Actor Brian Cox joins demonstrators at the Equity rally in Leicester Square, in solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA strikes, London, Britain, July 21, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

London: 'Succession' star Brian Cox on Friday spearheaded a protest by hundreds of UK actors in support of striking US colleagues walking out over low pay and the 'existential threat' posed by artificial intelligence.

A-listers Imelda Staunton, Simon Pegg, Hayley Atwell and Downton Abbey's Jim Carter turned out for the rally in London's Leicester Square, where the premeire of the new "Barbie" film was held last week.

Actors chanted "luvvies united will never be defeated" and waved UK acting union Equity banners in solidarity with the US Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA).

Some 160,000 US movie and television actors walked off the job last week, joining writers who have been on strike for weeks.

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The union's demands have focused on dwindling pay in the streaming era, and the threat posed by artificial intelligence.

The industrial action is the first US industry-wide walkout for 63 years and has effectively shut down Hollywood.

Scottish actor Cox, 77, who stars as media mogul Logan Roy in the HBO hit drama "Succession", told AFP the use of AI in the entertainment industry poses a "really serious" threat that must be halted.

"It's the thin end of a horrible wedge... because our image is so strong and they capture those images and they can do what they like with them," he said.

"Well they cannot do what they like with them and they shouldn't be allowed to. We are going to stop it," he added.

The last time US actors union went on strike, in 1980 over the advent of pay television and home video, the walkout lasted more than three months.

This time, the union says their pay has been "severely eroded" by streaming and has warned that AI poses "an existential threat".