NPR – All Things Considered
Commentary: Screen Actors Guild Strike
August 3, 2000
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Three months ago, the Screen Actors Guild went on strike against the advertising industry. The union is seeking a more equitable contract for commercial actors. Economists say the strike has cost Los Angeles County an estimated $70 million in lost wages and support services. Commentator J.P. Manoux is one of the actors who’s been on strike.
I may be one of the most famous, absolutely anonymous people in the world. If you listen to commercial radio, you’ve probably heard me. If you watch network television, I’m sure you’ve seen me. I was that guy that escaped from that office building in a Honda Civic. Remember? I’m that guy in the houseful of TVs from Circuit City. I’m Michael Jordan’s annoying caddy in those Gatorade spots. I’ve been in your living room countless times, in your gym, on your last flight, maybe even on your computer. You can picture me now, right? No? That’s OK. You’re not supposed to remember me, just the product.
Nevertheless, I take my supporting role very seriously. Each time I step in front of a camera or behind a microphone, I call upon 15 years of experience and professional training. I summon powerful dignity, the kind that allows me to put on that sweat-filled community chicken costume and cheerfully tackle the third audition to play Sir Clucks-a-lot in a regional spot for Purdue. I’m not clucking a lot these days. I’m on strike.
The conflict, if you haven’t already heard, is fairly simple. Advertisers want to pay actors a flat fee to run their spots as often as they like. Actors want to be compensated based on how much their work is seen. And we want a monitoring system established to keep track of the exposure. And we want jurisdiction over the Internet… and a jet with enough fuel to take us to the Bahamas! (Because we just saw a commercial for Club Med and in it there was this attractive young couple that looked so convincingly happy. I mean, it’s got to be a great place.)
We’re not going to Club Med; we’re going to the classifieds. I’ve spent the last three months picketing, protesting, checking the precarious status of my health insurance and refusing scab work. Now I’ve got to do something, anything that comes with a paycheck. But, what else am I qualified for? Who out there is looking for a resume that reads ‘Skills: pratfalls, pantomime, great with kids, pets and supermodels’ ?
I wonder how this strike will affect the Super Bowl? I wonder what people will say when they can’t say, “Whassup?” A group of my union brothers and sisters started a hunger strike this week. I wonder if that will help? I wonder how it feels to starve yourself knowing that, just across the street, non-union actors are taking bite after bite of soggy Big Macs on cue? Certainly there ARE thousands of real people qualified to stuff fries in their face, but after 43 takes, will they still look like they enjoy it? I wonder.
I’m a professional commercial actor in the middle of an historic labor strike. Maybe this is my chance to do something worth remembering.
LINDA WERTHEIMER: J.P. Manoux is currently in Hollywood.
(Soundbite of music)
Commentary: Network Debut
February 22, 2001
NOAH ADAMS, host:
The American actor J.P. Manoux has called himself a chronically anonymous actor for the past eight years. This coming Friday he has a big break on network television. He appears in an episode of the CBS series “Nash Bridges.” It’s not exactly the role he’s always dreamed of, but he thinks it will make quite an impression.
I have a shower scene with Cheech Marin, at least part of me does. It’s kind of a dream come true. I don’t watch “Nash Bridges” very often, but I have seen every Cheech and Chong movie ever made. Even the Corsican Brothers. I must have spent countless hours listening to their comedy albums. And now the Cheech of Cheech and Chong and the cheeks of J.P. Manoux will be performing together on national television.
Sorry, I need a moment. <sniff>
I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous; that we aren’t nervous. I couldn’t see the video monitor from the fake shower stall, so, you know, it remains to be seen if I suffered from excessive goose bumps or mushy tushy, a tragic ailment that has befallen many of Hollywood’ s greats: Michael Douglas, Dennis Franz. Or, you know, if I should have considered the beneficial attributes of certain depilatory creams. I’m not too worried, though. The makeup artist seemed to appreciate the relative lack of attention my rump required. And from all other accounts, I have reason to believe my caboose performed admirably. The director said we were both a pleasure to work with. Of course, I do understand that once the editors get their hands on my heinie it’s hard to say exactly what impression we will finally make. Still, I hope it’s a good one. This could be our big break.
ADAMS: Actor J.P. Manoux is scheduled to appear this Friday on the CBS television show “Nash Bridges.” He lives in Los Angeles.
ADAMS: I’m Noah Adams. You’re listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.