These Gen Zers Are Fighting For Their Generation — And The Future Of Hollywood

These Gen Zers Are Fighting For Their Generation

— And The Future Of Hollywood

HuffPost talked to seven Gen Z writers and actors about how they’re navigating the Hollywood strikes, what the state of the industry means for pursuing their craft and what comes next.

Sixteen years after the landmark writers strike of 2007, entertainment workers are back on the picket line. Since the last strike, new problems have arisen in the industry: the threat of artificial intelligence, smaller writers rooms, streamers erasing shows from platforms, and a lack of transparency about viewership numbers impacting residuals and workers’ livelihoods.

Actors and writers unions are fiercely combating corporate greed, advocating for fair, livable wages and fighting for the future of storytelling on-screen. Screenwriters and actors join workers across America — UPS workers, educators, animators, nurses, reality TV stars and celebrity stylists — who are calling for a much-needed overhaul of labor in this country. (The actors on strike are members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA, while the writers are with Writers Guild of America. The WGA also represents HuffPost’s unionized staffers.)

For Gen Zers ages 18 to 26, today’s labor movement takes on particular relevance. The generation born between 1995 and 2010 is America’s most pro-union age group alive, according to the Center for American Progress. That desire to organize and advocate for fair working policies is likely rooted in witnessing powerful leaders wreck industries and fail the generations before them.

Some Gen Zers were teenagers when America navigated the Great Recession. We remember the whitelash that followed President Barack Obama’s election, plunging Donald Trump ― now indicted four times ― into the Oval Office. Many of us entered the workforce amid the COVID-19 epidemic and the threat of another recession. These political and economic climates impacted how we think about the future of work and achieving our dreams.

The American Dream that we were promised if we did the “right thing” and followed the “right path” has been pulled from underneath us. In fact, it may never have been attainable for us in the beginning. We’re critically aware of reality and what lies at stake — which is everything.

Gen Z entertainment workers are not just fighting for their own dream careers, they’re also fighting for futures in their industries. They’re taking a stand for the next generation. They’re fighting to ensure that storytelling remains a respected craft.

HuffPost talked to seven Gen Z writers and actors about how they’re navigating the Hollywood strikes, what the state of the industry means for pursuing their craft and what comes next.

Courtesy Thomas Chimney

Danielle Duke

Danielle Duke is a 23-year-old actor in New York City. The Cleveland, Ohio, native has been acting since the age of 6, and she has appeared in four short films since 2021. Duke hasn’t joined SAG-AFTRA because of the membership fees, but she supports the strike because of the union’s desire to fix the residuals process and to build safeguards against the threats of artificial intelligence.


Courtesy Francisco Cabrera-Feo



Francisco Cabrera-Feo is a queer Los Angeles-based screenwriter and director who was born and raised in Venezuela. At 11, Cabrera-Feo emigrated to the United States, settling in Broward County, Florida. A 2020 graduate of Florida State University, he has worked on series such as Netflix’s “Gentefied,” Max’s “Gordita Chronicles,” Netflix’s “Blockbuster” and others. After clawing his way through the pandemic to jumpstart his career, Cabrera-Feo has taken up translation jobs while he waits for a fair contract.


Courtesy Keith Sweet Sr.

Keith Sweet II

Keith Sweet II is a screenwriter and creative multihyphenate hailing from Compton, California. At 23, Sweet made history when he joined the “Star Trek: Prodigy” writers room as the youngest staff writer in the history of the “Star Trek” franchise. Three years later, when the strike was announced, Sweet had just sold a TV series to Amazon. After watching his mother, a Los Angeles Unified School District employee, go on strike, he’s in survival mode waiting — and fighting — for a better future in Hollywood.


Courtesy Michael Sparks

Matthew Keith

Matthew Keith is a 24-year-old comedy writer and actor in Los Angeles. Raised in Franklin, Tennessee, Keith is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has been drawn to the stage since adolescence. After two years of working professionally, he served as a writers’ production assistant on CBS’s “The Neighborhood,” and played Stew in Season 5 of the series. With those positions, he is SAG-eligible and is working toward his chance to join WGA. Until Hollywood execs agree to a fair deal, he is working as a barista to stay afloat.


Courtesy Lucas Markman

Jake Lawler

Jake Lawler is a self-taught screenwriter from Charlotte, North Carolina. Lawler, 24, moved to Los Angeles in August 2020 after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a NCAA Division I athlete. After working as a development coordinator at Chaotic Good Studios, he recently earned the role of staff writer on Disney+’s “The Crossover.” When he’s not writing, he does stunts for football commercials.


Courtesy Kristen Brown

Sofia Brown De Lopez

Sofia Brown de Lopez is a 25-year-old queer Mexican American screenwriter from Monterey, California. She graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2019 and remained in Los Angeles to pursue her career in storytelling. But as she was gaining momentum, threats of a recession and a potential writers strike put a halt to her Hollywood career. In 2021, Brown de Lopez, who is working toward joining the WGA, took a job as a legal assistant to help pay her bills.


David McNew via Getty Images

Emily Kim

Emily Kim is a 25-year-old comic book author and screenwriter. She wrote “Spider-Gwen” and the “SILK” miniseries at Marvel. Previously, she has worked as a staff writer on television series such as Netflix’s “XO, Kitty” and NBC’s “Quantum Leap.” Growing up with a parent in the industry in Manhattan Beach, California, Kim was on the picket lines during the strike of 2007-08. As a screenwriter, she briefly served as a strike captain for WGA.


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