SAG-AFTRA to Support Bethenny Frankel’s Push for Reality Performer Protection

SAG-AFTRA announced in a statement on Thursday morning that it is throwing its support behind “Real Housewives” star Bethenny Frankel in her efforts to gain better union protection for reality TV performers.

“SAG-AFTRA is the Union that represents reality performers. Depending on the structure of the production and the performers involved, we can cover these performers under our Network Code Agreement,” the guild said in a statement.

The guild also said that it is has been in contact with Frankel’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, and is offering its services to any reality performer that is “tired of studios and production companies trying to circumvent the Union in order to exploit the talent that they rely upon to make their product.”

“We encourage any reality performers and/or members to reach out to SAG-AFTRA’s Entertainment Contracts Department so that we may work together toward the protection of the reality performers ending the exploitative practices that have developed in this area and to engage in a new path to Union coverage,” the guild said.

SAG-AFTRA’s statement comes after Frankel released a TikTok video supporting the guild’s ongoing TV/Theatrical strike. Currently, hosts of reality shows are covered by SAG-AFTRA’s Network Code Agreement, but not contestants.

In the video, Frankel asked why reality TV performers are not on strike with other SAG-AFTRA members, saying that they should receive residuals for the shows they appear on and get other union protections that actors on scripted shows receive.

“I got paid $7,250 for my first season of reality TV, and people are still watching those episodes.” she said. “[Reality performers] are the stepchildren, the losers, the mules, the pack horses. The ones that the entertainment industry is going to rely on, right now, to carry the water and do the heavy lifting when real stars, real A-list Hollywood is on strike.”

In addition to SAG-AFTRA protections, Frankel and her attorneys are also looking to curb abuses in reality TV programming, such as exploitation of mental health issues and attempting to manufacture conflict by depriving contestants of food and sleep or plying them with alcohol.

Entertainment lawyer Mark Geragos, who has been retained by Frankel alongside Freedman, confirmed SAG-AFTRA’s involvement and told TheWrap he believes that the union’s support will be a game changer for the reality TV industry.

“This validates everything we have been working towards and will accelerate our efforts,” Geragos said.

For all of TheWrap’s WGA strike coverage, click here.

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