Drew Barrymore 'pauses' talk show return until Hollywood writers' strike ends

The star has cancelled the September 18 premiere of The Drew Barrymore Show, saying: 'I have no words to express my deepest apologies to anyone I have hurt'

Drew Barrymore came under fire after announcing her eponymous talk show would return amid the ongoing WGA strike. AFP
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After previously doubling down on her decision to bring back her eponymous talk show during the continuing Hollywood writers' strike, Drew Barrymore has announced she will "pause" production on returning to television.

Barrymore, 48, took to Instagram to announce that the show will not return, only days after she insisted she "owned" the decision to take it back on air amid the WGA and Sag-Aftra strike.

"I have listened to everyone, and I am making the decision to pause the show’s premiere until the strike is over,” she wrote.

"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. We really tried to find our way forward.”

She added: “And I truly hope for a resolution for the entire industry very soon."

Other US talk shows, such as The View and Live with Kelly and Mark have continued airing, without using their WGA writers. However, in light of Barrymore cancelling her return, both The Talk and The Jennifer Hudson Show, which had also announced their return, have also called off plans to do so.

'I own this choice'

With the Writers Guild of America strike now in its fourth month, picket lines have become a common sight outside major Hollywood studios and networks. Two months ago, the WGA was joined by Sag-Aftra, the union which represents around 160,000 members of The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Barrymore was hit with a wave of criticism and controversy after she announced that her talk show would return to air on Monday, September 18.

The ET star wrote on Instagram: “I am also making the choice to come back for the first time in this strike for our show, that may have my name on it, but this is bigger than just me.

“I own this choice. We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind. We launched live in a global pandemic," she said. "Our show was built for sensitive times and has only functioned through what the real world is going through in real time.”

Barrymore was swiftly dropped as host of the National Book Awards, a day after her talk show taped its first episode since the strike began.

"The National Book Awards is an evening dedicated to celebrating the power of literature, and the incomparable contributions of writers to our culture," the National Book Foundation, which presents the award, said. "In light of the announcement that The Drew Barrymore Show will resume production, the National Book Foundation has rescinded Ms Barrymore’s invitation to host the 74th National Book Awards Ceremony.”

The awards event, sometimes referred to as the Academy Awards of the publishing world, is scheduled for November 15.

Was Barrymore breaking strike rules?

Drew Barrymore at the 49th Daytime Emmy Awards in June. Getty Images

As host of the show, Barrymore herself was not violating Sag-Aftra rules by returning to television because contracts for talk shows, as well as game shows, soap operas and variety shows were agreed upon and renewed last year.

Talk show hosts are covered under a separate union agreement called a “netcode” which, while allowing them to work, forbids them from talking about any TV or film projects as per Sag-Aftra strike rules.

However, Barrymore’s show employs writers who are members of the WGA, meaning writers who returned to the show would have been either non-union members or strikebreakers.

The Drew Barrymore Show is produced under the Network Television Code, which is a separate contract and is not struck,” a Sag-Aftra representative said. “It is permissible work and Drew’s role as host does not violate the current strike rules.”

Disagreeing with the stance, the WGA tweeted: “The Drew Barrymore Show is a WGA covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers. The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike. Any writing on The Drew Barrymore Show is in violation of WGA strike rules.”

CBS, the network which airs the show announced that it would continue in the same way, but without its WGA writers.

Criticised by fellow artists

Barrymore has been criticised by other artists online for returning to work. She was accused of weakening the union by former WGA board member, David Slack, who wrote on social media: “By going back on the air without her writers, Drew Barrymore is 100% ensuring that someone – either herself, one of her non-writing producers, or all of the above – will be doing the writing work that WGA writers normally do.”

Barrymore will only be able to welcome guests on the show who are not discussing film or television projects. Musicians can appear, as can pundits, authors, theatre stars, comedians and more. Actors and actresses are also free to appear as long as they steer clear of talking about media projects.

Author and playwright Claire Willett wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “I plan to heavily side-eye every single famous actor friend of Drew Barrymore who comes to sit on her couch and chat about skincare or their childhoods while their fellow union members are out picketing.”

Updated: September 18, 2023, 8:10 AM