Hours after Drew Barrymore posted an emotional video in which she apologized for bringing back her daytime talk show amid the Hollywood writers strike, the mea culpa appeared to have been deleted.
In the clip, Barrymore made it clear that, despite the backlash over her decision, the Sept. 18 premiere of The Drew Barrymore Show would go on. She teared up as she "deeply" apologized to both writers and unions for crossing the picket line to return to the air. However, she then pivoted and said the show will premiere as scheduled — without its Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers, who have been on strike since May as they fight for more equitable wages and working conditions.
In the lengthy video recorded in her kitchen and without, in her words, a "PR machine" behind her, Barrymore said, "I deeply apologize to writers. I deeply apologize to unions." She takes "full responsibility" for going ahead with the show. She also acknowledged, "I believe there's nothing I can do or say in this moment to make it OK." She called it a "complex" decision and one "bigger than me" with many "other people's jobs on the line." She insisted, "We aren't going to break rules and are going to be in compliance,” despite the show being considered a struck show by WGA. She ended by saying, "I just want everyone to know my intentions have never been in a place to upset or hurt anyone. It's not who I am."
It’s unclear what response she was hoping for, but most weren't having the half-apology. Debra Messing, currently on strike with actors union SAG-AFTRA, wrote in the comments, "You can choose now to halt production. You can choose to pay your employees like other talk show hosts who have stood in solidarity with the writers. There are thousands of union members jobs and livelihoods that are at stake (exponential more than those who work on your show) and the future of our beloved industry. I hope you will reconsider.”
Ever Carradine, also on strike with SAG, commented, "I was so hopeful that this was a video of you announcing that you were stepping away from your show and joining your writers on the picket line. I am such a fan of yours, as an artist and as a human, but I will never understand your choice to cross a picket line… It is not too late to change your mind."
Renée Felice Smith, also striking with SAG commented, "Who is advising you? Digging your heels in is not the move."
Meanwhile striking writer Bess Kalb was unimpressed by Barrymore's efforts in the video, taped in the star's $8 million NYC duplex, that just had a major kitchen renovation.
Drew Barrymore's Hamptons house cost $6 million. Her Upper East Side duplex was over $8 million. Her Montecito house sold for over $5 million. Her Kauai house was...sorry, what was she saying about the only way to pay her crew?
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) September 15, 2023
Barrymore announces show will return without WGA writers
Barrymore announced Sunday that her talk show will premiere its fourth season on Sept. 18. (This post also appears to have since been deleted.) But in Barrymore's statement, she had vowed to be in compliance with both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA striking rules by "not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck."
Barrymore's talk show is not covered under SAG-AFTRA's struck TV/Theatrical/Streaming contract. (It is under SAG-AFTRA's Network Television Code, a contract — covering morning news shows, talk shows, soap operas game shows — that's good through June 2024.) However, the show is covered under the WGA's film and TV contract, which is part of the strike. So Barrymore's show is returning without its WGA writers. A CBS Media Ventures spokesperson said that the show "will not be performing any writing work" that will violate the strike rules.
WGA takes issue with its return. "The Drew Barrymore Show is a WGA covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers," it tweeted. "The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike. Any writing on The Drew Barrymore Show is in violation of WGA strike rules."
The @DrewBarrymoreTV Show is a WGA covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers. The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike. Any writing on “The Drew Barrymore Show” is in violation of WGA strike rules.
— Writers Guild of America, East (@WGAEast) September 10, 2023
While some hoped Barrymore would change her mind at the eleventh hour, the talk show went ahead with taping Monday at CBS Broadcast Center in NYC. Among the picketers outside were the show's three WGA writers, including Chelsea White who expressed her disappointment in the show returning.
"I think in general, this is obviously bigger than us three writers on The Drew Barrymore Show," White told the Hollywood Reporter. "It is a bummer to hear that the show is going back because it sends a message that union writers are not valuable. And it goes directly against what the WGA, SAG-AFTRA, all the unions are trying to band together to stand up against the greedy studios."
— WGA East vp Lisa Takeuchi Cullen (@LisaCullen) September 11, 2023
Meanwhile, two audience members who wore WGA pins into the studio, given to them by picketers, claimed they were asked to leave before the show began because they were wearing the pins. Barrymore's rep claimed she was unaware of the incident. The WGA plans to picket again on Tuesday.
"You are definitely going to be bringing us writers together... when we picket your show," David Guggenheim, the WGA writer behind Designated Survivor replied in the comments of Barrymore's post announcing the return of her show, garnering over 3,000 likes. Another commenter getting a lot of likes wrote, "Are you going to walk past your own writers on the picket line? Disappointing."
The backlash is a turn for Barrymore, who was praised in May for backing out of hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards in solidarity with writers. She wrote in her Sunday statement that she pulled out in that case because there was "a direct conflict with what the strike was dealing with which was studios, streamers, film and television. It was also in the first week of the strike and so I did what I thought was the appropriate thing at the time to stand in solidarity with the writers." Her decision to come back was made because, while her name is on the show, "this is bigger than just me," she wrote, referring to other employees of the show. However, she also wrote, "I own this choice."
But Barrymore's not alone in going on with the show. The View, which also has a few WGA writers, has continued to air new shows throughout the strike. WGA has been picketing that show for months with plans to be back outside its NYC studio on Tuesday. Co-host Whoopi Goldberg has addressed the lack of writers on-air, noting that the mostly unscripted show will be less-polished with their writers out and nobody fulfilling their duties.
The Jennifer Hudson Show, The Talk and Sherri are all returning, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Hudson's show returns on Sept. 18 as planned and it also has WGA writers, according to the guild website. The Talk, which has WGA writers, opted to go dark immediately after the strike started in May, but will be begin taping again. Sherri does not employ WGA writers.
The Kelly Clarkson Show doesn't currently have a return date and the show's publicist hasn't responded to Yahoo's inquiry as to when it will be back.
Meanwhile, Tamron, Live With Kelly and Mark and Sherri do not have WGA writers.
Is Barrymore being singled out?
"Despite this strike not being over, and negotiations clearly having stalled at this point, [Barrymore's] making a deliberate decision to essentially go around the strike and negate the show's signatory position with the contract itself, so that's really why this show is catching so much public flak," media industry expert Alicia Kozma, who serves as director of Indiana University Cinema, tells Yahoo.
Barrymore's Instagram statement outlining her reasoning for bringing back the show didn't necessary help.
"I think the other reason that people, especially in public sentiment, are having such a negative reaction is in her statement," Kozma says. "She talked about how she stepped down as the host of the MTV Movie & TV Awards because of the strikes. It seems like the prevailing sentiment is she trying to use that as coverage for bringing the show back despite being a signatory to the WGA."
She continues, "And that, quite frankly, Drew Barrymore — not just as a talk-show host but as Drew Barrymore — is in a really privileged position. She's someone who was born into a legacy Hollywood family and intergenerational wealth that was really, in large part, helped, created, maintained and regenerated because they were in unions. Her father, grandfather and she have been protected by unions, and in large ways their generational wealth has come from the active participation in unions, so I think there is — at least certainly online — a pervading feeling of hypocrisy around the move."
While Kozma agrees that the ins and outs of the Hollywood strikes are "absolutely confusing" because there are two strikes that operate not even under two contracts but many different contracts, it's important to remember that, "When we tend to think of writers and actors, we think of the very top 1% that are multimillionaires. But there are thousands of other people doing that work that unfortunately don't get to fall into that income bracket," which is why they're fighting for better pay.
Since Barrymore returned to her show, she has been dropped as the National Book Awards ceremony host. “Our commitment is to ensure that the focus of the Awards remains on celebrating writers and books, and we are grateful to Ms. Barrymore and her team for their understanding in this situation," the National Book Foundation said in a statement.
Not business as usual on the talk show
Viewers can watch — or not watch, depending on their stance of picket-line crossing — Barrymore's show when it returns on Sept. 18. The show will feature "cutting-edge guests and key influencers," according to a press release. Some of those will be: celebrity hairstylist Chris Appleton, Drew's News co-anchor Ross Mathews, interior designer Mikel Welch, chef Pilar Valdes and sustainable living guru Danny Seo. Leaning heavy on lifestyle content versus entertainment, the show will also introduce a new segment "Take Care Everywhere" with Barrymore and founder of Menopause Bootcamp, Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, tackling questions many are too embarrassed to ask their own doctors.
In the past the show has relied on celebrity guests. Barrymore has certainly had a knack for the interviews with them, getting her peers to share very personal stories — while she opens up about her own. However, those represented by the striking unions won't be able to discuss their projects. Many won't appear on the show at all anyway as not to cross picket lines.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on Sept. 11, 2023 and has been updated with Barrymore's statement and removal of her videos.