The actor, brother of DC head James Gunn, told The Hollywood Reporter that he “particularly wanted to come out and protest Netflix” because, despite the show’s continued success since it debuted in 2000, he has not been fairly compensated.
“I was on a television show called Gilmore Girls for a long time that has brought in massive profits for Netflix,” he explained. “It has been one of their most popular shows for a very long time, over a decade. It gets streamed over and over and over again, and I see almost none of the revenue that comes into that.”
Though Netflix streams Gilmore Girls, the residuals Gunn is referencing come from Warner Bros. Discovery — the studio that produced and licenses the series to the streamer. Gunn and his co-stars are paid the same regardless of how many people watch the series wherever the studio places it.
Gunn played Kirk, a quirky resident that lived in Stars Hollow, in the WB-produced series that originally ran for seven seasons from 2000 to 2007. He then reprised his role in Netflix’s 2016 revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, alongside Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel.
The Guardians of the Galaxy star proceeded to call out co-CEO Ted Sarandos and executive chair Reed Hastings for giving “each other bonuses in the tens of millions of dollars.”
“I don’t understand why they can’t lessen those bonuses to share the wealth more with the people who have created the content that has gotten them rich,” he continued. “It really is a travesty. And if the answer is, ‘Well, this is just how business is done, this is just how corporate business works,’ that sucks. That makes you a bad person. And you really need to rethink how you do business and share the wealth with people. Otherwise, this is all going to come crashing down.”
The dramedy, which initially ran on The WB, and then eventually The CW, has been a popular title for Netflix since it was added to the streamer nearly a decade ago. But, based on the way current deals are structured, just because a show is performing well on a streamer doesn’t mean actors are getting bigger residual checks from the studio.
Gunn also told THR that other than residuals and performance-based incentives, artificial intelligence and the sharing of streaming revenue are two other issues that are important for him in contract negotiations.
“I can’t pretend that I understand the ins and outs of all the facets of the AI issue, but I know that being compensated for use of one’s likeness is incredibly important and needs to be an equitable part of this deal,” he added. “Sharing in streaming revenue – it needs to be re-thought of. As Fran Drescher (president of SAG-AFTRA) said yesterday, the whole business model has fallen apart really and so we kind of need to restructure it from the top.”
The actors union officially joined the Writers Guild out on the picket lines on Friday after contract negotiations collapsed with studios and streamers at midnight Wednesday, leading to Hollywood’s first double strike in six decades.
Update: The original version of this story did not note that the residuals Gunn was referencing are paid by the studio and not the streamer.
Tiffany Taylor contributed to this report.