1:27pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Fired 'Lethal Weapon' Star Clayne Crawford Claims He Was Blackmailed, Set Up to Fail
Clayne Crawford is proving that the drama behind the scenes on Lethal Weapon might be more compelling than anything the Fox procedural could do onscreen.
In his first interview since being fired from the Warner Bros. TV-produced Fox drama, Crawford opened up about the events that led to his dismissal in a nearly two-hour podcast with longtime friend and Drinkin' Bros. host Ross Patterson.
In the expletive-riddled conversation, the actor starts by admitting that he believed the initial story about his bad behavior on set — which was published the day he started directing his first episode — would eventually blow over. Crawford explains — multiple times — that he and co-star Damon Wayans never wanted to do Lethal Weapon and that both had issues with one another. Crawford also notes that he felt the studio set him up to fail by allowing him to direct an episode in season two after he threatened to quit the drama after its freshman run.
"I was only ... able to direct an episode of season two because I did not want to come back for season two," Crawford says. "It was such a shit show season one, I felt like I had been lied to — they told me Damon was so excited."
Crawford also challenges multiple press reports about his behavior — as well as many of Wayans' tweets about the drama on set — while claiming he was being blackmailed to keep quiet about his issues with his co-star and the overall production as many people on set had audio tapes of him screaming at a first assistant director (who quit that day).
"That's a blatant fucking lie," he says of a report that indicates he was yelling at children near the set to be quiet so production on the episode he was directing could resume. "Clearly, I'm yelling at Newman, the [first AD and] guy whose job it is to get the set quiet. Did I make a poor choice? Absolutely. I felt embarrassed in the moment because I was belligerent, I was so angry. We'd been shooting a three-page scene for eight hours. We were so behind and we continued to try to shoot through all this noise. We stopped production over seven times. I called my agents, was writing emails, called everyone to try to resolve situation. No one would come in and help us."
Crawford repeatedly name-checks Warner Bros. Television president Peter Roth, whom he claims he asked for help in dealing with disgruntled star Wayans and what he says was an unwillingness to come to table reads or to set on multiple occasions. Crawford also notes that when the reports of his behavior first surfaced, he asked Roth how he could allow Wayans to "put this slander shit out there." That's when Roth, he says, encouraged Crawford to apologize to his co-star in a bid to save his job.
Crawford was fired from Fox's Lethal Weapon reboot in May after multiple reports of incidents of bad behavior on set. The actor apologized for two incidents for which he was reprimanded during the sophomore season.
In his apology, Crawford detailed the two incidents that ultimately led to his eventual firing. He said the first happened when he became angry with what he deemed unsafe working conditions. After the outburst, Crawford said at the time that he met with human resources, apologized for his role in the conflict and completed studio-appointed therapy, while also sharing a "sizable portion" of his paycheck with one of the parties involved — at Warners' request. In his podcast conversation, Crawford says his outburst came after Wayans — who is a Jehovah's Witness — refused to shoot inside a church. The production found out about it the day of the shoot and was forced to pivot and reconstruct the set on the show's soundstage.
"This kind of shit would come up all the time and I'd go and complain. Once they had that tape [of Crawford screaming at Newman], anytime I complained they'd say this will come out and it will ruin your career," the actor recalls. "When the incident happened, I had to pay half my salary for that episode. I had to spend six weeks in anger management every day on my lunch break and had to be escorted from my trailer on set by a security guard. It was humiliating."
The second incident occurred during an episode Crawford was directing when Wayans felt unsafe after being hit by a piece of shrapnel from an effect. Crawford notes that Wayans apologized to him after an unruly season one when the duo were in Paris promoting the show, but that tension remained between the onscreen partners. He thought Wayans would come back excited for season two, but that never happened and he continued to be miserable. Crawford notes that he was told Wayans wanted to do Lethal Weapon but eventually learned that the latter had pitched Roth a different show for his return from acting retirement. Instead, tension continued between them, and Wayans called in sick on one of the first days of the episode shoot that marked Crawford's directing debut.
"He comes back to work the next day and was shooting hoops and says, 'Come on, bro, everybody needed a day off,'" Crawford says, adding: "Not to get physical in that moment, to think he cost me a day…" The following day, Wayans was struck with shrapnel during a scene in which Crawford was directing. That's when Crawford notes that Wayans begin telling people that he was being targeted. "He started saying people should be fired," Crawford says.
Wayans went home for the day and Crawford — who says that guys have cut themselves worse shaving than the injury Wayans sustained — recalls a producer on set having a picture of Wayans blown up as a "get well soon" card and asking the entire crew to sign it. "He was blaming others when it was a ricochet. To go around and ask us to sign a get-well card? That was the show," says Crawford. "I've worked with A-list stars and have never seen anyone treat someone the way they treated him: They'd reward his extremely poor behavior constantly, which only fueled the fire."
An investigation into the incident followed and producers found there was no wrongdoing. "When Damon left that day, he said, 'I won't hold a gun, you can't point a gun at me, I'm not running, jumping or doing stunts anymore because I don't trust you and I don't trust [the VFX and stunt team]," Crawford says. "I called [showrunner] Matt Miller. … I called the head of Warner Bros. and said, 'You've got to help me, he's left the set again. That's two days.' He [presumably Roth] goes, 'You wanted to direct, direct. I'll worry about the actors.'"
Crawford says he attempted to write Wayans out of the stunt scenes when he told Miller and Roth that he felt the actor was "sabotaging my episode." Miller and Roth objected and Wayans remained in the scene. However, Crawford says he still refused to hold a gun, run down stairs or even squat for a scene and deferred those to his stunt double. Crawford then recounts a conversation with Wayans when the duo was shooting a scene in a car together.
"We get into the car and I looked at him and said, 'You're a pussy,'" Crawford says, telling Wayans that his 6-year-old son could have "taken a better hit" than he did. "I was so disappointed in him. I just didn't know where else to go. I'd been putting up with this bullshit for two years. … He just sabotaged everything and did it in a very passive-aggressive way."
The conversation then turned to insults, with Crawford recalling telling Wayans that he was "only famous because of [brother] Keenan. That's when things got heated and he told me to suck his pussy dick. … I ripped his ass. I told him that we could bring Steve Harvey in from the Family Feud today and the audience would embrace it. I told him we could bring fucking Keenen out of retirement. Shit, we could take Damon Jr. — who is a great guy and a great actor. … I ripped his ass because I'd had enough. I had to tell him what I thought of him and that he's a waste of space and that nobody cares."
Warners opted to fire Crawford after he was disciplined each time for his poor behavior and did nothing to change. Instead, the studio aggressively pursued a number of actors to step in rather than take a large financial blow by ending the show prematurely. Fox never had the option to renew the series with Crawford attached. Star Wayans — after the series was officially renewed with a new actor, Seann William Scott, joining the cast as the new co-lead — went so far as to share graphic video of his issues with Crawford.
"We called Damon 'LEE' — 'Lazy Entitled Elitist.' That was his nickname on set. He didn't want to be there," Crawford says, pondering if Warners billed the show as if it would be something else to get both actors to sign on.
"I didn't think they were going to get rid of me. And if they did, I thought they'd give me a buzz. 'We feel like this is the Damon Wayans show and people just don't like you so go the fuck back to Alabama you dumb hick and thanks for playing," Crawford says, noting he found out about his firing from the show via social media and the press and has yet to get a call from Warners. "They were hoping they were giving me enough rope to hang myself. The fact that I had success as a director I think infuriated them."
Crawford also recalls tension with showrunner Miller since the pilot, when he wanted to lean in to Riggs' emotional journey with support from director McG instead of focusing on the scripts and stunts.
Ultimately, Crawford blames the lack of leadership for what happened on set. "Actors and artists are fucking lunatics and that's why they build soundstages and put us all on it because it's a circus and you gotta keep it under the tent," he says. "The leadership failed us on this show. [And] the fact that there's no investigation about what really went on. … I frustrated them constantly, whether how I wanted to do stunts or rewrite material. I wanted to bring truth to it and a tiny bit of integrity. And these guys wanted it to be a zing zing show. Like Damon said, he just wanted to have fun."
As for whether he plans to watch season three, Crawford says he has no intention of watching anything on Fox — including Thursday Night Football. "I won't watch Fox for the simple fact that they made a statement that we didn't have anything to do with this," he says. "I sent emails saying shit is about to come down and we need to get in a room and have a conversation and nobody returned my emails or called me."
For his part, Wayans told reporters that season three is "definitely a lot lighter in tone and we're having fun — on and off set," while wishing Crawford "the best." "Onward and upward for everybody."
Warner Bros. TV declined comment.
Lethal Weapon returns Sept. 25 on Fox.