EXCLUSIVE: The COVID-19 pandemic has limited what normally would be a flood of Hollywood figures fanning out to swing states, but Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has been mobilizing industry support this cycle in different ways.
Last week, Ted Danson and Kristen Bell of The Good Place reunited to “Zoom bomb” a group of young women for Biden volunteers who were phone banking.
The idea for the surprise virtual appearances were hatched in one of the weekly Zoom calls between the campaign and entertainment industry supporters. Every Monday, up to 50 content creators, actors and producers participate in the calls, which are a combination of brainstorming, campaign updates and listening sessions.
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The participants have included Alyssa Milano, Garcelle Beauvais, Helen Hunt, Barbara Hershey, Lawrence Bender, Jamie Patricof, Craig Zisk, Morgan Sackett and David Mandel.
The entertainment side of the calls are organized by Mathew Littman, political strategist and former speechwriter for Biden, while the campaign is in charge of arranging political figures such as Cory Booker, John Kerry and Amy Klobuchar.
The calls are not to raise money, albeit the Biden campaign has been arranging a series of cast reunions for fundraising events, including The Avengers on Tuesday and the cast of Wet Hot American Summer on Saturday. The campaign also hosts another weekly call on Tuesdays with a Creative Council.
The weekly Zoom sessions have led to other ideas such as Instagram live chats, coordination of get-out-the-vote efforts and phone banking, and placement of surrogates in media appearances. Other “Zoom bombs” featured Richard Schiff and Bradley Whitford, and another was done by Mark Hamill.
A campaign official describes the weekly calls as a way to get the information out to a broad range of insiders who can then go out and amplify their message on their social media platforms.
Director Rod Lurie said that the sessions are “really cool and very encouraging. It is not just a liberals in an echo chamber.”
Lurie has been phone banking on Wednesdays.
“What we have learned is that phone banking is one of the most valuable ways to get the vote out, not so much convincing people to vote for Joe Biden but more just to get people to vote,” he said. Last week, he said, they made calls to Florida, and while there were some hang-ups when he’s called, others want to have extended conversations.
Trump’s campaign, too, also has drawn on celebrity support. Jon Voight, a longtime supporter, last week posted a Twitter video, Kirstie Alley went on Hannity to talk of her backing of the president, and Mike Love of the Beach Boys performed at a fundraiser in Newport Beach.
The Trump campaign, however, isn’t under any pretense that Biden isn’t dominating in support from showbiz, as the president’s allies refer to his opposition as the “Hollywood elite.”
The Biden campaign, though, hasn’t been shy about tapping into the creative community. It’s challenge lately hasn’t so much been in drawing writers, producers and actors into the fold, as it has been coordinating them amid a pandemic.