Drew Barrymore Show Writers Refusing to Return Signals a New Era in Hollywood

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Drew Barrymore has always been a bit of an outsized figure in Hollywood. Now, she and her talk show have become an unwitting bellwether of change in the industry. On Oct. 4, the three former Drew Barrymore Show writers who are part of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) declined to return to the show after the end of the recent writers’ strike.

The talk show will return for its Season 4 premiere on Oct. 16—notably without Chelsea White, Cristina Kinon, and Liz Koe, who shared the title of co-head writer on the show. (The Hollywood Reporter first broke this news, which the L.A. Times later confirmed.)

“I think the Drew Barrymore writers choosing to not go back to what is basically a guaranteed paycheck after five months on the picket line was a phenomenal act of courage,” says Eric Haywood, a writer, director, WGA West board member, and 2023 Negotiating Committee member. “I feel like the era of playing in people's faces is over. And workers are really ready to demand what they feel they deserve.”

The Drew Barrymore Show—and its high-profile host—became a lightning rod during the WGA strike. On Sept. 11, the show resumed filming without its three WGA writers.

“I own this choice,” Barrymore wrote on Instagram, in a since-deleted post. “We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind. I want to be there to provide what writers do so well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience. I hope for a resolve for everyone as soon as possible.”

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It was a gray area: Technically, The Drew Barrymore Show was covered by a different WGA contract than the one that guild members were striking to change. But it would be virtually impossible for no one to draft any pre-written content for the show. And if anyone did write any content—say, a monologue or even interview questions—then that would be crossing the picket line. So guild members immediately began picketing the show—including struck writers from The Drew Barrymore Show

As the show taped, two audience members were kicked out for wearing pins that supported the WGA. The National Book Awards dropped Barrymore as its host, citing a desire to “ensure that the focus of the awards remains on celebrating writers and books.” The tide of public opinion, buoyed by frustrated writers, turned against Barrymore—a rare instance for an American sweetheart. On Sept. 15, Barrymore posted a since-deleted tearful video to Instagram, apologizing to writers and unions in one breath and reiterating that the show would still return in the next.

“I deeply apologize to writers,” she said. “I deeply apologize to unions. I deeply apologize.”

“I don’t have a PR machine behind my decision to go back to the show,” she continued. “I didn’t want to hide behind people. So I won’t. I won’t polish this with bells and whistles and publicists and corporate rhetoric. I’ll just stand out there and accept and be responsible.”

Two days later, The Drew Barrymore Show announced that it would resume its hiatus, pausing its premiere until after the strike had ended.

“I have no words to express my deepest apologies to anyone I have hurt and, of course, to our incredible team who works on the show and has made it what it is today,” Barrymore wrote on Instagram. “We really tried to find our way forward. And I truly hope for a resolution for the entire industry very soon.”

The WGA strike ended 10 days later, on Sept. 27. (Guild members are currently voting to ratify the terms of the agreement.) And when production restarted for The Drew Barrymore Show, its writers took a stand: They weren’t coming back.

That news coincided with comedian Roy Wood Jr.’s decision to leave Comedy Central’s The Daily Show after eight years as a correspondent for the program, most recently hosted by Trevor Noah. Noah left the show in December after seven years as host, and since then, rotating guest hosts have filled the role. Wood was in the running for the permanent host role, but left because he hasn’t been offered the job, and wants time to figure out what’s next.

“There’s no sense in me doing what I’ve been doing for the last eight years while concurrently trying to think of a new thing to do,” Wood told NPR. “The job of correspondent, it’s not really one where you can really juggle multiple things. And I think after eight years, I think I’ve earned the right to just take a quick break before January.”

“When you couple that,” Haywood says of Wood’s decision, “with the fact that the actors are still on strike, the writers just came off strike, the auto workers are on strike, the flight attendants, the hospital workers—nobody goes on strike because it's fun. Nobody goes on strike because it is a cool act of rebellion. People really only go on strike when they feel they've been pushed to the limit, and they have no choice.”

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