Drew Carey Paid for the Meals of '80 to 100' Writers a Day at L.A.-Based Restaurants Amid Strike (Exclusive)

ET chats with Stephanie Wilson, owner of Swingers Diner, where Carey covered meals for '80-100 writers a day' amid the strike.

As the entertainment world celebrates the end of the Writers Guild of America's strike, some are looking back on how the community came together to support one another during the 148 days of picketing and protesting efforts.

ET's Hiba Bary spoke with Stephanie Wilson, owner of the Swingers Diner in Los Angeles, where Drew Carey paid it forward in a special way amid the strike.

As Wilson explains it, The Price Is Right host is a regular customer of Swingers since the diner resides "right down the street" from the studio where the daytime game show films. "He's the most perfect customer you could ever have," the restaurant owner tells ET. "Super sweet, simple, kind and generous."

"He only comes in a few times a week and writers have been approaching him a lot -- and just regular people too, before the strike up of course," Wilson adds. "He's pretty famous, and he's always very generous with his time and he's kind with the customers that want to talk to him."

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The 65-year-old comedian took his generosity up a level in May, when the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)'s failure to reach an agreement with the WGA over fair compensation -- particularly in the wake of the expansion of streaming services since the last major contract dispute in 2007 -- resulted in a strike that brought Hollywood production to a screeching halt when it began on May 2

Writers flocked to the streets to protest, organizing picketing events outside studios and productions that continued despite the strike.

Wilson recalls Carey reaching out soon after the writers began the strike and extended an offer she couldn't refuse. "About a week into the strike, Drew reached out to us and said, 'We have to do something for the writers. Would it be OK if I offered free meals at Swingers? Can you guys facilitate that?' I was like, 'Yeah, absolutely.' So we did!"

She explains that the diner typically saw about "80 to 100 writers a day," but Carey went beyond just covering meals for the striking workers. "What's really special about what he did [is] Drew wasn't just covering costs for the writers. He would cover spouses, he would cover entire families," she shares. "He's really looking out for an entire industry, which is pretty amazing."

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Wilson also shares that Carey didn't put many parameters on the tab, saying, "He just wanted to make sure that they were writers and that, if there was an entire family, they would be covered. He wanted them to have whatever it is that they wanted."

The owner estimated that the former Whose Line Is It Anyway? host spent "six figures during the strike... thousands every day."

Unsurprisingly, Carey's actions touched the community. Wilson says that writers would take the chance to thank him if they saw him in person, but would also leave notes for the comedian to find when he visited the diner himself. 

"They'll bring cards and [say], 'Please tell Drew thank you so much,'" she recounts. "And people have cried to me, telling me how special this is, not just the meal, but also just to spend time with other writers and commiserate or tell funny stories and just to have a good time and share a milkshake with something special for them. So they really wanted me to share that, pass that message along."

After 148 days, the strike officially came to an end on Sept. 26.

The WGA reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP, which the Negotiating Committee, WGAW Board, and WGAE Council all voted unanimously to recommend. It will now go to both guilds' memberships for a ratification vote, which will run from Oct. 2 to Oct. 9. While the agreement has yet to be finalized, the WGAW Board and WGAE Council all voted to lift the restraining order on Wednesday, allowing writers to return to work in the interim. That vote does not affect the membership's right to make a final determination on contract approval.

Carey took to social media to celebrate the news, informing writers that they had time to enjoy a final free meal at Swingers and Bob's Big Boy, on him.

Looking back on Tuesday night, Wilson says the writers' joy was palpable. "You felt the writers' vibe coming through and even more so last night because it was the end of it. So everyone was here to celebrate, and Drew said in his tweet to go celebrate and that they did," she shares. 

While many members of the WGA have already gone back to work in various writers' rooms, the guild's leadership awaits the ratification vote. As for when shows will return, Dominic Patten, senior editor at Deadline Hollywood, gave ET an idea of the timeline for several genres of television.

"You can pretty much rest assured that late-night TV shows are gonna come back very soon after the ratification vote. I would say within days, if not hours," he said. "You're also gonna see talk shows that are gonna come back on, daytimers very quickly. You're also gonna see other daytime shows come on."

"If you're looking at your primetime schedule, that's gonna take a little bit longer," Patten noted. "Because, of course, you're gonna need actors for that. And the actors union still hasn't even started their negotiations with the studios and streamers."

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Indeed, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) remains on strike, though they previously expressed their support for WGA's agreement.

"SAG-AFTRA congratulates the WGA on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP after 146 days of incredible strength, resiliency, and solidarity on the picket lines. While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP's tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members," the statement began. "Since the day the WGA strike began, SAG-AFTRA members have stood alongside the writers on the picket lines. We remain on strike in our TV/Theatrical contract and continue to urge the studio and streamer CEOs and the AMPTP to return to the table and make the fair deal that our members deserve and demand."


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