Sexual Harassment Claim Gets Another Actor Fired

15 Feb, 2018

It’s official: Jeffrey Tambor will not be returning to Amazon Studios’ Transparent in the wake of sexual harassment claims and a subsequent internal investigation by the retail and streaming giant.

Amazon confirmed the news Thursday, noting that it had completed its internal investigation into the Emmy-winning actor. Tambor will have no role in the forthcoming season of the Jill Soloway critical darling.

“I have great respect and admiration for Van Barnes and Trace Lysette, whose courage in speaking out about their experience on Transparent is an example of the leadership this moment in our culture requires,” Soloway said Thursday in a statement. “We are grateful to the many trans people who have supported our vision for Transparent since its inception and remain heartbroken about the pain and mistrust their experience has generated in our community. We are taking definitive action to ensure our workplace respects the safety and dignity of every individual, and are taking steps to heal as a family.”
“I am profoundly disappointed in Amazon’s handling of these false accusations against me,” Tambor said in a statement Thursday evening. “I am even more disappointed in Jill Soloway’s unfair characterization of me as someone who would ever cause harm to any of my fellow cast mates. In our four-year history of working together on this incredible show, these accusations have NEVER been revealed or discussed directly with me or anyone at Amazon. Therefore, I can only surmise that the investigation against me was deeply flawed and biased toward the toxic politicized atmosphere that afflicted our set. As I have consistently stated, I deeply regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone and I will continue to vehemently defend myself. I also deeply regret that this ground-breaking show, which changed so many lives, is now in jeopardy. That, to me, is the biggest heartbreak.”
The news comes after a November statement from Tambor, who faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment, in which he said he didn’t “see how I can return to Transparent.”
At the time, sources told The Hollywood Reporter that while Tambor hinted that he was leaving Transparent, he never outright said he was exiting the show. Amazon Studios, which owns and produces the Soloway series, had been investigating the actor and has now made its official decision that he will not have any role in the show’s upcoming fifth season.

Transparent castmember Lysette previously told THR that Tambor sexually harassed her on multiple occasions, claiming he “got physical” in one instance. After the alleged physical assault, which took place on set, Lysette said she felt like she was being targeted and sexually harassed by Tambor. Working with the actor “has been a roller coaster. One minute Jeffrey is lovely, the next it’s a temper tantrum or flirtation,” she said. (Tambor, in a statement, acknowledged that he can be “volatile and ill-tempered” to work with, “but I have never been a predator — ever.”)

Lysette was the second transgender actress to go public with misconduct allegations against Tambor. His former assistant, transgender actress Van Barnes, accused the actor of behaving in a sexually inappropriate manner in a private social media post. Amazon immediately launched an investigation into the Transparent star on Nov. 8. At the time, Soloway told THR, “Anything that would diminish the level of respect, safety and inclusion so fundamental to our workplace is completely antithetical to our principles. We are cooperating with the investigation into this matter.”

The Transparent writing staff, sources say, began reworking the upcoming fifth season following news of the first allegation against Tambor as the series mulled refocusing the show without its star. The show was renewed for a fifth cycle ahead of season four’s debut. The new season was set to begin production and premiere this year.

Here is Tambor’s original statement, in which he hinted at his exit:

“Playing Maura Pfefferman on Transparent has been one of the greatest privileges and creative experiences of my life. What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago. I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue. Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent.”

When speaking with THR ahead of season four, co-star Alexandra Billings, who also supported Lysette’s claims, acknowledged that Tambor, a cis man, would never have been cast in the lead transgender role if the show had launched in 2017. “There would be a backlash unlike anything,” said the transgender actress and activist. “Anytime it happens, those projects go away. There have been two movies that have come out with cis people in the lead playing trans people, and they disappeared. So first of all, that speaks to our power. And second of all, that speaks to the fact that the consciousness in America is changing.”

For her part, Lysette had a recurring role on Transparent‘s first three seasons and played Shea, a friend and mentor to the transgender matriarch Pfefferman. Lysette was prominently featured in a groundbreaking one-episode role and promoted on season four with the rest of the cast. When going public with her allegations, she had asked that Amazon remove Tambor but let Transparent and its trans-affirmative action mission go on: “It’s vital that the show’s creator, showrunner and its studio re-center the narrative of Transparent on the experiences of the other trans characters and family members audiences have grown to love on the series.”

Before the allegations against Tambor, creator Soloway had spoken about a multiple-season plan, even joking about going on for 10 years. “[The Pfeffermans] give birth to so much and I really do feel like they are just getting started. Maura is definitely just getting started,” the showrunner, who now identifies as gender non-binary, said when speaking with THR about the influence the semi-autobiographical comedy has had on their own self-discovery.

Soloway’s Transparent put Amazon on the map as the streamer’s third original scripted series and went on to critical praise. Tambor won two Emmys for his groundbreaking portrayal as a 70-year-old who comes out as a transgender woman to her family. The actor’s scandal puts Amazon in a role similar to Netflix and its House of Cards, with the latter firing star Kevin Spacey after multiple sexual assault allegations against the actor.

The Tambor allegations are the latest controversy to hit Amazon Studios. The streaming outlet parted ways with head Roy Price after The Man in the High Castle executive producer Isa Dick Hackett went public with her sexual harassment allegations against the company’s top-ranking scripted exec. Amazon Studios went on to cut ties with head of drama and comedy Joe Lewis after conflict-of-interest allegations, and Price’s close friend and head of unscripted Conrad Riggs also departed.

Soloway, meanwhile, is under a lucrative overall deal with Amazon Studios and re-upped the pact for another three years, which is set to run through 2021. Under the deal, Soloway created the comedy I Love Dick, which was canceled last year after one season.

The news of Tambor’s firing comes days after Amazon Studios hired NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke to replace Price.

Deadline was first to report Tambor’s exit.

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