Actress and one-season judge on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” (AGT) Gabrielle Union will not return to the show after being let go on November 22, but she did retain attorney Bryan Freedman last week so that she can help “to improve the culture and atmosphere on the competition series,” Deadline reported today (December 3).
The culture in question revolved around Union being told that her hair choices were “too Black” for “AGT,” along with never-aired, racially offensive jokes about Asians that guest Jay Leno supposedly made, Variety first reported on November 26.
“Gabrielle believes there is a toxicity that has become normalized at ‘Talent,’” Deadline reported. “She wants to help fix that, because she loved a lot of her time on the show last season, even with the issues with Simon and what have you. But she could never go back, even if they did a  and asked her to for another season–no.”
Union’s exit also caught the attention of SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents media professionals, who told USA Today that they will conduct an independent investigation into her claims. Supporters, including Eva Longoria, Lin- Manuel Miranda, Ellen Pompeo, Yara Shahidi and Shonda Rhimes, have come out publicly to say they have her back. Union tweeted her appreciation on November 27, writing that “just when you feel lost, adrift, alone… you got me up off the ground.”
Time’s Up released an online petition in support, writing, “Union reportedly endured and witnessed racially-insensitive comments and excessive criticism about her physical appearance, and it also appears she was punished for speaking out.”
On Sunday, Deadline reported that the network and producers Fremantle and Simon Cowell’s Syco wrote in a statement, “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. 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.”
The meeting between Union and “AGT” is set to take place this week to determine those next steps. Union is said to also be leaning towards a public inclusion effort from NBC and “AGT” and a reconfiguration of the internal communication and oversight structure.
What @gabunion experienced on set at @NBC’s #AmericasGotTalent is unacceptable. It’s time for @NBCUniversal to commit to long-term, concrete action to fix its toxic workplace culture and ensure safety and equity for all its workers. Add your name through @timesupnow Instagram story. #TimeUp on the imbalance of power. ✊?
A post shared by Eva Longoria Baston (@evalongoria) on Dec 2, 2019 at 12:18pm PST
I’m with @itsgabrielleu. @NBCUniversal: Discrimination, harassment & retaliation have no place on #AmericasGotTalent or any workplace. I’m joining @TIMESUPNOW in calling on NBC’s leadership to take concrete and long-term action to fix its toxic culture.https://t.co/IBSQMBTHi8— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) December 2, 2019
this is a teaching moment..It’s important..white girls I’m talking to you..whether you truly understand what racial injustice is or not..that you stand with your sisters on the front lines. Don’t cut side deals & don’t not get involved because it isn’t your issue..because it is— Ellen Pompeo (@EllenPompeo) November 28, 2019
Team @itsgabrielleu, always.— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) November 28, 2019
We ❤️ you! https://t.co/brA4x3CVNh— Yara shahidi (@YaraShahidi) November 29, 2019