Drew Barrymore dropped as National Book Awards host after her talk show resumes during strike
“The National Book Awards is an evening dedicated to celebrating the power of literature, and the incomparable contributions of writers to our culture," the National Book Foundation, which presents the award, said in a statement Tuesday. "In light of the announcement that ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ will resume production, the National Book Foundation has rescinded Ms. Barrymore’s invitation to host the 74th National Book Awards Ceremony.”
The awards event, sometimes referred to as the Academy Awards of the publishing world, is scheduled for Nov. 15.
Barrymore's resumption of her CBS talk show doesn't inherently cause issues with the actors guild, which is also on strike, as daytime talk shows are governed by a different Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists contract that was renewed and ratified last year. But Barrymore's show employs at least three writers who are members of the writers guild, which has been on strike since early May. Those writers were picketing outside the CBS Broadcast Building on Monday.
“The only people I know for sure that are not going back are us three WGA writers. And the rest, I can’t really speak for,” Chelsea White, one of the show's writers, said on the picket line. “I think first and foremost, this is obviously way bigger than just ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’ and writers. We are out here standing with our union and feeling great and excited always to stand with our union."
Barrymore drew criticism from members of both guilds for crossing the picket line, and from Colson Whitehead, Alexander Chee and other authors who questioned whether she should remain as host of the National Book Awards.
The fourth season of the talk show is slated to start airing Sept. 18. A representative for Barrymore did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In an Instagram post on Sunday, Barrymore said she was “making the choice to come back for the first time in this strike for our show, that may have my name on it but this is bigger than just me.”
“I own this choice,” she added, continuing that they would comply with the strikes by not discussing or promoting struck work.
She also mentioned writers in her post.
“I want to be there to provide what writers do so well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience,” she wrote.
At the outset of the writers strike, Barrymore had dropped out as host of the MTV Movie & TV Awards out of solidarity with those on strike (she later won best host at the event, which ditched the live element for a clip-heavy pre-taped show). Elsewhere in the literary world, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos pulled out of May's PEN America Gala, where he was to receive a Business Visionary Award, saying he didn't want to distract from “the important work that PEN America does for writers and journalists” (Netflix is among the studios and streamers on the other side of the table from the striking workers).
The National Book Foundation has long sought to raise the profile of the book awards, and Barrymore would have been its best-known host in years. When she was announced as host of this year's National Book Awards, the chair of the National Book Foundation's board of directors lauded her work championing books.
“Throughout their careers, Drew Barrymore and Oprah Winfrey have each demonstrated their enduring belief that books have the power to change readers’ lives — by opening doors, sparking conversations, and building community,” David Steinberger said in a statement, also referencing the ceremony's guest speaker, Winfrey.
On Tuesday, the foundation sought to put the spotlight back on the writers.
“Our commitment is to ensure that the focus of the Awards remains on celebrating writers and books, and we are grateful to Ms. Barrymore and her team for their understanding in this situation,” the statement said.
Associated Press journalists John Carucci and Ryan Pearson contributed to this report.
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