The 2023 MTV Movie & TV Awards, which is slated to air live this Sunday from Santa Monica’s Barker Hanger with host Drew Barrymore, will move forward even as a writers strike is now underway. Because it’s live, the kudocast will likely be the first program noticeably impacted by a strike, although insiders close to the show tell Variety they already had multiple contingency plans in place in case.
“We are all collectively hoping for the best, we’re hoping for a resolution so that the show can continue on as planned,” one production source told Variety on Monday, prior to the WGA contract expiration and announcement of a strike. “Should we need to pivot, we will. We are working through our contingency plans. This is something that we have been discussing for for quite some time. So we are hard at work. These are very busy hours and days for us… the nature of live events and live shows and live programming is to be able to pivot when things come up. Those are all skills that we have honed very well over the last few years.”
The show has already shot several short films featuring Barrymore; because those were written and produced before the WGA’s contract with producers was set to expire Monday night at midnight, they wouldn’t be affected by a strike. Where things might get complicated is the script that is currently in place — with the show still five days away, starting now its writers would presumably no longer be able to update it.
“The things that we have planned to be in the body of the show, we made efforts to have those plans be in place,” Barrymore told Variety on Monday. “Our respect and solidarity is not only intact, we are covering ourselves so that we can do the appropriate thing. Nobody here is tone deaf… I think we’ve been acting in accordance of being the most appropriate to everyone we support, and have a plan for that in place.
“I think that intention is is very important,” she added. And everybody’s intentions are in the right place. The whole point of this is to celebrate people in everything that they do. We understand that all of this that we’re celebrating begins with the writing. So we’ll do our best to honor everybody.”
During the 2007-2008 WGA strike, the Golden Globes eventually had to switch to a press conference format, as talent opted not to cross a picket line — and the Globes wasn’t able to clear clip rights from the WGA. (The Guilds traditionally issue waivers to awards shows to allow them to play clips of films and TV shows without paying residuals for their use).
In 2020, the MTV Movie & TV Awards didn’t take place, partly due to the pandemic but also because MTV had decided to move the show to the fall. Ultimately, it returned in spring 2021. Barrymore also has experience in TV pivots: Her talk show, “The Drew Barrymore Show,” bowed in the fall of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 production protocols. “Trying to launch a talk show in a pandemic was, without question, one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life,” she said.
Because this is a brand new strike, it’s unclear whether there would be any picketing of Sunday’s show. And insiders said the issue of clips has so far not come up, and won’t appear to be an issue.
Presenters who have already been confirmed for the awards show include Tiffany Haddish, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dave Burd (“Lil Dicky”), Gal Gadot, Rodrigo Santoro and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Also “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” stars Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback; “Yellowjackets” stars Courtney Eaton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Liv Hewson, Samantha Hanratty, Sophie Nélisse and Sophie Thatcher; and “Joy Ride” stars Ashley Park, Sabrina Wu, Sherry Cola and Stephanie Hsu.
Additionally set to appear: Ayo Edebiri, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber and Rachel Sennott (“Bottoms”); Camila Morrone, Riley Keough, Sam Claflin and Suki Waterhouse (“Daisy Jones & The Six”); Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King (“The Little Mermaid”); and Christopher Briney, Gavin Casalegno, and Lola Tung (“The Summer I Turned Pretty”).
“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Stranger Things” and “The Last of Us” lead all nominees this year. Barrymore is also nominated for an MTV Movie & TV Award this year, while “The White Lotus” star Jennifer Coolidge will be on hand to receive the ‘Comedic Genius’ award. This year’s awards show includes 26 gender-neutral categories.
The show airs live on Sunday, May 7, at 8 p.m. ET on MTV, simulcast on BET, BETHer, Comedy Central, CMT, Logo, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Pop, TV Land and VH1.