‘Dancing With the Stars’ Premiere Eyes Delay as Celebrities Begin to Drop Out Amid WGA Strike

The “Dancing With the Stars” premiere will more than likely be delayed next week, as talent has begun dropping out of the show amid rising pressures during the WGA strike.

“Veep” actor Matt Walsh, who is part of the Season 32 cast, is “taking a pause” from the ABC dance competition show until an agreement is made with the WGA. Walsh is a member of WGA, SAG-AFTRA and the DGA.

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ABC confirmed to Variety that the network is putting plans in place to postpone the “Dancing With the Stars” premiere.

“I am taking a pause from ‘Dancing with the Stars’ until an agreement is made with the WGA,” Walsh told Variety in a statement. “I was excited to join the show and did so under the impression that it was not a WGA show and fell under a different agreement. This morning when I was informed by my union, the WGA, that it is considered struck work I walked out of my rehearsal. I have been and will always stand with my union members of the WGA, SAG and DGA. Beyond our union artists, I am sensitive to the many people impacted by the strike and I hope for a speedy and fair resolution, and to one day work again with all the wonderful people I met at ‘DWTS’ who tolerated my dancing.”

“Dancing With the Stars” is a show covered by the WGA because it employs one WGA writer — however, it is worth noting that the show employs roughly 500 staff members in total, including crew members and producers. The performers on “DWTS” — which include the celebrity cast members, hosts, judges and pro dancers — are all cleared to work on the show under SAG-AFTRA’s “Network Code” agreement, which is not part of the current strike. (The “Network Code” was ratified in 2022, and does not expire until June 2024.)

“Dancing With the Stars” was set to debut with a two-and-a-half-hour premiere on Sept. 26 on ABC and simulcast on Disney+, and earlier this week, sources close to production told Variety that plans were moving ahead to continue the show without its one writer, despite criticism from the WGA. However, as WGA pickets hit “DWTS” rehearsals this week, sources say that talent has begun to feel uncomfortable participating in the show and more are considering bowing out, as they feel the rising pressure.

Sources close to production say it’s possible that the show can continue without Walsh, but if more celebrities begin to drop out, that will create further complications for production because the show is contingent upon its cast.

However, a large concern in the ongoing situation is the crew on “Dancing With the Stars,” given that the production employs roughly 500 people.

“Everyone’s focus is to keep 500 people employed,” a production source previously told Variety.

TV writer David Slack, a WGA member who is not involved in the current negotiations, tweeted on Thursday to shine a light on the importance of the one writer’s work on “Dancing With the Stars.”

“Just one writer. But more than 50 writers picketed their rehearsal to protect that writer’s job,” Slack tweeted. “”Cause if you mess with one of us, you answer to all of us. Solidarity.”

A spokesperson for the WGA did not respond to Variety‘s request for comment regarding “DWTS.”

The two hosts, three judges and all of the professional dancers are all members of SAG-AFTRA. Much of the celebrity lineup for Season 32 are part of SAG-AFTRA, including Walsh, Alyson Hannigan, Jamie Lynn Spears, Barry Williams, Matt Walsh, Mira Sorvino, Ariana Madix and Xochitl Gomez.

Variety has reached out to a handful of “Dancing With the Stars” celebrity cast members to inquire about their participation status for the upcoming season.

Technically, any celebrity cast member that might back out of “DWTS” because of the WGA strike would be in breach of contract for refusing to work because of the no strike clause in SAG-AFTRA’s Network Code. But a source close to the show says that production is being supportive of any talent with concerns amid WGA picketing, and intends to defend their right to work on the show, given that SAG-AFTRA has informed its members that they are allowed to continue working under the Network Code during its ongoing strike.

A spokesperson for SAG-AFTRA did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

The competition reality show is the latest to face blowback from the WGA, which has been vocal on social media about “DWTS” not continuing until the strike is resolved. WGA members have said that cast members who participate in the show will be scabbing to cross the picket line to work. Daytime shows, including “The Drew Barrymore Show,” “The Talk” and “The Jennifer Hudson Show,” all opted to delay their fall premieres this week after being targeted by the WGA.

Other reality competition shows similar to “Dancing With the Stars,” such as Fox’s “The Masked Singer,” do not employ WGA writers, which is why they are able to remain on the air with no criticism from the WGA.

During the 2007-2008 writers strike, “Dancing With the Stars” remained in production. The show re-hired its WGA member once the strike was over, which would be the current plan, if “DWTS” continues without its writer.

The WGA and AMPTP are scheduled to meet again on Thursday, which will be the second continuous day of the two sides meeting at the table after what was an “encouraging” session on Wednesday. Should the strike be resolved today and talent feels comfortable moving forward, the show could potentially go on. ABC had been relying heavily on “Dancing With the Stars” for its fall schedule, which is virtually all unscripted during the strikes. But given so many puzzle pieces in flux, it is likely that next week’s premiere date will be delayed.

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