A Los Angeles judge has dismissed a movie extra’s claims that he was subjected to harassment and discrimination by Marlon Wayans, in a case that centered on a tweet in which Wayans compared the actor to the “Family Guy” character Cleveland Brown.
In the tweet from Sept. 4, 2013, Wayans posted a picture of the “Family Guy” character along with a photo of Pierre Daniel, who was appearing in “Haunted House 2.” Wayans wrote, “Tell me this nigga don’t look like… THIS NIGGA!!! Ol cleveland Brown ass lookin @ahhmovie 2 @whatthefunny I’m hurtin!”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rafael Ongkeko dismissed Daniel’s claims, writing that the actor “has not shown that the various statements and actions attributed to Wayans unreasonably interfered with his work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
Noting that both Wayans and Daniel are African-Americans, Ongkeko wrote that Wayans’ statements were protected forms of speech in the creation of a film project. Daniel complained not just about the Twitter posts, but about what he maintained was ridicule by Wayans during breaks and about how the comic referred to him as “Cleveland Brown.” He claimed that Wayans and the production company making the movie declined to offer him other employment after he complained.
Ongkeko, however, wrote that the “creation of the Cleveland character through plaintiff, and all positive or negative statements and conduct that may arguably come with it, was part of improvisational humor, both on and off camera that both advanced and assisted the exercise of free speech.”
Although Daniel also sued over misappropriation of likeness, Ongkeko wrote that a waiver that Daniel signed was broad enough to include Wayans’ right to photograph him and include it in the tweet.
“I am grateful that the judge upheld our constitutional rights of free speech,” Wayans said in a statement. “It’s the First Amendment and probably the most important for a comedian. This is also a stride toward protecting public figures from often bogus claims and lawsuits. I am grateful. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna go watch reruns of ‘The Cleveland Show.’”
Wayans was represented by William Briggs and Celeste Brecht of Venable.
Adam Reisner, representing Daniel, did not immediately return a request for comment.