Director/producer/showrunner/writer Ryan Murphy sent a letter to the Writers Guild of America (WGA), threatening litigation against East Coast strike captain Warren Leight. Leight was a member of the Strike Rules Compliance Committee, but has since left both positions.
The issue started on June 21st, when Leight claimed crewmembers for the Murphy created “American Horror Story” told him “they’ll be blackballed in Murphy-land” if they don’t cross the WGA picket lines. A spokesperson for Murphy called this allegation “absolute nonsense,” and “categorically false.”
A letter was sent to the WGA by Murphy’s attorney Craig Emanuel about the issue. After that, the Guild met with Leight, who deleted the tweet. He gave an apology (and retraction) on June 27th, calling the claim he made “unsubstantiated” and “completely false and inaccurate.”
WGA East officers also sent out a memo announcing that Leight has stepped back from his duties at the WGA. “We can add that after receiving the letter from Murphy, we met with Warren immediately to address the situation,” the memo reads. “The Guild provided legal representation, and as part of that process it was agreed that as both co-chair of the Strike Rules Compliance Committee and as a strike captain, it made sense for Warren to step back from official duties related to the strike.”
The same memo also addressed Murphy’s comments on the matter. “As promised, WGAE General Counsel Ann Burdick spoke with Warren’s attorney to see if we can share more information with you about what happened,” it read. “The attorney’s comment was as follows: “Ryan Murphy sent a letter threatening litigation against Warren Leight. Warren Leight will not be saying anything further than his last tweet related to Ryan Murphy.”” Referring to the June 27th tweet from Leight retracting his statement.
Sources claim that this memo followed a regularly scheduled strategy meeting with WGA East leadership, with Michael Winship, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Chris Kyle, and strike captains. Apparently, this meeting quickly turned contentious between the parties involved.
“We were talking about themed pickets. Nobody discussed Warren and everyone was like, ‘When is someone going to talk about Ryan Murphy?’” said an East Coast strike captain. “People were pissed. We wanted an explanation and answer about why Warren lost his captain’s hat and what happened. He was our leader.”
Leight is known as a very proactive New York-based member of the WGA. He has even been called the East Coast’s “Air Traffic Controller” for leading a Rapid Response Team that directs striking writers to locations.
With the ongoing WGA strike only four shows are still in production on the east coast. Three of these series are Murphy’s, “American Sports Story,” “American Horror Story,” and its episodic counterpart “American Horror Stories.” (With the fourth being “Power Book 2: Ghost” which he has no involvement with.)
Sources claim Murphy has been spotted in New York crossing WGA picket lines. Others say he has not been in New York for the past month. Even though Murphy is a member of the WGA, he is also a producer and director. This allows him to continue working on these shows provided he is not doing services performed by writers.
“He is following the letter of the law and going to set as a producer/showrunner/director and says he’s not doing writing — and no guild can convict somebody of conjecture,” said one East Coast captain. “A million of us would love to see it, but there’s no proof that he’s scabbing; he’s doing scripts that were done before strike started.”
The WGA, says it will “continue to picket [Murphy’s] shows,” and that the Strike Rules Compliance Committee will investigate all leads concerning potential violations.
And if the situation couldn’t get any messier, before all this began, on June 20th news broke that Murphy was in talks with Disney. Allegedly he is negotiating with them for an overall deal after his $300 million Netflix deal expired. The WGA wants to remind everyone in their memo that solidarity is how they will win this thing. “Our foe in this fight is not other members, it is the AMPTP. If we turn on each other, the AMPTP wins.”