Juliette Lewis Shares Dark Side of Acting While Supporting IATSE Strike: 'Overworked and Exhausted'

"Show up for the backbone of our industry," Juliette Lewis wrote in a lengthy Instagram statement

Juliette Lewis visits SiriusXM Studios on February 25, 2020 in New York City.
Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty

Juliette Lewis is standing by her fellow Hollywood industry workers.

On Friday, the 48-year-old actress penned a lengthy message in support of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), a labor union that represents 150,000 people across the entertainment industry, including electricians, camera operators, costumers, makeup artists, special effects, hairstylists, script supervisors, and more.

Sharing a statement on Instagram, Lewis began by addressing her "fellow actors," stating how they "should talk about how it's been normal to work 15-17 hour days" during six-day work weeks.

"I personally was conditioned in TV/film business since a teenager to never take a sick day off, or it would cost tens of thousands of dollars. And you'd be labeled 'problematic,' so much so I've worked through a flu I've worked through migraines I've worked through walking pneumonia on Natural Born Killers for two weeks where I thought I might die..." she shared. "Apparently that was always better than speaking up and having them simply shift their schedule around to accommodate a person's health. Because it just didn't happen."

Noting that she is "actually thankful for this work ethic" as it has "served me in many areas of my life," Lewis added, "but I am an actor so when I think of the crew who shows up hours before actors do and leaves hours after actors do and are asked to work miracles daily that's a whole other story that goes beyond a solider like work ethic and that's why all you have to do is read some of the stories."

Pointing out specific instances of workers being overworked, Lewis said these employees were faced "with the constant threat that somebody else could do their job if they don't serve the production."

"I have seen some major changes since COVID protocols and how long the hours are and taking care of peoples [sic] health. But that's been in Canada," she said. "... Producers are still asking human beings to work tirelessly and work miracles constantly to 'save them money' rather than create schedules that are doable without their constant pressure."

"When people are overworked and exhausted huge mistakes happen," Lewis continued, adding that she has "experienced" incidents "that harm individuals."

"I thought it was being worked out and got educated that producers, bosses, execs are not giving the crew the kind of care they need in their requests in the negotiations therefore," she said.

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Lewis then called upon "every actor" and said they "should be standing up for their crews."

"You've seen them show up hours before you and leave hours after- how we were all thought if I am this overworked and under pressure how are they even standing on 2 feet," she shared. "How are they even sleeping because they didn't even have the SAG protections that we did with the 12 hour turnaround. ... Even with our turn around we've been exhausted and totally overworked so I think about our crews."

Concluding her passionate message, Lewis then wrote, "Even though I love how hard we work to bring people entertainment and I love being challenged on how to pull the impossible for over 30 years I have wanted better care for myself and the miraculous crews I've seen thanklessly perform daily miracles weekly miracles without the protections that I had."

"I implore every actor to speak up on behalf of your crew and ask that execs & producers properly support the health/care/pay and prevent the necessity for a strike," she added. "Show up for the backbone of our industry. [It's] about time it's overtime!!!"

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Last month, the IATSE called for a strike authorization vote, which could potentially result in a historical work stoppage in Hollywood. Upwards of 60,000 union members could walk off the job, which would mean shutting down TV and film production, not just in Los Angeles, but nationwide, affecting everything from pre-production to film editing.

These employees are often called "below-the-line" workers, but are essential to the production of any film or television show.

In a statement on their website, the IATSE outlined the working conditions they hope to improve, which include, "Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours," "Unlivable wages for the lowest paid crafts," and "Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends."

IATSE President Matt Loeb announced on Oct. 13 that the union will strike on Monday, Oct. 18 at 12:01 a.m. PT if a deal isn't reached in the next few days. The union has created a "strike clock" counting down the time until they take action.

Loeb said that the union "will continue bargaining with the producers this week in the hopes of reaching an agreement that addresses core issues, such as reasonable rest periods, meal breaks, and a living wage for those on the bottom of the wage scale," according to Deadline.

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