‘Chicago PD’ Cast & Producers Donate Money For Show’s Out-Of-Work PAs During Strikes

Being at the bottom of the Hollywood ladder, production assistants are often overlooked and particularly vulnerable — especially in hard times like the current Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Several cast and production members at Chicago P.D. are stepping in to help the 13 set and office PAs on the popular NBC series, pitching in to give each of them $1,500. The money was distributed a week and a half ago, with a second payment on the way.

The campaign was organized by Chicago P.D. First AD Richard White, with stars Patrick John Flueger, Marina Squerciati, Amy Morton and Tracy Spiridakos, executive producer/showrunner Gwen Sigan, writer/executive producer Gavin Harris and writer/co-executive producer Scott Gold among those who have contributed.

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Flueger, who donated when approached by White a couple of weeks ago as he was about to go on a trip, reached out to White again upon returning and gave more money, the AD said. With fellow Chicago P.D. cast member LaRoyce Hawkins previously committing to participate while asking for time to deal with a personal matter, White said he would wait for that and then send each PA a second installment with the contributions from the two actors.

Factoring in the second Flueger donation, the pool of funds for the entry-level staffers at the Chicago-based Wolf Entertainment/Universal TV drama has grown to $25,000, White said.

“They are a really good team of kids,” White, who has been on Chicago P.D. for the past three seasons, said of the PAs who worked on the show last season performing a wide range of duties, from opening the sets in the morning, getting breakfast orders and doing lockups for sound and picture around Chicago and at the stages for the set PAs, to distributing scripts, making sides and coordinating the transportation team for the office PAs. “I had the idea, as the strike was going on, of trying to do something for them because I knew they would be the ones that really would be hurting the most.”

White was inspired to help the PAs from his own experience going through the 2007-2008 WGA strike just as he was starting his own Hollywood career.

“I was a DGA trainee in New York, and I had just moved to L.A. in 2007 to work on Desperate Housewives; I was the base camp AD,” he said. “I’d been working for about two and a half, three months when the strike hit.”

White said he had work for about three more days until Desperate Housewives finished the episode that was filming and production shut down for four months. To stay afloat and save money, he had to move back home to North Carolina.

Some of the Chicago P.D. PAs White spoke with shared that they are facing similar issues.

“Somebody’s computer broke, somebody’s car was at the shop and they were worried about whether they were going to get the money,” White said. “They’re not under health insurance plans or under a union, and they all still have Chicago rent to worry about, and groceries and everything else.”

White also was prompted to act because PAs not being part of a union and earning little in the entry-level position significantly narrows their options for centralized strike financial assistance and unemployment benefits, with further eligibility limitations for support staff outside Los Angeles and New York.

As the WGA strike wraps Day 113 and the SAG-AFTRA Day 40, it’s hard even for higher-level crew members to keep going, with virtually all TV production — and most film production — shut down.

“I’ll tell you, every friend that I’ve spoken to in every department on a vast array of shows, everyone’s ready to get back to work,” White said. “There’s no one that I’ve spoken to who’s happy for this extended period of unemployment.”

With no end to the work stoppage in sight, White urged the teams of films that had to shut down, as well as streaming shows and especially veteran network series making 22 episodes a year like the rest of the Wolf Film procedurals that have long-term relationships with their production assistants, to help.

Many of the PAs are just starting their Hollywood careers, he said, and without support during the strikes, they may leave the business.

“I don’t want them to have to give up on their dreams right away because they have now been hit with a major hardship,” White said. “My goal is to try and get publicity and see if other people are willing to step up to help out and do the same thing on their shows, to their production staff.”

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