Despite calls from the Writers Guild of America to delay the premiere amid the ongoing writers’ strike, ABC and Disney+ are staying on track with their plans to premiere a new season of “Dancing With the Stars” next week, Variety has learned.
“Dancing With the Stars” employs a crew of 500 and has a WGA writer on staff.
Sources close to production tell Variety that the show will operate in accordance with SAG-AFTRA rules, with an emphasis on not putting talent in a difficult position, as many Season 32 cast members are part of the Actors Guild. Another important consideration was to ensure that the large workforce did not become unemployed, insiders added. ABC declined to comment.
“Everyone is focused on employing 500 people,” a production source tells Variety. This person says the WGA writer will be back to work as soon as the strike ends.
The WGA writer for “Dancing With the Stars” works with the hosts. Due to the live nature of the dance competition, the show is otherwise largely unscripted.
Dancing With the Stars remained in production during the last strike in 2007-2008 and also rehired its writer after the strike ended.
The SAG-AFTRA rules mean talent can continue to perform because participation on “Dancing with the Stars” falls under the network code agreement, which is not part of the current strike. The season 32 cast includes several members of SAG-AFTRA, including Alyson Hannigan, Jamie Lynn Spears, Barry Williams, Matt Walsh, Mira Sorvino, Ariana Madix and Xochitl Gomez.
“Dancing With the Stars” typically includes video packages within episodes that showcase the cast’s previous television and film projects. Under current strike rules, previous SAG-AFTRA projects are not allowed to be promoted or discussed, which could make “DWTS” packages difficult – but a source confirms that this season will not include footage from previous shows or films to comply with union rules . (For example, don’t expect to see flashbacks to “Brady Bunch” when introducing Williams for his rumba, and Hannigan won’t talk about her time killing vampires while raging on the dance floor in “Buffy.”)
“Dancing With the Stars” has recently become the subject of online chatter among WGA members on social media. Over the weekend — when it was announced that “The Drew Barrymore Show,” “The Talk” and “The Jennifer Hudson Show” were withdrawing their plans to return during the strike, WGA members called “Dancing With the Stars” and noted it is a WGA-covered show, meaning a WGA-represented writer is on the team. Tweet from WGA member David Slack quickly became knownnoting that “‘Dancing with the Stars’ is a WGA-covered show. “The writers are on strike, and without a scab letter they can’t do the show.” Other writers called the show variations of “Dancing with the strikebreakers” or “Scabbing With the Stars.”
On Monday morning, former show pro Cheryl Burke told Variety that she believes “Dancing With the Stars” should go on hiatus until the strikes end. “Ultimately, we have to stick together because that’s the only way we’re ever going to make meaningful change,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to be good for the show in the long run, to be completely honest. I understand what they are thinking and I get it. It’s a business, but there’s no business without the rest of the business… I think they should hold on. I think we have to stand together as one. We really need to unite and not just say we are united.”
After a month of stalled negotiations, the WGA will meet with the AMPTP on Wednesday, marking the 140th day of the strike.
“Dancing With the Stars” is scheduled to air on ABC with a two-and-a-half hour premiere on September 28th and simultaneously on Disney+. The season marks a return to ABC for “DWTS,” which moved exclusively to Disney+ last season, and also a shift to Tuesdays after a long run on Monday nights.
Variety has reached out to a WGA spokesperson for comment.