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Orange Is the New Black Actors Say They Weren't Fairly Compensated

Orange Is the New Black Actors Say They Weren't Fairly Compensated

Characters from Orange Is the New Black

Several cast members of the early streaming hit have revealed their struggles with low wages and residuals.

With film and TV writers already on strike, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) is set to begin picketing after negotiations with major studios broke down Wednesday night.

While 2023 has been a banner year in the fight for better contracts and pay in Hollywood, change has been a long time coming. As far back as 2013, actors who appeared in Netflix's hit series Orange Is the New Blackwere struggling to survive on their salaries - and residuals were little help.

Speaking with Michael Shulman of The New Yorker, Alysia Reiner (who played Natalie “Fig” Figueroa) said, "We all took a risk together, and the reward for Netflix does not seem in line with the reward for all of us who took that risk," echoing the sentiments of other cast members who feel they were never fairly compensated for their work.

The show was a major cornerstone for queer television, especially one centering lesbian, bi, and trans women.

Kimiko Glenn (Brook Soso), who appeared in 45 episodes of the series, went viral in December 2020 for sharing a video of her foreign-royalty statement that totaled $27.30. She reposted the clip on Instagram this May after the Writers Guild of America began striking.

Glenn isn't alone in her experience. "So many of my friends who have nearly a million followers, who are doing billion-dollar franchises, don’t know how to make rent," she told The New Yorker.

Shulman spoke to ten Orange Is the New Black actors, all of whom voiced similar complaints. Emma Myles, who played Leanne Taylor for six seasons, shared that she was paid the minimum SAG rate of less than $900 per day when she landed her first three-episode contract. In comparison, series lead Taylor Schilling brought in $35,000 dollars an episode in 2014.

Orange Is the New Black was a massive hit for Netflix and helped to make the streaming platform a household name. Several cast members recalled Ted Sarandos (now co-CEO of Netflix) bragging that the series had more viewers than HBO's Game of Thrones.

"I remember all of us thinking, ‘Give us the money!’" Lea DeLaria (Big Boo) shared, adding, "But we were always saying, ‘Give us the money. We were keenly aware that we weren’t being paid." A number of the actors interviewed said they had to work second jobs due to financial hardship, including Myles and DeLaria.

Now, with a SAG strike underway, the battle for underpaid actors to secure better wages has finally boiled over. But it's a battle that many have been fighting behind the scenes for years.

"We need to update the system," Beth Dover (Linda Ferguson) said. "They’re finding ways to cut our wages, and so the middle-class working actor is screwed."

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