The actor initially expressed solidarity with members of the Writers Guild of America, who went on strike starting in May in an effort to secure fair pay and regulations for artificial intelligence on-screen. (HuffPost’s unionized employees are represented by the Writers Guild of America, East.)
Barrymore, who has since received significant criticism for returning to work without her writers, published a baffling 4-minute video Friday on Instagram in an attempt to defend herself. She later removed the video from her page after further backlash.
“I believe there’s nothing I can do or say in this moment to make it OK,” she said in the now-deleted clip. “I wanted to own a decision so that it wasn’t a PR-protected situation and I … take full responsibility … I know there’s just nothing I can do that will make this OK for those it is not OK with.”
Barrymore argued “there are so many reasons why this is so complex” and got emotional while saying that she never wanted “to upset or hurt anyone.” The actor claimed “that’s not who I am” before stating she’s “been through so many ups and downs” in life.
The former child actor suggested that this controversy was “one of” those times, presumably unaware that the ups in this situation are landing firmly on her side — while the downs of the industry, from not getting a fair share of profits to diminishing residuals, continue to affect writers’ livelihoods.
“I deeply apologize to writers,” said Barrymore. “I deeply apologize to unions. ... I don’t exactly know what to say because sometimes when things are so tough, it’s hard to make decisions from that place … I wanted to accept responsibility.”
Barrymore repeatedly claimed Friday that her video wasn’t the result of a “PR machine” and wasn’t polished by “publicists and corporate rhetoric.” Frustrations voiced by social media users surrounding her return to work, meanwhile, have nothing to do with her messaging.
Barrymore said Friday: “I’ll just stand out there and accept and be responsible.”
However, she soon deleted the clip amid additional pushback from writers and other entertainment professionals.
Among them was actor Bradley Whitford, who wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “Drew Barrymore would like you to know that undermining union solidarity at the most crucial moment in Hollywood labor history makes her the victim. This has been, like, a super tough week for her.”
Drew Barrymore would like you to know that undermining union solidarity at the most crucial moment in Hollywood labor history makes her the victim. This has been, like, a super tough week for her. https://t.co/wtDVor9rKs
— Bradley Whitford (@BradleyWhitford) September 15, 2023
Others, including Debra Messing and David Krumholtz, had chastised Barrymore in comments below her now-deleted video, according to Deadline.
“It’s complex for thousands. Who continue to strike and abide by strike rules,” Krumholtz wrote.
“You could shut it down and you’d be considered brave. You’d be forgiven. What makes the strike more complex for thousands of people, is you making a decision that hurts their efforts in trying to achieve a fair deal amidst a cutthroat corporate environment that will use your show as an example of division and disunity.”
“Shows like this cannot operate without writing, and that is struck work,” the statement continued.
While the creation of “The Drew Barrymore Show” during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 undoubtedly helped writers who were otherwise unable to find work, its return during the strike is obviously removing much of their needed leverage.
Hollywood is seeing two concurrent strikes, as the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) also went on strike in July after their own negotiations with film and TV studios faltered.
“There’s a huge question of the why — why am I doing this?” Barrymore said with a chuckle. “Well, I certainly couldn’t have expected this kind of attention. We aren’t gonna break rules and we will be in compliance. I wanted to do this because … this is bigger than me.”
Barrymore suggested her choice to resume filming was admirable because “there are other people’s jobs on the line.” She then falsely equated filming in 2020 with crossing the picket line.
“I just wanted to make a show that was there for people in sensitive times,” she said. “And I weighed the scales and I thought, ‘If we can go on during a global pandemic and everything that the world has experienced through 2020, why would this sideline us?’”
This article has been updated to reflect that Barrymore deleted the video from her Instagram page after it was posted Friday.
Ben Blanchet contributed to this report.