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HBO Takes Wait-and-See Approach With James Franco Allegations

HBO is taking a wait-and-see approach amid the swirl of allegations about inappropriate behavior leveled against James Franco, a star and producer on the cabler’s drama series “The Deuce.”

HBO said that it has reached out to key players on the show during its first season and found no instances of complaints or questionable behavior by Franco, and that there has been no change to his status on the show for Season 2, which begins production later this year. In a report published Thursday, Franco was accused of harassment and exploitive behavior by five women who came forward to the Los Angeles Times.

“Deuce” co-creator/exec producer David Simon reiterated in a statement that none of the producers nor HBO were aware of any issues with Franco, who plays twin brothers on the 1970s-set drama about the birth of the modern porn business. Franco also directed two episodes of “Deuce’s” first season.

“I’m still reading it the same as everyone else, trying to discern what is or isn’t there,” Simon told Variety in a statement. “Personally I can only speak knowledgeably to ‘The Deuce.’ I’ve checked with all my fellow producers and other personnel. We have no complainant or complaint or any awareness of any incident of concern involving Mr. Franco. Nor has HBO been approached with any complaint. In our experience, he was entirely professional as an actor, director, and producer.”

HBO is in a tricky spot with the Franco situation because of its swift decision last November to sever ties with comedian Louis C.K. after multiple women came forward with stories of sexual misconduct. C.K. ultimately acknowledged the truth of the women’s stories about C.K. exposing himself and asking to masturbate in front of them.

Franco, on the other hand, is denying the allegations, which include claims that he took advantage of young women who attended the acting classes that he led in New York and Los Angeles, until recently. Some students who were recruited from the classes to work in Franco-directed indie films shared experiences on sets that involved pressure to engage in sexually charged situations and expectations of nudity and simulated sexual acts.

HBO executives would not comment beyond Simon’s statement. Sources said executives are closely watching the response to the Times’ report. Franco’s future on the show likely hinges on whether more victims come forward with allegations of work-related misconduct.

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