You’ve probably never heard of John Eric Bentley. But you might recognize his face. The 38-year-old actor has played a park ranger in the TV series “Bones,” a police officer in “CSI: Miami” and a judge on “Hannah Montana.”
Yet despite some 50 film and TV credits, Bentley makes barely enough to support his four children and pay the mortgage on his West Hills home. He recently began a graveyard shift as a security guard at a Marriott Hotel to supplement his acting income, which swings between $50,000 and $150,000 a year, the L.A Times reports.
“I’m in a survival mode,” Bentley said. “Every day is a fight.”
Bentley is a journeyman actor working in the shadow of multimillionaire stars — a member of Hollywood’s “middle class,” whose economic plight is a flash point in the difficult negotiations between studios and the Screen Actors Guild. Talks are expected to resume today.
These actors contend that over the last decade they’ve been squeezed out of roles by the proliferation of reality shows and that their paychecks have shrunk because of dwindling residuals from fewer reruns. Nor are cost-conscious producers willing any longer to routinely pay actors their “quote,” a fee based on experience.
Middle-class film and TV actors — defined by SAG as those who earn enough to qualify for the union’s health insurance but less than $100,000 a year — are hardly representative: They account for less than 5% of the guild’s 122,000 members.
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