Center for American Progress Action

Arlene Gibbs on the Writers Guild of America Strike and What It Means for American Workers

Arlene Gibbs on the Writers Guild of America Strike and What It Means for American Workers

Daniella’s sister, screenwriter and decorator Arlene Gibbs, joins the podcast to discuss the Writers Guild of America strike, trends in screenwriters’ pay and working conditions, and what other industries can learn from these negotiations.

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Daniella’s sister, screenwriter and decorator Arlene Gibbs, joins the podcast to discuss the Writers Guild of America strike, trends in screenwriters’ pay and working conditions, and what other industries can learn from these negotiations. Daniella and Colin also talk about upcoming Supreme Court decisions and the bill to raise the debt limit.


Daniella Gibbs Léger: Hey everyone. Welcome back to “The Tent,” your place for politics, policy, and progress. I’m Daniella Gibbs Léger.

Colin Seeberger: And I’m Colin Seeberger. Happy Pride Month, Daniella.

Gibbs Léger: Happy Pride Month, Colin. How are we celebrating?

Seeberger: Oh, well, last year, I had COVID. So did the rest of my family. So, we did not get to partake in our usual festivities. We usually go to the parade, for sure. Now that we have a little one, there’s kind of a community of LGBTQ+ families that bring their kids together at the park. And so, I think we may try to pop over there.

Gibbs Léger: That sounds like a lot of fun. I remember when you all got COVID and how awful that was. So, this is definitely going to be a better month. We’re just going to speak it into existence.

Seeberger: I am all in. Well, we will be definitely covering pride and LGBTQI+ issues this month. But this week, you covered something else that’s been in the news recently.

Gibbs Léger: That’s right. And I got to interview my sister who is a screenwriter and a member of the WGA [Writers Guild of America], in addition to being honored to be my sister. We discussed trends that have impacted writers’ pay and working conditions in recent years, the industry’s reaction to the strike, and what other industries and unions can learn from the Writers Guild.

Seeberger: Yeah, and I just got to say, I would not have made it through the pandemic or those early days of having a child when you’re up at all hours of the day if it were not for the TV programs and streaming services that just provide such great entertainment for all of us and help bring a little joy into our lives. So, this is really something that all of us should care about. And I’m excited to learn more about how we can support them.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah, absolutely. But first, we’ve got to get to some news.

Seeberger: Once again, we’ve got to talk about the debt ceiling. God willing, this will be the last time.

Gibbs Léger: Please.

Seeberger: But we’ve got a deal, Daniella. It may not be ideal—pun intended—but it avoids the worst of the MAGA cuts Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy (R-CA) proposed and stops him and his caucus from driving our economy off a cliff. Let’s be really clear, though, that this imperfect deal wouldn’t have been needed if MAGA Republicans hadn’t, in their own words, held our economy hostage. They threatened a first-ever deliberate default on America’s financial obligations that could have thrown millions of people into unemployment. You know, these same people are the ones who pushed our democracy to the brink of collapse on January 6, spent the last months pushing us toward economic collapse—in both cases, to advance their agendas that they couldn’t get done through ethical and legal means. It’s really nothing short of political terrorism, to be honest. President [Joe] Biden should have never been put in a position to choose between a default and damaging cuts to investments in the American people. To his credit, he rejected the most extreme MAGA proposals, like imposing a 22 percent across-the-board funding cut to things like education, child care, and public safety programs. He really forced Speaker McCarthy to compromise, which is not an easy feat. The deal will also safeguard the president’s historic investments that are accelerating our transition to a clean energy economy. And it will ensure the most vulnerable seniors and veterans continue to receive the benefits they’ve earned.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah, MAGA Republicans really forced Biden into a game of imperfect deal or no deal. And he did a lot given the circumstances. Now, as of this taping on Wednesday evening, the House is planning to vote on a deal, which will go to the Senate from there. Clearly the onus to pass this deal now rests firmly on Speaker McCarthy’s shoulders. He is the one who neglected his basic governing responsibility to simply raise the debt ceiling, as Congress has done repeatedly. But—shocking no one—members of his own party are making this difficult.

In recent days, the most extreme MAGA Republicans have been indicating that their support for him could evaporate if Speaker McCarthy doesn’t secure a litany of new requests they have, like new cruel provisions on immigration. Some even demanded that the FBI be defunded. Now, many in the House Freedom Caucus are threatening to vote “no” on this deal and even threatening his speakership if they don’t get the extreme, dangerous cuts that they want. And of course, McCarthy is beholden to the most extreme in his party thanks to his desperate attempts earlier this year to actually secure enough votes to become speaker of the House in the first place. [Rep.] Chip Roy (R-TX), a radical House Freedom Caucus member said he’ll face a “reckoning” following this deal. The recklessness of today’s Republican Party has never been more abundantly clear. They will do anything to amass power, including hurt their political opponents, publicly try to one up each other, and even inflict cataclysmic harm on America’s middle class. The bottom line, though, is that this deal needs to get passed. And once that’s done, we need to fix the broken debt ceiling process once and for all.

Seeberger: Amen, Daniella. I’ll also just add the tax changes that were authorized under Donald Trump, his tax law—not the business cuts but the cuts for individual taxpayers—those are set to expire soon. So, it sounds like a great time for Congress to get rid of this driver of long-term debt to begin with, and that is actually tax cuts that were never paid for.

Gibbs Léger: Yes. And for those that missed it, go back and listen to our episode with our own Bobby Kogan, where he explains how much of those tax cuts contributed to our debt. Well, speaking of radicals in the law, it’s almost Supreme Court decision season. Let’s get into it.

Seeberger: Oh, gosh. I’m honestly still a little scarred from last year. So, I’m kind of in denial and not looking forward to it.

Gibbs Léger: Fair enough.

Seeberger: This is the second term in which cases will be heard by a majority of MAGA extremist justices, three of whom were appointed by Donald Trump himself. And what we’re seeing as the result is that Americans are facing an unprecedented rollback of their rights from an activist judiciary. I’m really worried about some of the cases that the court is set to announce opinions on. Black Americans could see their representation in Congress diluted. LGBTQI+ Americans could be subjected to discrimination from businesses. Voters in every state in the country could see their votes imperiled by radical state legislatures. Decades of progress in creating pathways to higher education for Black and Latino students may be eliminated overnight, and 43 million Americans could lose student debt relief. So, it’s also really concerning to me to see how the court is rushing to reverse established precedent as fast as they can. They’re taking procedural shortcuts more often to hear cases more quickly and using a procedure called the “shadow docket” to halt lower court rulings and block government action. As I mentioned, we all remember what happened last year with the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In that case, and this year’s cases on affirmative action, the Supreme Court agreed to consider reversing these long-standing protections, even though there was no split among lower courts. So, they’re just kind of unhinged and going in a more reckless direction that is trying to undermine the very rights that we’ve long cherished.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah. So, it’s no surprise to me that public trust in the Supreme Court is really low right now. It’s actually fallen to its lowest point in 50 years, with only 18 percent of Americans saying they have a great deal of confidence in the court. 18!

Seeberger: Not great.

Gibbs Léger: No, not great. The multiple recent ethics scandals involving Justice Clarence Thomas and others probably haven’t helped those numbers either. Let’s be clear, though: We are in this moment because of a decadeslong far-right campaign to install an extremist majority on the Supreme Court. And it will not end there. We’ve all seen what happens when MAGA judges put their personal beliefs above the law itself. Perfect example: a case working its way through the courts right now that would overrule multiple decisions from the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] on the safety of medicine, spanning several decades. And MAGA extremists have openly questioned other long-standing rights like marriage equality or the use of contraception, as Justice Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion on the Dobbs case last year that overturned Roe v. Wade. These are their next targets. So, I’m left wondering if we as a country will continue to ensure that future generations enjoy more rights than the last—or if this is the high watermark of freedom and rights in this nation. The fact that this is an open question should alarm all Americans. It is all the more reason we cannot allow the court to become any more extreme. They are wildly out of touch with Americans.

Seeberger: It’s a pretty good representation of what’s going on in our government across the board. Americans, they have a choice between MAGA extremism and many of our most cherished values, so the stakes are really high. Well, that’s all the time we have this week. If there’s anything else you’d like us to cover on the pod, hit us up on Twitter @TheTentPod, that’s @TheTentPod.

Gibbs Léger: And stick around for my interview with my sister, Arlene Gibbs, in just a beat.

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Gibbs Léger: Arlene Gibbs is a decorator and writer living in Rome. She co-wrote the films “Jumping a Broom” and “Caribbean Summer,” previously worked in film development, and is a member of the Writers Guild of America. She is currently working on design projects in Anguilla, the British West Indies, Rome, and Tuscany.

[Musical transition]

Gibbs Léger: Arlene, my favorite sister, thanks so much for joining us on “The Tent.”

Arlene Gibbs: You’re welcome. And I’m your only sister.

Gibbs Léger: I know. But it doesn’t make what I said any less true. So, to start, can you talk a little bit about your background and what’s going on with the WGA strike? Why is it happening right now?

Gibbs: Okay. So, a little bit about my background: I used to live and work in LA [Los Angeles]. And when I started out in the film business—well, actually, I started in New York, I was doing coverage for independent producers—and when I first moved to LA, my first job was being a producer‘s assistant on the movie “Love and Basketball.” But it was a great experience. I learned a lot. And then once the movie wrapped, I started working in development as a junior exec, what they used to call a “D girl.” And basically, you look for material, you read scripts, books, you have meetings with writers, actors, directors, basically looking for projects for the company to produce. So, I was always writing, and I was very nervous to show people my writing, but eventually I did. And then when I decided to move to Rome after 10 years living in LA, I said, “Oh, I’m going to write full time,” just because there’s so many Black women who are successful screenwriters. And I was very fortunate in that the first script that I actually sold was called “Jumping a Broom.” And a lot of times, a script is bought, and it just sits in development for years. The majority of scripts obviously do not get made. But that movie did get made. And I thought, “Oh, my whole life is going to change.” And it didn’t. It is not a friendly business for women of a certain age. And I’m a Black woman over 25. So, it’s just like, not great. And then, a couple years ago, a mentor of mine was here in Rome on holiday. And he said to me, you should do both—because I had interned for an interior designer—and I started decorating. I was like, I’m a decorator now. And he said, “No, you’re still a writer. Writers write. You should do both.” And now, actually, I’m doing both. And I sold, along with a co-writer—two different co-writers—two projects that we have set up. And right before the strike, I was told we got the go-ahead to move forward to the next step. So, it’s pencils down. So, we’re not writing anything—I mean, anything that’s already been set up, obviously. If you have a new idea and you’re working on a spec, that’s different.

Gibbs Léger: So yeah, so let’s get into what’s happening with the strike. And why now? And what are writers asking for?

Gibbs: So, I would say, regarding what are the biggest issues for the strike, the ones that you see over and over again—and I’m going to speak more for TV because the majority of the guild is in television—there are many issues. Obviously, pensions, minimums—increasing the minimums that a writer can be paid—things like that. But the two issues that have really—I think it’s interesting because even people outside the industry are aware—I would say AI [artificial intelligence] and mini rooms. And again, AI is not just TV, but for the mini rooms, that’s TV writers. So, basically, let’s say you run a show like, I don’t know, “Grey’s Anatomy,” and there’s 20 episodes or 22 episodes; you would be working in the writers’ room for the entire run of the show. And then, if you wrote, say, episode three, you would be able to go to, if there’s a table read, you go to the table read. You go on set when your script is shooting. Maybe not always, you would be in post-production because editing is writing as well. And you get paid per week, blah, blah, blah. With streaming in particular, they have these things called mini rooms, and so, what they’ll do is they say, “OK, we like your idea. Why don’t you put together a room of writers—so it’s X amount of writers, usually not that many—and you write the entire season in a couple months?” So, on the surface, it seems like, well, that makes sense to me because if you have the entire season, then you know exactly where the story’s going, what the budgets might look like. So, then the studio streamer will say, “OK, we’re going to go ahead and shoot this series—season one anyway.” And then the writers that are in a room with you, the majority of them are not involved with the show. They are done. So, it’s just a showrunner and maybe one other writer. So, you don’t get to see your episode shot. You don’t get to be on set. You’re not involved with anything, with something that you helped create. And the problem is you’re not learning how to produce. You’re not learning how to manage people. And at some point, I mean, the track for TV writers is basically you start off as a staff writer, story editor, and so on—producer, blah, blah, blah, co-producer, co-EP [executive producer], showrunner, etc.

I mean, the goal is for most people to run your own show or, even if you don’t want to run your own show, you move up, and every year or every couple years, you would move. And now, you’re finding that people are stuck at staff writer or story editor for multiple years, which is not the way it’s supposed to work. Also, it takes a while to get into a rhythm of a show, and you don’t have the cast then. I mean, you’re just breaking the show down, you’re breaking the season. You don’t know who’s going to be in the show. And I didn’t realize this until recently. I thought, “OK, so you do a mini room, and then you’re waiting for the studio to decide what to do.” You could go and work in another mini room or you can go be staffed on a show. I was told that many times, because of the way the contracts are written, you can’t work on another show. So, you’re waiting for a yes or no on this show and you can’t work elsewhere. So, when people on Twitter say, “Oh, but the lowest a writer can be paid is $4,000 a week, that’s more than what teachers make,” what people don’t understand is—and I don’t know exactly what the number is, but let’s say it’s $4,000 a week—that might be for eight weeks. That could be the only thing you make. And with streamers, the residuals are completely different from residuals with network.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah, could you explain what residuals are for our listeners?

Gibbs: So, actors, directors, writers, when you’re in a show—let’s say you were on “How to Get Away with Murder”—and season one is over, but they rerun it all the time and it airs internationally. It’s on Netflix now. You get a percentage. You get a residual. And basically, residuals help you live, survive, because without residuals, you may go years in between jobs because it’s just the way the business is. And streamers, their residual model, no one knows what it is because when you are on a network show, you know what the ratings are. You know how many—there’s a Nielsen—you know how many people watch the Superbowl or how many people watch “CSI.” You know. With streamers, you don’t. They’ll tell you X amount of hours were watched. But what does that mean? If you created a show like “Stranger Things” or “The Morning Show,” what does that mean? We want more transparency. There’s that issue. And the other issue is AI.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah.

Gibbs: The idea that studios could use chat—whatever it’s called—TPP. Whatever.

Gibbs Léger: GPT.

Gibbs: ChatGPT. Because someone said to me, this producer here was like, “Arlene, you need to wake up. AI is going to have your job anyway. You should learn how to use it, whatever it is.” And I said, “Well, I’m a writer. I write. Why would I use AI?” They’re like, “No, not to write the whole thing, to write the first draft, then you go in and rewrite.” I was like …

Gibbs Léger: That’s more work.

Gibbs: But I’m like, I guess if you’re a lazy writer or a hack, maybe, because AI is just pulling from what’s already out there. But the whole point of, for me, I think it’s like, if you have an idea, or even if you’re adapting someone else’s IP [intellectual property]—let’s take the “Barbie” movie, someone’s like, here’s a Barbie doll—you still have to come up with the story. So, I think that, to me, writing is tricky, staring at a blank page. Screenplays are very specific because it’s structure, structure, structure. But it’s the germ of the idea. And you get excited about it, and you have to write it. Why would you use AI to do that? It takes the whole—that’s the best part. I can’t even wrap my head around it. So, this idea that AI could write, or they would just use AI and just get rid of writers, which would also solve the issue of, well, we don’t have to worry about them being producers or a pain in the butt. So, we don’t have to pay them anything. I just saw the finale of “Succession,” and I’m sitting there and thinking to myself, “I’m sorry, do these people think that AI could write ‘Succession’?”

Gibbs Léger: Absolutely not.

Gibbs: Do they think? If anything, AI could probably do the exec jobs and give notes, like, “Read this script. What are your notes?” It’s so offensive to me. And anybody who’s like—because then all those blue checks on Twitter are like, “I don’t know, they should get rid of the writers. Everything that’s been written, it’s just been awful in the last 10 years. It’s just horrible.”

Gibbs Léger: Don’t listen to any blue checks.

Gibbs: And I laugh because I’m like, “Dude, AI is coming for you too.” I don’t know what you do. Unless you are literally a carpenter or some kind of trade where you work with your hands, AI is coming for your job too. One last thing: So, apparently, after 90—is it 90 days or 100 days?—so, at some point, if the strike continues as they think it might into the fall, there’s force majeure, which means the studios can cut whatever they want. They can cut contracts. They can cut overall deals and take a tax write-off, do whatever. And so, we’ll see. That’s why I’m saying next month, when the DGA, the Directors Guild of America, and SAG, the Screen Actors Guild, their contracts are up. So, I’m curious to see because obviously, if either one of those two guilds go out on strike, then everything shuts down. Because you can’t—especially, you know, maybe you could still shoot reality, I guess, with the directors or unscripted—but it’s hard to shoot to a TV show without any actors or a film without any actors.

Gibbs Léger: They haven’t figured that out yet, no. You touched on something earlier about writers and how much they make and how sometimes what seems like a large pot of money may actually have to spread for an entire year. So, can you talk about some of the other misperceptions around how wealthy writers are? But also, what are the expenses that they have to account for that people don’t understand?

Gibbs: Well, the thing is there are some extremely successful TV writers, obviously. The person, the team, that created “Friends,” they’re extremely wealthy. And people have heard the name Aaron Sorkin, who’s features and TV. But they’re a small percentage of the guild. The majority of the writers in the guild are what we would say are middle-class writers, or middle-class Hollywood. And that’s disappearing and shrinking. And the people who are not middle class are just like the guy—I can’t remember his name—but one of the writers on “The Bear.” This show was nominated for all these awards, and he couldn’t even afford—he was working, I forget where he was working—because he couldn’t afford to pay his rent. And how are you on an award-winning show as a writer?

First of all, it’s so hard to even become a screenwriter. And then you get on a show, which is also hard, very difficult. There are only X amount of shows, and there are, what, 11,000 members of the Writers Guild? And you get on a show, and the show is a hit. And that’s another thing. Most shows are not hits. A lot of shows come and go. We don’t even hear about them. You’re on a hit show, and you still can’t pay your rent. That’s not logical. So, people forget that for a writer—and same with actors, same with directors—you have a manager and an agent. Some just have an agent or just a manager, but most people have a manager and an agent. Each one of them gets 10 percent. So, that’s 20 percent. Then you have a lawyer. They get 5 percent. And then you have a business manager, depending on where you are in your career, especially because if you’re working consistently, you probably have what you call an LLC or equivalent, or what we call a “loan-out company.” So, you need someone to manage that. You’re busy writing, also. Even if you’re an accountant, you were an accountant before you became a screenwriter, you still need somebody to handle all that. So, that is, what, 30 percent gone? Keep in mind, this is before taxes. Most writers, especially TV, live in LA or New York, very expensive cities—high rent, high taxes. Then you’re not even getting into, maybe you need office space. Also, sometimes when you’re in a writers’ room, the studio will not pay for you. The guy from “The Bear,” the same writer, they wouldn’t fly him to set, or they wouldn’t pay for him to go wherever the writers were. So, he had to fly himself out.

Gibbs Léger: That’s bonkers.

Gibbs: Yeah, and I think it’s interesting, because this can feel very inside baseball. And it’s fascinating how people who do not work in the industry at all are aware of what’s going on, because I think it touches on a bigger issue that’s going on in the States: The fact that you have an exec of a multibillion dollar multinational conglomerate making close to half a billion dollars in compensation in, what, two years, three years—one year, he made almost close to a quarter of a billion—talking about, “We can’t pay writers.” And writers are the reason why these companies are making billions in profits.

Gibbs Léger: Speak on it.

Gibbs: Don’t play in our face like that. Last strike was in 2007. I was on the other side. I was an exec. And what I thought was really interesting was that, even though their strike authorization vote was quite high—not as high as this one—there were some pretty high-profile writers who were out there saying stuff like, “Oh, I wish I didn’t even have to be in the Writers Guild. My lawyer negotiates my contract. I don’t need WGA,” and/or saying the WGA should settle. There was a lot of griping. I mean, it’s one month in. Who knows what will happen next week? But people are very unified. And I think the reason why, even if you are an A-list multimillionaire screenwriter who has an outrageous overall deal where you’re making millions, they know that the studios’ approach has been really disrespectful. When AI came up, they didn’t even discuss it. They were just like, out-and-out reject: They’re like, “We’re bringing nothing to the table. We could talk about it.”

Gibbs Léger: They wanted to have a meeting.

Gibbs: They wanted to have a meeting, right. And that actually went viral. The WGA tweeted, basically, all the WGA requests and then what the studios came back with, and I think people are looking at it in black and white and saying, “Well, this can’t be for real. What is this?” And they’re very far apart at the moment. I don’t think any negotiations are happening at all, which to me is pretty interesting, because I read that the studios have lost more in the four weeks of the strike than what we were asking for. So, for me, obviously, it’s not just about money. I don’t know what it’s about. But I’m curious to see what will happen with SAG. Their strike authorization vote is happening now. And they will, I think, on June 5 or June 6 announce. Just because there’s an authorization vote, if it’s yes, it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a strike. It just means that if the negotiations break down, it’s an option. So, we’re going to be looking to see what SAG does. DGA rarely strikes because their issues are different. But we’ll see because residuals impact them as well.

Gibbs Léger: So, we like to leave our listeners feeling inspired at the end of each interview. This is a very specific issue obviously to writers, but unions are something that we care very much about here at CAP Action. Obviously, both of our parents were in a union. Do you think that as other groups are either starting to form a new union, or they’re coming up for contract negotiations, is there anything that people can learn from what you’re seeing happening right now with the WGA?

Gibbs: That’s a great question because I was speaking with another writer, and they were saying, look at the difference between—we did have social media in 2007, not to the extent that we have it now—but they’re like, look at how, basically, the studios have lost the PR [public relations] war. Maybe that could change. I think that WGA was very smart to come out the gate and say, “This is what we’re fighting for, and this is why.” And I think, again, back to mini rooms, that’s like in the weeds a little bit. But I think people maybe don’t know exactly what screenwriters do or the ins and outs of the industry, but I think most people who are not CEOs understand the idea that you created something—you, from your brain—and it made somebody else extremely wealthy, and you get none of that or very little of it. All I’m saying is, without me creating that, you would not have made that money. So, pay me. Like Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas:” “F— you, pay me.” So, it just boggles my mind because we’re not asking for a lot. And I’m just astounded. Like, I’m sorry, if you’re saying, “Oh, we’re losing money,” I’m sorry, it’s not my fault that you made a bad merger and acquisition (M&A). M&A, that has nothing to do with us. And I think the problem is, again—and a lot of people can relate to this—is that it’s all about the street. It’s all about Wall Street. And so, they say we have to cut execs. I can’t tell you how many execs I know who’ve lost their jobs. When we talk about the studios, a lot of the execs that we work with are wonderful, smart. They’re hurting, too, just like everybody whose show has been shut down—cast, the crew below the line. And it’s just outrageous to me that they’re so concerned about stock price. But yet, you’re also still making billions. And also, if you’re hurting so bad, if money is so tight, why are you paying the CEOs $50 million, $60 million, $249 million in one year. I’m sorry, you should not get paid almost a quarter of a billion dollars when you are not doing a great job.

Gibbs Léger: I mean, that’s about as American as you can get.

Gibbs: Yeah, and I just find it fascinating that one of the CEOs—again, I’m intrigued that it’s the CEO of Warner Brothers Discovery—went to give a commencement speech at Boston University, and people were booing and said, “Pay your writers, pay your writers.” And I was shocked because that’s not in LA. It’s not in New York. And I really think it has to do with a lot of people are just fed up. They’re like, this doesn’t make sense. It’s not logical. And it’s hard for the studios to cry poverty when people see these salaries and know that the writers are asking for basically what one CEO gets paid in one year. So, I think that that resonates, even if what we do seems a little weird.

Gibbs Léger: I think these are all really good points. And it is the universal notion that if you create something, or you help create something, that you should be able to enjoy the benefits from that creation is a universal thing. So, Arlene Gibbs, I want to thank you so much for joining us on “The Tent.” And I obviously hope that the strike negotiations commence again and that writers get their fair shake, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because I have been dying to talk publicly about these two projects that you’ve been working on. And I know that I can’t do that. So, let’s get it together.

Gibbs: Trust me, I want to talk about them too.

Gibbs Léger: Well, thank you again for joining us.

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Gibbs Léger: As always, thanks for listening and be sure to go back and check out previous episodes. You know we have to talk about the series finale of “Succession.”

Seeberger: I am still recovering, Daniella, and I am in denial that this thing has finally come to a close.

Gibbs Léger: Same.

Seeberger: But I will say, I have a few friends that have actually started watching “Succession” over the course of the past week or two, and they’ve been binging it. And it’s been so fun to kind of relive the whole “Succession” viewing experience through their watching it. And it’s just such a great show, and I’m going to miss it dearly. What was your favorite part of the finale?

Gibbs Léger: You can’t. It’s like asking me to choose my favorite children if I had more than one. Although we do know that all parents have favorite children. And I am my parents’ favorite child.

Seeberger: Of course, of course.

Gibbs Léger: What was my favorite scene? There was so much. The endearingness—if that’s a word—the sweetness of the kitchen scene was so wonderful. Just to see them be kids, be siblings who have genuine affection and joy and humor around each other. And then, right before that, the scene where Roman and Shiv are making fun of Kendall when he’s swimming out to the little floating barge.

Seeberger: Died.

Gibbs Léger: Oh my god. It was so funny.

Seeberger: I think it’s because I loved that kitchen scene too. And I think what made it stand out, in addition to the joy, was just the presence of humanity and being real people. And it’s just such a departure from how these folks operate 24/7, typically. And so, it just really, really stuck out. I mean, you have Kieran Culkin, his costume in that scene was a $13 shirt from Walmart. It was just so innocent. And everything about that scene just totally melted my heart. And, I mean, we’ve got to talk about a meal fit for a king. I did see a story yesterday that you, too, actually can make a meal fit for a king at home if you are licking your wounds as this series comes to a close.

Gibbs Léger: No thanks.

Seeberger: If you’re interested, Daniella, I’m happy to send it along.

Gibbs Léger: Hard pass. Nope. You can just save your troubles. It was disgusting. And what a commitment to his craft, taking a sip of that. Disgusting. But you know what else I loved about that scene is that it came so early that you knew. Oh, it was just setting you up for the gut punch that was going to come later in the episode. And you knew it was coming.

Seeberger: Yeah, I mean, Kendall was always going to have a tragic ending. That was at least clear to me throughout the entire show. But for it to come at the hands of Shiv. Oh, gosh, it was chilling. That scene when they walk out into the other conference room. Oh my god.

Gibbs Léger: The words exchanged? Oh, my goodness.

Seeberger: And for Mattson to have chosen Tom as the CEO.

Gibbs Léger: Called it! I knew it was going to be Tom. I knew. And you know why? Well, I had lots of reasons, one being that in the previews it showed Tom walking triumphantly with minions behind him for a second, and I was like, “It’s Tom.” But also remember that Tom didn’t go to the funeral, and Mattson, I think he picked up on that. It’s like, this is a guy who works so hard that he didn’t go to the funeral of his father-in-law. So, I don’t know. Tom is a buffoon. We can say what we want about Tom, but as far as running a business, he seems to do—ethics aside, of course.

Seeberger: Oh, yes, that small thing.

Gibbs Léger: No one has ethics on this show.

Seeberger: I think that Mattson also wanted somebody who he could control, too. And I think he knows that he has that in Tom and would not have that in Shiv. So, I think understanding his motivations, I think he made the right call.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah.

Seeberger: Yeah, it’s going to be tough on Sunday, having to come up with a new plan because I’m not going to be watching “Succession” anymore.

Gibbs Léger: I don’t know what I’m going to do. I would like to see a spin-off where, after Roman smiles into his martini glass, Gerri walks up to him and says something, and then we get to see their dysfunctional relationship play out.

Seeberger: I would love nothing more. They are wonderful. And one last thing on that scene of Roman staring into his martini: I have to, have to, have to give just tremendous credit to the composer who scored “Succession.” The music in this show is just so powerful and sometimes actually even speaks louder than any of the dialogue that was written.

Gibbs Léger: Yep.

Seeberger: And I just want to call that out because I think it’s just such a tremendous talent that’s really often underappreciated but, I think in this specific show, really was a secret character really moving this this story along.

Gibbs Léger: I’m so glad you brought that up because I agree 100 percent. His name is Nicholas Britell. He is beyond talented. This is one of the few shows where I never skipped the opening credits because the song is so amazing, and all the different variations on that theme that he does throughout the series, but in this episode, even. When it changes key and goes from minor to even more minor—I know that’s not really a thing, but whatever, people know what I’m talking about—you’re right, it literally sets the scene for what’s happening. And as a music nerd person, I just appreciate it so much. And I am going to learn how to play the music that was playing when they close out the series because I just think that’s so hauntingly beautiful.

Seeberger: Well, I look forward to being serenaded with the “Succession” score.

Gibbs Léger: Oh, I know we’ll have other things to talk about. “The Bachelorette” comes back soon. But man, what a great ride it’s been. Kudos to the writers and all the great actors on the show. And thank you, listeners, for coming along on our “Succession” journey. That’s all we got for this week. Please continue to take care of yourselves and we will talk to you next week.

[Musical transition]

Gibbs Léger: “The Tent” is a podcast from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It’s hosted by me, Daniella Gibbs Léger, and co-hosted by Colin Seeberger. Erin Phillips is our lead producer. Kelly McCoy is our supervising producer. And Sam Signorelli is our digital producer. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Daniella Gibbs Léger

Executive Vice President, Communications and Strategy


Colin Seeberger

Senior Adviser, Communications

Erin Phillips

Broadcast Media Manager

Kelly McCoy

Senior Director of Broadcast Communications

Sam Signorelli

Policy and Outreach Associate, Government Affairs


Press Team

Explore The Series

Politics. Policy. Progress. All under one big tent. Produced by CAP Action, “The Tent” is a news and politics podcast hosted by Daniella Gibbs Léger and co-hosted by Colin Seeberger. Listen each Thursday for episodes exploring topics that progressives are focused on.


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