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Dispatches From The Picket Lines: NY Gov. Kathy Hochul Surprises Actors & Writers In Manhattan, Says “You’re Fighting The Right Fight”

This is Day 128 of the WGA strike and Day 55 of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul paid a surprise visit to striking writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Manhattan on Wednesday, making good on what one union officer said was a “very, very last-minute” decision to briefly join the picket line and meet strike leaders.

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In an appearance lasting about 10 minutes that caught most picketers and passersby off-guard, the state’s top elected official exchanged hugs and handshakes with WGA and SAG-AFTRA officers, paused for photos and, protest sign in hand, waded into the march for a couple of laps — flanked by aides, security and visibly delighted union figures including SAG-AFTRA president Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

Hochul didn’t address the rally, but as she readied to leave, she spoke to a small circle of union leaders — all of them surrounded by onlookers — and encouraged the strikers to “stay strong.”

“You’re fighting the right fight, and the governor is with you,” Hochul said. “Let’s bring it home.”

Before she climbed back into a black SUV, Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham managed to pass the governor a SAG-AFTRA T-shirt.

It was a briefly chaotic finale to an otherwise normal picket outside Netflix and nearby Warner Bros. Discovery offices, one of the four locations in Manhattan at the doorsteps of tech and entertainment conglomerates that the unions picket on most weekdays.

Actors including Abraham, Kevin Bacon, Mike Doyle and Michael Cyril Creighton joined several dozen other marchers on a humid morning with temperature already nearing 90 degrees.

Hochul, in a pantsuit and sunglasses, climbed out of her ride shortly before noon at a curb on Broadway near Union Square as aides and bodyguards cleared a path to the picket organizers’ tents.

She was greeted by Crabtree as well as two senior officers of SAG-AFTRA’s New York local, president Ezra Knight and executive director Rebecca Damon, and Writers Guild East executive director Lowell Peterson.

Hochul was accompanied on her visit by Mario Cilento, president of the New York state AFL-CIO, and by the state’s labor commissioner, Roberta Reardon, a former actor, AFTRA board member and, in 2012, one of the two inaugural co-presidents of the newly merged SAG and AFTRA unions.

Crabtree-Ireland, stopping over in New York on his way to the Toronto International Film Festival, called Hochul’s visit a welcome boost for strike morale.

When a governor “is willing to take the time out of their schedule to get out to a picket line and meet the striking workers, and say ‘I stand here with you and I support you, and you’re fighting a good fight,’ that kind of thing means so much to people who’ve been out on the picket line,” he told Deadline.

RELATED: SAG-AFTRA Actors Hit The Picket Lines Photo Gallery

Crabtree-Ireland added that while a visit from an elected official “may not translate in that moment into something like legislation, it sends such a signal of support and unity.”

“It helps people keep that energy up and feel ready to keep on, as we say, ‘one day longer, one day stronger,’” Crabtree-Ireland said. “It keeps you going. So I think it really matters. It matters a lot.”

RELATED: SAG-AFTRA “Remains Ready At A Moment’s Notice” To Resume Bargaining With AMPTP To End Its Strike

After the picket, Deadline asked WGA members about talk show host Bill Maher’s criticisms of the writers strike. In his latest podcast, Maher said that he felt for writers, working with writers and being one himself, but that some of the union’s demands were “kooky,” entitled and politically maximalist.

RELATED: Bill Maher Criticizes WGA Strike, Calls Demands “Kooky”; Nobody “Owed A Living As A Writer”

“In this bipartisan world we have where you’re just in one camp or the other, there’s no in between,” the Real Time with Bill Maher host told his Club Random podcast guest, comedian Jim Gaffigan. “You’re either for the strike — like they’re f*cking Che Guevara out there, like this is a Cesar Chavez lettuce-picking strike — or you’re with Trump. There’s no difference. There’s only two camps, and it’s much more complicated than that.”

Josh Gondelman, a WGA strike captain who has written for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Desus & Mero, told Deadline: “To me that is a critique more of the studios than it is of the writers. They have our counteroffer and we’re waiting on them, and if there’s one group that is acting unreasonable and is not seeking compromise, I would say that’s who it is.”

RELATED: ‘Strike Force Five’ Premiere Tops Podcast Charts, Keeps Talk Show Hosts Busy During Labor Strife

Gondleman’s former boss, Oliver, recently joined with other talk show hosts to launch a podcastStrike Force Five, employing several of their staff writers idled by the strike.

Peterson, the WGA East executive director, declined an invitation to respond directly to Maher, but said, “I really support the late night writers doing the podcast.”

RELATED: Deadline Strike Talk Week 18: Jennifer Fox On Strike Summer & Why Producers Need Union Protection

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