely independent,” the statement continued. “The independent producers must agree to all of the terms, without exception, including the very proposals that the AMPTP rejected.”
The guild will still “urge independent producers to apply and encourage SAG-AFTRA members to work on the projects that obtain an interim agreement, along with all of the other permissible work,” it said. “Some have suggested that the interim agreement might prolong the strike, but we disagree. We believe the leverage created by increasing competitive pressure on the AMPTP and denying them what they want most will force them back to the table and help bring this strike to an end.”
In 2020, Davis spoke to Vanity Fair about the importance of taking action against injustice. “I feel like my entire life has been a protest,” she said. “My production company is my protest. Me not wearing a wig at the Oscars in 2012 was my protest. It is a part of my voice, just like introducing myself to you and saying, ‘Hello, my name is Viola Davis.’”