The surprising TV scandal that’s dividing Hollywood
Tuesday - 03/12/2019 20:39
Some of TV’s biggest names are weighing in on reports of shocking behaviour behind the scenes of a family-friendly talent show.
Former America’s Got Talent judge Gabrielle Union’s abrupt departure from the hit TV talent show has become a topic of fierce debate in Hollywood, with stars weighing in on both sides.
It was announced last week that former Bring It On star Union, 47, and fellow judge Julianne Hough were both leaving the show after just one season.
Variety reported that Union was forced out because she spoke out against the alleged “toxic” workplace culture at the NBC singing show, including protesting at the use of racially insensitive jokes and performances, and attempting to get fellow judge Simon Cowell to stop smoking on set.
Union’s outspoken criticism of the culture on set earned her a reputation as “difficult” that directly led to her firing after only a year, the Variety report alleged.
IN UNION’S CORNER
Several high-profile stars have come out in support of Union, among them Will and Grace actress Debra Messing, who slammed NBC, the home of her own hit sitcom. “This is disgusting behaviour from a network that has been my professional home for decades. Yes, women become ‘difficult,’ when their insistence on a respectful and professional working environment, is ignored,” she tweeted.
“Addressing a hostile work environment is inconvenient when there is a huge money making machine that is involved. It is cowardice, greed, and protection of the status quo revealed. Being ‘hands off,’ is inexcusable and reflects a laissez faire attitude toward systemic racism and sexism.”
Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo also slammed the network for their handling of Union’s complaints:
It’s unfortunate that @nbc the same network that protected disgusting men like Matt Lauer and punished women for speaking out or not putting up with it...has not changed their practices or culture. I support @itsgabrielleu commitment to speaking up to injustice. It takes courage
this is a teaching moment..It’s important..white girls I’m talking to you..whether you truly understand what racial injustice is or not..that you stand with your sisters on the front lines. Don’t cut side deals & don’t not get involved because it isn’t your issue..because it is
Workplace cultures will continue to be toxic until there is unity and solidarity among all women. If you go for self in these moments you undermine the work we are out here trying to do. Obviously this network feels like they can operate like this and it’s okay.
Former Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria also publicly supported Union, calling her treatment “unacceptable”:
‘I DIDN’T GET LET GO’
Some of the criticisms levelled at America’s Got Talent in the wake of Union’s axing regard the treatment of women on the show, which has churned through multiple female judges while male judges Howie Mandel and Simon Cowell stayed put.
Indeed, Union’s departure from the show came at the same time as fellow judge Julianne Hough left — but Hough denied her departure was a result of the workplace environment described in the same report from Variety.
Sharon Osbourne was a judge on America’s Got Talent for six seasons until 2012 — and this week revealed that her experiences did not square with Union’s.
“It’s hard. Everybody’s experience on a show is different, and I was at that show for six years. I didn’t get let go. I left.”
“I left. And that’s the truth. I left because of NBC, not because of the show. I had my own problems with the network. I don’t know about any of her concerns about the show,” she said.
“Obviously, there wasn’t anybody of colour on the panel when I was there. So, I honestly can’t say. But when I was there it was, you know, a great show to work on.”
“America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”
“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” the joint statement continued. “We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.”
Union last week broke her public silence about the scandal, thanking her supporters and revealing she had felt “lost, adrift, alone”:
So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone... you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever ❤