Guild head looks to unify members, obtain 'what's fair'
Despite his bruising intro as SAG president, Alan Rosenberg is still thoroughly upbeat after four months in the post.
“Every day is a challenge, but it’s totally invigorating,” the 54-year-old Rosenberg tells Daily Variety.
Following four years under the presidency of Melissa Gilbert, who espoused moderation and pragmatism, SAG’s elected leaders have taken a far more aggressive approach to dealing with studios and networks.
The gravelly-voiced Rosenberg — who has often portrayed idealistic attorneys in such series as “L.A. Law,” “Civil Wars” and “The Guardian” — is in the spotlight at a time of dizzying change in show business.
“We’ve got to get ahead of the curve in new technologies,” he asserts, adding he was disturbed last spring when SAG reached a new deal for an interactive contract that didn’t include residuals.
Rosenberg sees his most crucial task as seeking unity among the 120,000 SAG members at a time when the long-standing political fractures within the union remain as wide as ever. In the most recent iteration of SAG controversy, Rosenberg and his allies won control over the SAG board and fired CEO Greg Hessinger last fall, saying SAG needed to take a harder line at the bargaining table.
Rosenberg is unapologetic about what he perceives as the need to shake up the status quo.
“I said during my campaign that I would fight like hell to get actors their fair share,” he recalls. “My use of words like ‘fight’ and ‘hell’ gets me portrayed as being militant and strident. But to me, it’s purely an issue of fairness in areas like basic cable, where revenues have increased for the companies by 500% since 1992 and salary growth for actors is up 35%.”
Rosenberg, who’s married to “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” star Marg Helgenberger, says going into the basic negotiations this month has been an eye-opener.
“I can’t go into the details of the negotiations, but the vibe in the room from the other side is that we are asking for the world,” he says. “From my standpoint, we’re asking that working actors are able to feed their families, and I contend that fair compensation goes a long way to keeping the workforce happy. When my agent is representing me, he’s asking for the world in order to get a decent deal, but what the union is asking for is simply what’s fair.”
Far from your armchair liberal, Rosenberg is taking his message and hitting the road, having traveled to SAG member meetings in New York, Miami and San Diego, with trips upcoming to Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C.
“One of my key goals is unifying the guild because it’s much more difficult to accomplish anything if we aren’t,” he notes. “If you’re in Los Angeles and New York, you tend to get tunnel vision. The work actors do in the regions takes every bit as much effort as the work in L.A. and New York.”
Rosenberg has even randomly called members at home to solicit their ideas and concerns. “It’s important for me to show that I value everyone in this union equally,” he adds.
Rosenberg admits tricky turf lies ahead with such issues as hiring a new national exec director; SAG seeking to regain some kind of oversight of major talent agents; and a commercials contract due to expire at the end of October. Advertisers have indicated they’ll take a tough line against the actors.
But Rosenberg remains relentlessly positive. And he’s particularly enthusiastic about the 12th SAG Awards show.
“I am very pleased over how diverse our list of nominees is,” he says, “because that shows our members value diversity in how the American scene is portrayed.”