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SAG president: 'We must shift the culture' of silence and harassment in Hollywood

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris says the union has received an increase in reports of sexual harassment since the Harvey Weinstein story broke.
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris says the union has received an increase in reports of sexual harassment since the Harvey Weinstein story broke.
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Netflix has officially suspended production on “House of Cards.”

This comes after the show’s star, Kevin Spacey, was accused of making a sexual overture to actor Anthony Rapp about 30 years ago, when Rapp was just 14 years old. Spacey was 26 at the time.

Today, Netflix and the show’s production company, Media Rights Capital, issued this statement:

MRC and Netflix have decided to suspend production on House of Cards season six, until further notice, to give us time to review the current situation and to address any concerns of our cast and crew.

This is yet another story that sheds light on the culture of silence in Hollywood when it comes to sexual misconduct. So what role do Hollywood’s guilds and unions have in curbing this behavior and offering resources for their members?

The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, for example, has a safety hotline that its members can call. The hotline isn’t just for on-set safety concerns, it’s for reporting any issue of misconduct that may come up.

For more on this we asked SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris to explain how the hotline works and how the industry's guilds and unions can help curb sexual misconduct. 

Interview Highlights:

On whether there has been an uptick in reporting:

There's definitely been an increase, yes. As terrible as these stories are, the idea that people are actually feeling empowered to speak out is really essential. That's the only way to be able to help is to be able to hear of the story and to be informed about it. As a union we are able to be effective and helpful when we're informed of the situation.

What can SAG-AFTRA do to make sure that this conduct stops and that the proper authorities are alerted?

It's really an industry thing that we need to do together, but when it's outside of the place where a performer is shooting, and it's prior to the time of the contract, it's in the audition process, or it's in the creative process, people need to speak out, not only to the union but to their reps, agents, lawyers, managers, to the studios. There's a place for that — to be able to reach out to us and we can help facilitate where they can go for help. On set, if something is happening at any time they should absolutely call immediately. What would happen is we would, depending on what the situation is, we would say to them, probably, they should walk off the set, leave immediately. If we needed to, go and call the proper authorities. If they don't want us to share their name, but they've informed us, that puts us in a different situation. If that takes place, then we can only recommend to them certain things to do and where to reach out and hope that they do it.

How does a guild create a culture in which an actor can complain and not fear that it is going to be the end to his or her career?

There are laws against sexual harassment. So if we're able to go in and present these issues right when they're happening, I think you're going to see much more of an effective kind of response. If people can know that there will be action taken. One of the things that we're really talking about in terms of the industry and as a union is, how do we help empower our members to feel safe that they can go and speak on the truth without losing their jobs? I can't change someone's emotional state if they have that fear, but if we continue talking about it and it's out in the open — just like you're seeing now — more and more people are stepping up.

What is it like for you to be listening to your members talk about these issues?

I'm a woman in this industry and I share some of their stories. Every woman I've spoken to within this industry, and there are men as well, has a story to share. So when I hear it, it breaks my heart. I think it's appalling and it's disgusting. That's why I'm really focused and this is so important to me. I'm glad that people are speaking out. What I want to do is to be able to empower them so that we can stop these things from happening. It's something that has been going on, it's not new ... This is an incredible opportunity for us, there's something that has been exposed in a public way and people are resonating with this and they're taking a stand and using their voices. This is the time for us to take it in our hands and actually start to shift the culture. We must shift the culture ... we really have to work deeper, otherwise it's just going to be something that continues once Harvey Weinstein is put in prison [or]whatever happens. I don't want the story to end there. I really want us to make a difference. 

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