House of the Dragon season 2 still filming despite Hollywood actors strike

House of the Dragon episode 3
House of the Dragon episode 3 /

As of today, the actors of the SAG-AFTRA union are officially on strike. This comes after four weeks of negotiations with Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which includes huge studios like Netflix, Disney and WarnerMedia Discovery. It also comes months after screenwriters in the WGA began their own strike as well, making this the first time Hollywood actors and the writers have been on strike at the same time since 1960.

Many productions had already been shut down due to the writers strike. With actors joining writers on the picket lines, we’re expecting more to follow. Shows that already have scripts written have been able to film without writers, but if actors don’t show up to work, there’s not much they can do about it. For instance, the cast and crew of Netflix’s The Sandman were filming season 2 right up until the actors declared they were on strike. The show is now on pause.

That said, there are shows that will continue shooting despite both strikes, including HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon.

How can House of the Dragon season 2 continue to film during the strikes?

Entertainment Weekly reports that as of this writing, House of the Dragon is still filming its second season with no plans to stop. This is a little confusing; don’t forget that actors like Olivia Cooke (Alicent Hightower) signed off on an open letter to the AMPTP brass last month in support of a SAG-AFTRA strike. What gives?

House of the Dragon is still filming because of anti-union labor laws in the United Kingdom. Hollywood actors belong to SAG-AFTRA, but UK actors and other entertainment professionals have their own union: Equity (not to be confused with the Actors’ Equity Association, an American union representing live performers). Since House of the Dragon is based in the UK and employs many actors who are members of Equity, it is under contract with Equity and thus subject to the rules governing the UK entertainment trade union. Under these rules, there’s nothing to stop studios from firing or suing people if they refuse to show up to work because of a strike.

Despite the fact that House of the Dragon is being made by a US-based studio like HBO, it’s able to take advantage of this particular loophole. Even if House of the Dragon cast members are part of SAG-AFTRA, they are still not allowed to strike, because they could be vulnerable to reprisal under UK labor law. As such, actors are being advised that they should keep reporting to work.

SAG-AFTRA and Equity have been communicating throughout the strike process and seem to be very much on the same page about how to handle strikes for UK-based productions. The two labor organizations issued a joint statement on Thursday where Equity stated that it will support the SAG-AFTRA strike “by all lawful means.”

"Equity U.K. stands in unwavering solidarity with SAG-AFTRA and its members in their effort to achieve a fair and equitable contract, and for the good of performers working around the world. Equity U.K. will support SAG-AFTRA and its members by all lawful means. Because of existing anti-trade union laws in the U.K., SAG-AFTRA members currently working under an Equity U.K. collective bargaining agreement should continue to report to work. Equity U.K. will support SAG-AFTRA’s refusal to issue new Global Rule One addenda that undermine the strike during the pendency of the strike. Standing together, we will work to achieve the wages and working conditions that all performers deserve.Consequently, a performer joining the strike (or refusing to cross a picket line) in the U.K. will have no protection against being dismissed or sued for breach of contract by the producer or the engager. Likewise, if Equity encourages anyone to join the strike or not cross a picket line, Equity itself will be acting unlawfully and hence liable for damages or an injunction,” Equity said in its guidance to members."

It’s a precarious situation, but for now it means that House of the Dragon will continue filming. What impact these strikes will have on the quality and morale of the production remains to be seen.

HBO’s Dune prequel series is also still filming, but has lost key figures on both sides of the camera

House of the Dragon isn’t the only series that’s still filming in spite of the strike. Another HBO production taking this path is the Dune prequel show Dune: The SisterhoodThe Sisterhood has been on a planned hiatus for the past few months, but according to Deadline it will resume production in Budapest “any day now.”

Dune: The Sisterhood is under contract with Equity because it employs actors who are a part of Equity as well as some in SAG-AFTRA. So despite the fact that filming isn’t in the UK itself, it’s still subject to the country’s strict labor laws. Thus, filming must proceed.

Dune: The Sisterhood has had some pretty big shakeups recently: director Johan Renck, creator and co-shorunner Diane Ademu-John, and stars Shirley Henderson and Indira Varma all exited the production. Deadline notes these were seemingly unrelated incidents, but still, that’s a lot of turnover. Olivia Williams (The Nevers) is replacing Shirley Henderson as Tula Harkonnen while Jodhi May, who played Maggy the Frog in Game of Thrones and Queen Calanthe in The Witcher, is stepping in for Varma as Empress Natalya. Meanwhile, Anna Foerster has come on board as a director to fill the void left by Renck’s departure. Alison Schapker, who was originally co-showrunning the series with Ademu-John, is now serving as the sole showrunner.

Both Dune: The Sisterhood and House of the Dragon season 2 are expected to premiere sometime in 2024. That plan seemingly remains unchanged, but this situation is developing. We’ll have to keep a very close eye on it in the coming months.

Next. House of the Dragon fans fume over stars like Emma D’Arcy getting snubbed by the Emmys. dark

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h/t Decider