‘It’s insane to me that I don’t get a piece from Netflix’: Breaking Bad stars reunite on actors’ strike picket line

The cast of Breaking Bad, including Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, reunited this week to call upon Hollywood studios to resume negotiations with striking screen actors.

“We want you to come back to the table with us,” Cranston, who played family-man-turned-drug-kingpin Walter White in the show, said in a plea to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers outside Sony Pictures Studios on Tuesday (29 August).

Cranston was joined by Paul, Jesse Plemons and other members of the Breaking Bad universe in an effort to energise picket lines more than a month after SAG-AFTRA joined striking Hollywood writers.

Both guilds are seeking to address issues brought about by the dominance of streaming services, which have changed all aspects of production and pay in the industry.

“The way things were structured 10 years ago made a lot of sense and it made it more possible for journeymen-type actors, actors in the middle that are working just as a hard or harder,” Plemons said.

By its final season, which aired more than a decade ago, Breaking Bad was one of the most watched and highest rated cable TV shows ever.

The AMC hit series has achieved enduring popularity on Netflix, but its stars say that has not been reflected in their pay.

“I don’t get a piece from Netflix on Breaking Bad to be totally honest and that’s insane to me,” Paul said. “I think a lot of these streamers know that they have been getting away with not paying people a fair wage and now it’s time to pony up.”

Cranston said they chose Sony for their picket-line reunion as the studio was behind the Emmy-winning hit Breaking Bad, along with its spinoff projects, the AMC prequel series Better Call Saul and the Netflix film, El Camino.

“We’re not making them the enemy. They are not villains. These are people that we all will be working with once again at some point,” Cranston said. “We just want them to see reality.”

Paul and Cranston (2023 Invision)
Paul and Cranston (2023 Invision)

Several other casts have joined picket lines during the strike, including actors from Parks and Recreation and the cult hit Jury Duty, drawing a link between popular shows and the actors' strike goals.

Residual payments – additional compensation paid out to actors when their TV shows or movies are replayed – have been a central issue in the strike action.

Residuals played a huge role in the stars of long-running terrestrial sitcoms like Friends or The Big Bang Theory becoming among the highest-paid TV stars of all time, as their shows were repeated so much on television.

But in the streaming age, actors are rarely paid residuals, despite their work constantly available to be replayed by fans.

This is Us star Mandy Moore recently spoke out about making “pennies” from residual payments on the NBC show, despite its critical acclaim and impressive viewership ratings.

Elsewhere, Grey’s Anatomy’s Ellen Pompeo called out Netflix over the issue.

Cranston also affirmed SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher’s recent comments to The Associated Press that these dual Hollywood strikes are galvanising a broader movement throughout the country.

“Without organised labour, management will just keep stuffing their pockets. They don’t and will not ever just go, ‘You know what? I don’t think this is being fair to those people. I’m going to pay them more.’ It’s just not what they do,” he said.

Cast members of Better Call Saul were also on the picket lines, including Rhea Seehorn and Patrick Fabian, along with the series co-creator, Peter Gould, who has been on strike with the Writers Guild of America since May.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press