Sherri Shepherd is clarifying that the return of her daytime talk show is not crossing any picket lines.
The host of Sherri addressed the strike during her first episode since the SAG-AFTRA strike began in July and the WGA strike in May — the latter a move that effectively shuttered a smattering of talk shows earlier than planned last spring as writers called for better working conditions and benefits and for studios to address issues like the creeping presence of artificial intelligence.
“This summer, you all may have seen your favorite actors and Hollywood stars have been on the picket lines with the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes,” she told the audience in Monday’s episode. “There has been so much confusion about who can work and who can’t work. Well, I’m a SAG-AFTRA actress and I actually marched with some of my colleagues while in Los Angeles recently.”
After sharing photos of herself with fellow SAG-AFTRA members like Viola Davis and Niecy Nash on the picket lines, Shepherd went on to clarify how her show was able to return — even as hosts like Drew Barrymore, Bill Maher and Jennifer Hudson walked back their planned returns in the midst of the ongoing work stoppage. Those shows, while able to return under SAG-AFTRA strike rules, were crossing the picket line of the WGA strike, the nuance of which Shepherd explained.
“Talk shows in general fall under a different union contract code, so we’re allowed to come back unless you’re a WGA show. The Sherri show is not a WGA show, and we have never employed WGA writers, so us coming back to work isn’t crossing the picket line,” she said.
One of the biggest criticisms of the now-scrapped returns of Real Time, The Talk, The Jennifer Hudson Show and The Drew Barrymore Show — as well as the ongoing airing of The View, which is a WGA-covered show — has focused on each production’s plan for avoiding crossing the picket lines. (SAG-AFTRA talk shows are covered under a different contract than those currently striking with the performers union, allowing hosts to continue working.)
Most public statements denied their respective series would use any WGA writers, thus not technically breaking strike rules. But the WGA and its union members vocally expressed that those shows would still need writing services and that anyone — like a producer, host or a non-union writer — who took over those services in the absence of WGA scribes would be scabbing.
In her opening, Shepherd expounded on how her show follows a similar approach as those proposed, but as a non-WGA talk show. “As a comic, my comedic take on the headlines is my voice. I write the jokes. I’m the writer,” she said. “Producers help me shape my words. That’s why we don’t have WGA writers at Sherri.”
She concluded her statement by pointing out key issues in the SAG-AFTRA strike, which include the use of artificial intelligence and residuals. “I stand in solidarity with my union,” she said. “My heart is breaking for all of the people that can’t work right now and I hope our industry can get this strike resolved soon.”
Sherri was scheduled to return to TV on Monday, alongside new episodes of The Drew Barrymore Show, The Jennifer Hudson Show and The Talk. After Barrymore faced swift backlash for an Instagram video defending her show’s return during the WGA strike, she released a statement Sunday apologizing and announcing she had reversed course. Similar statements from the other two daytime shows, as well as Bill Maher’s late night talk show, followed Sunday and early Monday.