Les Moonves Dominates Party Chatter at Emmy Weekend Events

Talk of the ousted CBS chief proved inescapable as industry insiders huddled to exchange opinions.
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Les Moonves

The days leading up to Hollywood’s biggest awards shows are designed to be celebratory affairs with packed party itineraries, DJs, drivers and thousands of cases of chilled champagne ready to go. But this year’s pre-Emmy events will likely be remembered less for what was said during raised-glass toasts and more for what was being whispered about in quiet corners at parties all over town.

Talk of Les Moonves proved inescapable as industry insiders huddled to exchange opinions about the exit of the CBS chairman and CEO who resigned Sept. 9 following back-to-back New Yorker investigations by Ronan Farrow that detailed sexual misconduct and harassment accusations from a dozen women. Conversations ranged from how to reconcile the latest #MeToo bombshell, to who knew what when and what happens now.

CBS did not have any Emmy events on the calendar but network subsidiary Showtime celebrated its 21 nominations Sunday night at Chateau Marmont. Interviews were off-limits for reporters who attended and the red carpet was limited to photographers only, a change from previous years. Multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that publicists have been circulating talking points for actors and television creatives to help them hit the right notes while navigating the tricky red carpets on a high-pressure awards show weekend.

On Friday night at THR's Emmy Nominees Night party at Avra in Beverly Hills, Homeland star and Emmy nominee Mandy Patinkin stopped for an interview on the red carpet and did what many high-profile stars are doing these days — he declined to address the situation, telling a THR reporter, “I’m not here to talk about that tonight.” While some stars have chosen to skip red-carpet interviews altogether to avoid the crush, others did go on the record. 

Sophia Bush, who just signed on earlier this month to star in the spy drama Surveillance for CBS, told THR that she was aware of the Moonves claims before taking a meeting at the network. “I was given a little bit of information upon deciding to go and pitch there, before it had hit the press about the exit, about the denial of severance, about the donation to Time’s Up,” she explained. “Those are things that made me say, ‘OK, change is coming.’ At the end of the day, the unfortunate reality is that there isn't a network, a studio, or a company that hasn't been tarnished by behavior like this. What I look for is a group of people who say that we're drawing a hard line in the sand, and we want to make a change. The powers that be over there, who I respect, and I feel respected by, said to me, ‘We want to redefine this network. We want to do it with your show. We want to do it with other programming. We want to change from the top down.’ I went, ‘OK, you're making hard commitments to do that.’ That to me, is what I want to see.”

At the TV Academy’s Performer Nominee Reception on Saturday night, nominee John Leguizamo praised Stephen Colbert’s recent comments on Moonves. “I want to geek out on Stephen Colbert, because I feel like his opening monologues are just giving me hope. Oh wow, [his Les Moonves material] was daring and brave, and the ballsiest thing [laughs] that I’ve ever seen anybody do,” he told THR. “That could have been a trap door for Stephen, so that was the craziest thing that I’ve ever seen. But I mean, that’s who Stephen is; he’s his own man, in so many ways."

Actress Amber Stevens West, who has a CBS show titled Happy Together premiering next month, said at the EW party that “no one deserves to work in an environment where they feel unsafe.” 

“It’s nice that the network is taking that very seriously and they’re adjusting it,” continued the actress, who is currently pregnant with a girl. “It’s the perfect time [to have a daughter]. There’s no shame in being a woman. We have a lot more power than we’ve ever had.”

Transparent star Trace Lysette, who went on the record with THR last year with claims of sexual harassment she experienced working with Jeffrey Tambor on the series, says the Moonves story represents another chapter in the #MeToo movement, which is “still in full swing.” She continued: “We have a lot more to take care of. Everyone is forever changed, I hope, for the better, and it’s so much bigger than any one show. It’s about the next generation of women, and what they will not have to put up with, hopefully.”

–Reporting by Scott Huver and Jenna Marotta