Following a groundswell of support by fellow entertainers and others to Gabrielle Union's concerns about inappropriate conduct at "America's Got Talent," the show's producers and the union representing actors both say they will investigate.
"We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture," the production companies Fremantle and Syco and the show's network, NBC, said in a joint statement Sunday afternoon. "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."
Syco is series creator Simon Cowell's company. NBC and Fremantle previously had issued a statement saying they "take any issues on set seriously."
Also Sunday, the union SAG-AFTRA said in a statement it, too, takes "issues of workplace health and safety very seriously. We immediately reached out to Ms. Union's representatives when these reports came to light. It is our practice to work closely with members who reach out to us and their representatives in instances like this, as that usually affords the best protection and best resolution for the affected member."
The union went on to say any enforcement action is handled confidentially and not publicized unless the involved union member allows it to be, and that while investigative steps have been taken, there is as yet nothing to report.
Variety on Nov. 22 said Union and dancer-actress Julianne Hough, who had joined the talent competition this year as judges, had exited after only one season. The trade magazine four days later reported that the departures had come about as a result of a "toxic culture" at the show, including frequent notes about Union's hairstyle appearing too ethnic, and a racist stereotype in a joke by guest judge Jay Leno, which did not air.
Vulture.com added that judge and series creator Simon Cowell for years has smoked inside the theater where the show is recorded, defying California state law and orders by the fire marshal, and that the lack of walls between the drapery-separated dressing rooms exacerbated Union's allergy to cigarette smoke. As well, said the website, Union felt producers had rebuffed her attempts to ensure that drag performers were addressed by their preferred gender pronoun.
Neither Union nor Hough, who told Variety last week in a statement that she had had "a wonderful time" on the show, have commented publicly about the investigation announcements, though Union has tweeted thanks to supporters.
These have included such high-profile members of the entertainment industry as Patricia Arquette, Ariana Grande, Bebe Neuwirth, Bradley Whitford, Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright-actor-composer Lin-Manual Miranda and "Grey's Anatomy" star Ellen Pompeo. The latter, the highest-paid woman in a prime-time TV drama series, issued a series of strongly worded tweets that began, "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."