Hundreds of Netflix employees walked out of the company's Los Angeles office at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, leaving work to protest the platform's controversial Dave Chappelle special. Not only does the streaming platform employ office workers, but stars too. And some on-camera Netflix employees also took a stand.
The walkout was organized by "Team Trans" activists who believe Chappelle's comedy special is transphobic. "Team Trans" was made up of members of the trans employee resource group at Netflix, according to protest organizer Ashlee Marie Preston.
Preston, a trans activist who founded a nonprofit that combats food insecurity, not only helped mobilize protesters, but also gathered messages of love and support from several celebrities who could not be at the protest. She compiled their messages in a video shared on Instagram.
Jonathan Van Ness, one of the star's of Netflix's "Queer Eye," appeared in the video alongside several other members of the LGBTQ+ community.
"Sending you so much gratitude for the work that you continually do to create a world that is equitable and fair, and to ultimately achieve LGTBQ liberation," Van Ness said. Van Ness described himself in a 2019 interview with Out Magazine as "non-binary" and "genderqueer."
"American Horror Story" actor Colton Haynes, who is gay, thanked protesters "not just for the work you're doing today, but for the constant f***ing marathon that you're having to run just to ensure that there's a safe workplace, and safe content and safe speech." He also appears in "Arrow," which is available on Netflix.
Jameela Jamil, who appears on "The Good Place," which is on Netflix, said in the video that she is sending "love and support" to those who "took a big risk" by protesting.
Mason Alexander Park, a nonbinary actor who stars on Netflix's "The Sandman" and "Cowboy Bebop," said in the video that they were proud of the protesters who showed up and that the actor is "there in spirit."
After the video and protest gained widespread attention, another actor affiliated with Netflix joined in. "I stand with the trans, nonbinary, and BIPOC employees at Netflix fighting for more and better trans stories and a more inclusive workplace," wrote Elliot Page, sharing the video on Twitter.
Page, who stars on Netflix's "Umbrella Academy,"last year.
Jaclyn Moore, a producer on Netflix's "Dear White People," also shared support for the protest – after saying earlier this month she was professionally protesting Netflix. "I will not work with them as long as they continue to put out and profit from blatantly and dangerously transphobic content," she said in a tweet.
On Wednesday, she said she stood with those participating in the walkout. "I'm glad that after multiple dismissive statements Netflix is finally acknowledging they have work to do. I look forward to seeing how those words become action," she tweeted.
Preston's video also featured several other stars who appear on Netflix, including "American Horror Story" actor Angelica Ross, who is a trans activist, and "Grey's Anatomy" actor Sara Ramirez, who is nonbinary.
When promoting the protest on Instagram, Preston wrote: "We shouldn't have to show up quarterly/annually to push back against harmful content that negatively impacts vulnerable communities. Instead, we aim to use this moment to shift the social ecology around what Netflix leadership deems ethical entertainment, while establishing policies and guidelines that protect employees and consumers, alike."
Chappelle signed a multimillion dollar deal with Netflix for three specials. Earlier this month, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the final special, called "The Closer," doesn't cross "the line on hate."
Sarandos said itdespite fallout, and in an internal memo obtained by Variety told managers that "some talent" may join third parties in calling for the show's removal.
The company also responded to reports that it had suspended three employees, including one, Terra Field, who'd criticized Chappelle's special in tweets. Field identifies herself on Twitter as a senior software engineer at Netflix and as trans.
"It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show. Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so," Netflix said in a statement.
This week, Sarandos walked back his initial remarks, saying he mishandled the controversy by not communicating better with his employees and detractors.
"Obviously, I screwed up that internal communication," Sarandos told Variety a day before the walkout. "I did that, and I screwed it up in two ways. First and foremost, I should have led with a lot more humanity. Meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made. And I think that needs to be acknowledged up front before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn't do that."
During the walkout on Wednesday, Preston said Chappelle doesn't get to suck the joy out of this moment.
"This is a moment where we are coming together in a unified effort," she said. "This is a moment where we understand that it's one for all and all for one and we won't stop until justice is brought."
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