Fran Drescher, head of the SAG-AFTRA union, defended herself for attending a publicity event in Italy over the weekend while contract negotiations between thousands of actors and film studios crumbled.
During a Thursday press conference announcing the official start of the first actor strike in decades, “The Nanny” star was asked about the bashing she received for taking a “selfie” with Kim Kardashian during a Dolce & Gabbana event.
“That wasn’t a selfie,” Drescher said. “I’m a brand ambassador for a fashion company and so is Kim. I had only met Kim seconds before that publicity picture was taken.”
She added: “It had nothing to do with being at a party or having fun – it was absolute work … We work, that’s what we do.”
Drescher said that despite being nine hours ahead of her SAG-AFTRA colleagues in Los Angeles who were working to reach an agreement Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), she kept in constant contact and even left the event early to attend a Zoom meeting with union negotiators.
“And if I couldn’t get through to them because I was on a plane, I was texting with them constantly throughout the plane ride,” Drescher said.
The union president fell under heavy criticism after a picture of herself and Kardashian smiling made its rounds on social media earlier this week.
At the time the image was taken, AMPTP had extended the union’s contract by nearly two weeks, though no resolution was in sight and talks for a walkout were underway.
“My union president chilling in Italy while we’re in the middle of negotiations and about to go on strike,” “Insidious: The Last Key” actor Kirk Acevedo tweeted Monday.
“We’re asking to be better compensated by the studios and Fran Drescher is mugging for cameras in Italy. The optics look f–king terrible.”
Actress Laura Lee wrote: “Hey @frandrescher, why are you gallivanting around when our strike is looming? Super bad look. And with Kim, who recently crossed the WGA picket line, no less. #gross.”
“Perry Mason” actor Eric Lange tweeted, “This is a really bad f–king look, @frandrescher. It’s astonishing that, on the eve of a likely strike, while people are losing their homes, their health insurance, etc you’re partying it up with Kim in Italy. Astonishing and indefensible.”
Actor Gerald Webb added: “Is @frandrescher handing out @dolcegabbana bags to all of the unemployed and soon to be striking @sag members to pay their rent and buy their groceries? completely #tonedeaf.”
“This is a clear example of how out of touch the president is with the majority of the rank-and-file membership,” Maya Dunbar, who is running against Drescher for SAG-AFTRA president, said in a statement, according to Deadline.
“While most members are currently wondering if there’s going to be a strike and how they’ll pay the rent, their dues and afford to provide for their families during the worst economic stability in recent years, she’s off taking pics with celebrities widely known and shamed for crossing WGA picket line.”
SAG-AFTRA rushed to Drescher’s defense in the immediate wake of the backlash, claiming that the negotiating committee understood her commitment to Dolce and Gabbana.
“She has been in negotiations every day either in person or via videoconference. President Drescher is managing a physically demanding schedule across three time zones, overseeing negotiations and working on location daily as well as managing her parents’ needs in Florida. She is returning to the states and will be on the ground in LA tomorrow and will continue to chair our negotiations,” the union said.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, co-chair of SAG-AFTRA, reiterated the support Thursday, stating it was “outrageous” for employers to “cynically try to turn our members against Fran.”
The union unanimously voted Thursday to stop working after their contract expired and talks broke off with AMPTP.
The strike — doubled with the ongoing walkout by Writers Guild of America screenwriters — effectively shuts down production across the entertainment industry.
Both SAG-AFTRA and WGA are demanding increases in base pay and residuals in the streaming-TV era, plus assurances that their work will not be replaced by artificial intelligence.
The strike officially kicks off at midnight Friday.
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