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Thomas Gibson, fired on Friday after an altercation on the set of his CBS drama Criminal Minds, has hired a top Los Angeles law firm to pursue possible legal claims against the show’s producers.
Skip Miller, a prominent litigator with experience in entertainment industry disputes, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that he and partner Sasha Frid have begun representing Gibson and are evaluating whether to pursue legal claims. Miller, Frid and other attorneys at the Miller Barondess firm are set to meet with their client early next week. Miller declined to comment further.
The move comes as new details emerge from the fracas on the long-running CBS procedural and of Gibson’s sometimes contentious relationship with his cast and crew.
Gibson, 54, was terminated by producers ABC Studios and CBS Television Studios after allegedly kicking writer-producer Virgil Williams in the shins during an on-set argument more than two weeks ago. Gibson, who stars on Criminal Minds and was directing an episode written by Williams, is said to have disagreed with Williams about a creative choice, and the argument escalated to a physical fight. (A source close to Gibson describes his actions as “self-defense” because Williams trains as a boxer, but other sources say Williams is known to be a non-aggressive presence on the set and is small in stature.) The incident was witnessed by several Criminal Minds producers, including showrunner Erica Messer.
After the altercation, Williams, who is known to wear a bow tie and blazer to work, filed a formal complaint with human resources representatives for the studios and sat for an extensive interview. (Howard Davine, executive vp for ABC Studios, which is the lead producer on the show, is said to be playing a key role in the internal investigation.) Gibson, who has been with the drama for 12 years, was suspended for two episodes and another director was brought in to finish the episode he was helming. A day after news of the suspension became public, Gibson was let go. Neither Messer, Davine nor ABC Studios or CBS Studios would comment, but the language in the statement announcing his dismissal lacked the usual Hollywood sugarcoating. “Thomas Gibson has been dismissed from Criminal Minds,” CBS and the studios said Friday in a joint statement. “Creative details for how the character’s exit will be addressed in the show will be announced at a later date.”
Gibson, who is said to have made about $5 million to star on the show last season, issued his own statement Friday in which he said he loved Criminal Minds but declined to apologize for any bad behavior. Instead, he said, “I had hoped to see it through to the end, but that won’t be possible now. I would just like to say thank you to the writers, producers, actors, our amazing crew, and most importantly, the best fans a show could ever hope to have.”
It’s unclear what claims, if any, Gibson might pursue against the studios or CBS. In 2011, Charlie Sheen sued Warner Bros. Television and writer-producer Chuck Lorre for $100 million over his dismissal from the hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men after repeated erratic behavior. In the suit, Sheen alleged he had “suffered the intangible loss of employment-related opportunities,” among other claims, from his termination. (The case settled.) In a key difference from the Gibson matter, Sheen was not accused of physical abuse.
In 2012, ABC Studios went to trial with Nicollette Sheridan, who claimed she was wrongfully terminated from Desperate Housewives when she complained about physical abuse at the hand of showrunner Marc Cherry. That case is still winding its way through the appeals courts.
Gibson, who first became a TV star on ABC’s Dharma and Greg before starring as an original castmember when Criminal Minds launched in 2005, has had on-set dustups before. In 2010, he was ordered to attend anger management therapy after he allegedly shoved assistant director Ian Woolf during a location shoot. Sources close to the show say there have been other incidents of verbal abuse by the actor, who is said to have a short fuse and a low tolerance for disagreement on the set. Gibson had a contentious relationship with Criminal Minds co-star Shemar Moore, who left the series after last season. Gibson, who tightly scheduled his duties on Criminal Minds so he could fly home to his family in San Antonio, often was upset by Moore showing up late to work. In 2013, Gibson pleaded no contest to reckless driving after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
The ABC-CBS investigation is said to be ongoing, and producers and castmembers are said to be expressing support for Williams. But as part of the probe, Williams’ role in the altercation also will be dissected, as will Gibson’s history of on-set relations. And if Gibson does decide to file a legal claim against the studios, Williams and other cast and crew members likely would be deposed.
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