Harper has ‘Today’

Backs Daniels on ayemcast, leaves Gilbert on prairie

HOLLYWOOD — Valerie Harper has strongly signaled she will follow the footsteps of William Daniels if elected president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Harper, in a Tuesday interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today,” said: “There’s a wind of change and an updating of the union that needs to happen that hasn’t happened. And that (change) started with Bill Daniels.”

The statement from Harper, who has not yet released her campaign platform, indicates the SAG board member will keep pushing Daniels’ initiatives in cost-cutting, attention to rank-and-file actors and expanded enforcement of contracts for SAG members working overseas.

Fair shake

“I just want the middle-income actor to have a fair shake,” Harper told Lauer. “They haven’t been (getting that), so that’s what I’m doing it for. It’s a noble profession, and it should be remunerated properly.”

Despite his courtly demeanor, Daniels brought significantly more aggressive stances to the bargaining table, leading to last year’s strike against advertisers, this summer’s down-to-the-wire negotiations on the film-TV contract and the stalled talks with the Assn. of Talent Agents over their operating agreement.

Harper’s pledge to continue along the same lines as Daniels is not surprising since she was endorsed by Daniels when she announced her candidacy last month. She was on the show to promote the Broadway show “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” in which she recently replaced Linda Lavin.

Doesn’t slam Gilbert

Harper’s defense of Daniels came a day after rival candidate and board member Melissa Gilbert used her platform statement to relentlessly slam the prexy, who is retiring after a single two-year term. “I am a better choice,” said Harper, who refused to attack Gilbert and added that she does not expect the campaign to become heated.

“Melissa and I have worked on the board very amiably during the last year,” Harper said. “She has some different opinions.”

Voting among the 98,000 SAG members will take place during the last three weeks of October. Daniels won a bitter campaign two years ago when he attacked two-term incumbent Richard Masur for being secretive and a “pussycat” in negotiations.

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