Womens’ advocacy group Time’s Up and numerous top stars are sending messages of support to Gabrielle Union, following accounts of a toxic culture on the set of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” from which she was dismissed last week.
The outpour comes on the heels of an exclusive report from Variety that Union would not return to the show after her first year as a judge, and a subsequent report about a string of complaints she made regarding insensitivities to minorities throughout the past season.
Time’s Up, a legal defense fund and equity organization formed in wake of the #MeToo movement, publicly thanked Union for “speaking up for what’s right.”
Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette called the incidents uncovered in reports “terrible,:” saying the host “should not be penalized for trying to have a workplace that honors the rule of law in the workplace.” Arquette also called on actors union SAG-AFTRA to intervene.
Union has been a SAG-AFTRA member for decades. In addition to toxicity issues reported by Variety, a Vulture story detailed a months-long struggle Union had with Cowell over his indoor cigarette smoking, which is against California law. Union is reportedly allergic to cigarette smoke and escalated the problem to the production fire marshal. Representatives for SAG-AFTRA did not immediately return Variety‘s request for comment on Arquette’s tweet.
Ellen Pompeo, star of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” sent out scathing tweets that alluded to larger cultural issues at NBC.
“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,” Pompeo said, adding that she supports Union’s “commitment to speaking up to injustice. It takes courage.”
Pompeo admitted that “Grey’s Anatomy” has had its share of on-set turmoil over the years, but “exec producers and the NETWORK @abc cared enough to help us make change – support is crucial.”
Notably, Pompeo asserted that “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.”
Union herself spoke out on Wednesday night. “So many tears, so much gratitude. Thank you! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone… you got me up off the ground,” Union tweeted in response to the words of support. “Humbled and thankful, forever.”
Among the incidents Variety reported on, citing multiple sources with close knowledge of the series, was an offensive on-camera joke told by guest star Jay Leno that Union asked to be escalated to NBC human resources. Widely seen by people present as insensitive to Asian communities, many of the sources Variety spoke with said the matter went unreported. Union was also given constant notes that her rotating hairstyles were “too black” for the competition series’ audience, four people with knowledge of the critique told Variety.
Read the full report about Union and “AGT” here.