Texas Tech University

Expert Available to Speak About Hollywood’s Writers and Actors Strike

Lucy Greenberg

July 20, 2023

Dean Nolen is an associate professor of acting at Texas Tech and spent decades acting on screen. He is now hoping for more equitable contracts for both writers and actors.


The Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike in May of 2023. More than two months since the strike began, it has only grown and now includes actors and other members of the entertainment industry.  

According to the Associated Press, the strike has been a prolonged one. Many actors and screenwriters have begun to face financial hardship. Some screenwriters have even lost their homes. The strike comes on the heels of COVID-19, an event the industry never quite recovered from before the strike began earlier this summer. 

But the pandemic isn't the only thing that makes this strike unique. The boom of streaming services and the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) is making industry professionals nervous. With increased demand for content, producers can save significant costs by using AI to expedite production in the process. 

While this concept certainly has its advantages, it is a scenario, according to Dean Nolen, that could change the future of entertainment not only for writers and actors, but for everyone who enjoys their work. 

Dean Nolen
Dean Nolen


Dean Nolen, associate professor of acting, (806) 834-6656; (917) 687-4493 or dean.nolen@ttu.edu

  • B.A. in theatre and music, Hardin-Simmons University 
  • MFA in fine arts and acting, Yale University

Talking points

  • Nolen has been a member of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) for 30 years. In that time, the organization has gone on strike a few times, but nothing as prolonged as this. 

  • There are two major differences in those on strike: union and non-union professionals. Nolen, like many artists, is represented by a union. Most actors and writers opt into a union to protect their livelihood, accumulate retirement and have access to health care. Their number one rule is they do not work non-union. This is the driving motivation to not cross the picket line. Many non-union actors and writers support the strike but are not affected by it in the same way. There is exceptional talent on both sides though, adds Nolen.

  • According to Nolen, streaming services have done incredibly well over the past few years unlike live theater and film. These companies are drawing the attention of many on strike because the contracts and payouts they've given to artists are not proportionate to profits, nor do they account for the impact of inflation.


  • “There is a lot of eagerness that can be taken advantage of in this industry. Artists starting their careers will often work extensive hours to prove they're serious. If they're putting in the time, they need to be paid for it. This is about integrity and doing what is right.”

  • “All of us depend on each other. This is a very interconnected industry. Without great writers, we as actors don't have good scripts. So, there is a certain level of dependency and vulnerability we share and we're just asking producers to share that with us.” 

  • “I am concerned with AI becoming such a central part of this industry. Perhaps producers can save money on some scenes by not having to hire hundreds of extras, but when it comes down to the very writing of our stories, where is original thought? Where is the soul in that work? I worry that we'll sacrifice what is sacred on the altar of efficiency.”