×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ousted Paramount TV Chief Amy Powell Denies Making Racially Insensitive Comments

Former Paramount Television president Amy Powell has denied making racially insensitive comments that led to her being fired from the studio today after a 14-year run.

Paramount Pictures chairman Jim Gianopulos told studio staffers in a memo that Powell was terminated Thursday after complaints from other employees sparked an investigation into her remarks. Powell’s remarks were made last week in what the studio described as “a professional setting.”

A source with knowledge of the situation characterized her comments as racially charged in nature and related to Paramount Television’s adaptation of the 1996 comedy “First Wives Club” as a series for Paramount Network.

“Having spent the past several days conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and speaking to those who were present, our Human Resources and Legal teams came to the same conclusion, and we have made the decision to terminate Amy’s employment, effective immediately,” Gianopulos wrote. “While it is incredibly difficult to part ways with a valued member of our community, it is imperative that we uphold our values and ensure that all employees feel safe and included in the workplace.”

Powell strongly denies making inappropriate remarks and is understood to be considering legal action. Paramount declined to comment beyond Gianopulos’ memo.

“There is no truth to the allegation that I made insensitive comments in a professional setting — or in any setting,” Powell said in a statement. “The facts will come out and I will be vindicated.”

A source close to the situation said Paramount’s investigation found that Powell made statements about black women being angry for various reasons during a conference call about the “First Wives” series with producer Karen Rosenfelt and a handful of others. The group included an African-American assistant to another Paramount TV executive, who complained to studio leaders about Powell’s comments. Sources noted that Powell had appeared to have been irritated by a tweet sent June 28 by “First Wives” showrunner Tracy Oliver, who is African-American, criticizing the casting process on the show. Oliver was not a participant on the call.

When confronted with the accusation, Powell strongly denied making racially charged remarks, a source close to the situation said. Based on the results of its discussions with other participants on the call, Paramount made the call to fire one of its most prominent executives.

Powell was tapped in 2013 to head the studio’s re-entry into the television series production business. The studio had been out of the TV production arena since Viacom and CBS were split into separate entities in January 2006. Five years ago, then-Paramount chief Brad Grey decided to revive the production banner headed by a rising-star feature executive. She ran Paramount’s digital operations and its InSurge low-budget movie banner for two years before being tapped to revive TV.

Powell revved up activity with series based on IP from the Paramount vaults as well as new shows for Netflix (“13 Reasons Why,” “Maniac,” “F is for Family”) and Amazon (“Jack Ryan”) and high-end drama for TNT (“The Alienist”). For Hulu, Paramount is doing a starry remake of “Catch-22,” toplined by George Clooney. Other Paramount TV series include Nickelodeon’s “School of Rock,” Freeform’s “Girl Code,” Epix’s “Berlin Station,” and Audience Network’s “Condor.”

Powell has been well-regarded as a creative executive by her colleagues; she’s also known to be highly ambitious career-wise. Her name has been mentioned for recent high-profile job openings amid the Peak TV boom. News of her firing came as a shock to co-workers and in the creative community.

In Powell’s absence, Paramount TV will steered by Paramount COO Andrew Gumpert. Mireille Soria, Brian Robbins, and Wyck Godfrey — heads of Paramount Animation, Paramount Players, and Paramount Motion Picture Group, respectively — will provide “creative input” as needed, Gianopulos said.

Here is Gianopulos’ full memo:

Last week, multiple individuals came to us to raise concerns around comments made by Amy Powell in a professional setting, which they believed were inconsistent with our company’s values.  Having spent the past several days conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and speaking to those who were present, our Human Resources and Legal teams came to the same conclusion, and we have made the decision to terminate Amy’s employment, effective immediately.

Amy has made lasting contributions to Paramount in her 14 years with the company, including building a world-class team at Paramount TV.  While it is incredibly difficult to part ways with a valued member of our community, it is imperative that we uphold our values and ensure that all employees feel safe and included in the workplace.

We will begin immediately looking for Amy’s replacement. In the interim, Andrew Gumpert, Paramount’s Chief Operating Officer, will provide operational support and Mireille Soria, Brian Robbins and Wyck Godfrey — Presidents of Paramount Animation, Paramount Players and Paramount Motion Picture Group, respectively — will provide creative input, where needed, to the incredibly talented Paramount TV team, which is very well-placed to continue the incredible growth of this division.

Importantly, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the type of company and culture we’re committed to building at Paramount. It’s one of inclusion, honesty and accountability – where diversity is critical to ensuring that all ideas, backgrounds and perspectives are embraced and respected. 

We will continue this conversation in smaller groups and on a companywide scale in the coming months and, in the meantime, I want us to take stock of where we are and explore what more we can do to foster a safe, supportive and inclusive workplace. Through direct engagement and an open dialogue, my hope is that we can undertake this progress together, in an environment where each and every one of our employees feels heard and valued. 

Thank you for your continued hard work and ongoing contributions to this effort.

Best,

Jim

More TV

  • david-tennant-in-netflix-procedural-criminal

    David Tennant, Hayley Atwell Among Guest Stars in Netflix Procedural ‘Criminal’

    A host of guest stars have signed on for “Criminal,” the stripped-down Netflix procedural set in France, Spain, Germany and the U.K. The action takes place within the confines of a police interview suite. There are three 45-minute episodes set in each country. Guest stars in the British installments include David Tennant (“Good Omens”), Hayley [...]

  • Baztan Elizondo Guardián Invisible

    Conecta Fiction: Spain’s Navarre Primes Film-TV Gameplan

    MADRID  — Navarre has been a long-term film and TV shooting locale thanks to diverse and sometimes stunning landscapes that take in the Bardenas Reales badlands, immortalized in titles such as “The World Is Not Enough” and “Game of Thrones.” One of Spain’s richest regions, Navarre has historically levied its own tax regime, which led [...]

  • Jeremy Sisto, Ebonee Noel, Dick Wolf,

    Dick Wolf Plots Cross-Network Crossover Between CBS, NBC

    Veteran television producer Dick Wolf, best known for creating the “Law & Order” franchise, is eyeing a cross-network crossover between his CBS freshman procedural “FBI” or its in-the-works spinoff “FBI: Most Wanted” and one of his NBC shows, such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” or “Chicago P.D.” The decision whether to go with [...]

  • Prince Albert II of Monaco (C),

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union's 'L.A.’s Finest' Opens Monte Carlo TV Festival

    Prince Albert II of Monaco opened the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival on Friday at a glittering ceremony at the principality’s Grimaldi Forum attended by Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. The Hollywood actresses presented the French premiere of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest,” which has just been renewed for a second season. “You typically [...]

  • Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba'L.A.'s Finest'

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union Speak About Horrific 'L.A.’s Finest' On-Set Accident

    Actresses Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba spoke about how the horrific accident on the set of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest” affected them and the crew at the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival Saturday. They also paid tribute to the main victim of the incident, executive producer/co-showrunner Brandon Sonnier, whose leg was amputated below [...]

  • Emmys: How a Social Media Campaign

    How a Social Media Campaign to Game the Emmys Led to This Week's 'Block Voting' Scandal

    The Television Academy’s “block voting” controversy has quickly become the talk of Emmy season — and that appears to have been the org’s point. According to multiple insiders, the number of people disqualified from voting in this year’s competition is believed to be small, only around three members (out of nearly 25,000 members overall). But [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content