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Robin Williams' Daughter Zelda Slams "Disturbing" AI Recreations of Her Dad

The 34-year-old spoke out about a major sticking point in the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Nine years after the death of Robin Williams, his daughter, Zelda Williams, is speaking out against artificial intelligence recreations of the beloved actor's voice. As reported by Deadline, in a post on her Instagram Story, Zelda slammed the use of AI to recreate actors' likenesses in light of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. One of the major issues the actors' union is fighting for is protections for actors against the use AI, which could take jobs away from real actors and allow studios to use their likenesses in unapproved ways.

In her social media post, Zelda argued that she is "not an impartial voice" when it comes to this issue, because she has a personal connection due to her own father's voice being recreated using technology. Read on to see what else the 34-year-old had to say and to learn more about SAG-AFTRA's view on artificial intelligence in the media.

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Zelda said hearing her dad's recreated voice is "personally disturbing."

Zelda and Robin Williams at the premiere of "Happy Feet" in 2006
s_bukley / Shutterstock

In her Sunday, Oct. 1 Instagram post, Zelda shared that she can personally relate to the fight against the use of artificial intelligence in entertainment, because she has heard her late father's voice be recreated using AI.

"I am not an impartial voice in SAG's fight against AI," Zelda wrote. "I've witnessed for YEARS how many people want to train these models to create/recreate actors who cannot consent, like Dad. This isn't theoretical, it is very very real. I've already heard AI used to get his 'voice' to say whatever people want and while I find it personally disturbing, the ramifications go far beyond my own feelings."

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She called the process of recreating deceased people "Frankensteinian."

Robin and Zelda Williams at the premiere of "Happy Feet Two" in 2011
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

While Zelda has firsthand experience with how an AI recreation can impact a living relative, she knows that the issue has a wider impact than just that. She continued in her statement, "Living actors deserve a chance to create characters with their choices, to voice cartoons, to put their HUMAN effort and time into the pursuit of performance."

The director added, "These recreations are, at their very best, a poor facsimile of greater people, but at their worst, a horrendous Frankensteinian monster, cobbled together from the worst bits of everything this industry is, instead of what it should stand for."'

SAG-AFTRA is fighting for actors' rights regarding AI.

People picketing for SAG-AFTRA in New York City
Joe Tabacca / Shutterstock

The SAG-AFTRA strike began on July 14 after the actors union and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents major Hollywood studios, did not reach an agreement on a new contract. SAG-AFTRA is fighting for fair wages for its members, including when it comes to residual pay for content shown on streaming services, and for rights involving AI.

In a letter shared by SAG-AFTRA General Counsel Jeffrey Bennett, the union states, "SAG-AFTRA maintains that the right to digitally replicate a performer's voice or likeness to substantially manipulate a performance, or to create a new digital performance, is a mandatory subject of bargaining. In addition, the use of performer's voice, likeness or performance to train an artificial intelligence system designed to generate new visual, audio, or audiovisual content is a mandatory subject of bargaining."

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The Writers Guild of America strike recently ended.

WGA members picketing outside of Culver Studios in May 2023
Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock

For the past several months, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) was on a strike, which began on May 2 and overlapped with the SAG-AFTRA strike until it ended on Sept. 27. Like SAG-AFTRA, the WGA was negotiating with the AMPTP and looking for improved wages as related to streaming, as well as protections against AI.

As reported by Entertainment Weekly, the new WGA contract includes: that AI cannot "be used to undermine a writer's credit or separated rights," that companies have to let writers know if material was generated using AI, that writers cannot be forced to use AI in their work, and that if a company uses writers' work to train AI, the WGA can determine that it is unlawful.

Zelda also asked that followers stop sending her impressions of her dad.

Robin and Zelda Williams at the Hollywood Film Festival's Awards Gala in 2006
s_bukley / Shutterstock

In the past, Zelda spoke out about another instance in which she was confronted with her dad's likeness, but in a different way. In 2021, Zelda asked that fans of Robin's stop sending her a video of actor named Jamie Costa doing an impression of the Good Will Hunting star. The video Costa created imagined Robin finding out about the death of his friend John Belushi while on the set of Mork & Mindy. So many people sent Zelda the video that she had to ask for it to stop.

"I've seen it. Jamie is SUPER talented, this isn't against him, but y'all spamming me an impression of my late Dad on one of his saddest days is weird," she wrote on Twitter (now X).

Zelda has also shared that it is hard to go on social media on the anniversary of Robin's death, because of the fan reaction. "As I've said in the past, while I am constantly touched by all of your boundless continued love for him, some days it can feel a bit like being seen as a roadside memorial—a place, not a person—where people drive past and leave their sentiments to then go about their days comforted their love for him was witnessed," she posted in August 2020 on the six-year anniversary of his passing.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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