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Entertainment One, the studio behind ABC’s cop drama The Rookie, says an investigation into allegations made by Afton Williamson about a hostile environment on set found no “unlawful” behavior by the people that the actress said harassed her.
Williamson (The Night Of, Banshee), who starred on the Nathan Fillion-led series’ first season, announced in July that she wouldn’t be returning. The actress wrote in an Instagram post in early August that she was the target of “racially charged inappropriate comments” from the show’s hair department and executive producers and that she was sexually harassed by recurring actor Demetrius Grosse.
Williamson also alleged that she told showrunner Alexi Hawley about the issues, but Hawley never relayed her concerns to human resources. She also said the show’s hair department head sexually assaulted her at the season-one wrap party.
“This season on The Rookie, I was sexually harassed by fellow actor Demetrius Grosse,” Williamson wrote on Instagram. “I was racially bullied and discriminated against and sexually assaulted by Hair Department Head Sally Nicole Ciganovich.”
In a statement, Entertainment One said it hired law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, which in turn engaged third-party firm EXTTI to conduct the investigation. After 400 hours of interviews and reviewing evidence, the studio said, “We have concluded that those identified in Ms. Williamson’s allegations did not conduct themselves in an unlawful manner or demonstrate behavior inappropriate for the workplace. It was also concluded that the executive producers, including showrunner Alexi Hawley, addressed matters of which they were made aware promptly and in a fair and reasonable manner.”
The statement continues: “We take all allegations of inappropriate conduct very seriously, particularly when the allegations involve discrimination or sexual harassment of any nature. We appreciate the cooperation of all those who were interviewed, including Ms. Williamson, the individuals she identified by name, and several other relevant production and staff members.”
Added eOne, “We recognize and respect that as individuals, the lens through which we view situations, interactions and comments, can differ based on our experiences and perspectives. As such, we regret that Ms. Williamson’s time on the series was not a positive one for her, and we respect her decision to move on to other projects.”
Entertainment One began investigating the allegations in June. “We take claims of this nature very seriously,” the studio said after Williamson went public with her charges. “We have initiated an independent investigation which is ongoing and as such, it would not be appropriate to comment at this time.”
ABC said in a separate statement, “We are glad that eOne has completed an investigation into allegations on the set of The Rookie. We are confident that eOne takes these matters seriously and that they will continue to look for the best ways to surface concerns and address complaints.”
Williamson wrote on Instagram Tuesday night that eOne’s report “saddens” her: “The lengths taken to deceive, lie and cover up the truth were far greater than those made to protect and maintain a safe working environment for employees,” she wrote. “It’s heartbreaking for everyone on that set; past and present.”
What saddens me the most is that the lengths that were taken to Deceive, Lie, and Cover Up the Truth, were far greater than those made to Protect and Maintain a Safe Working Environment for Employees. It’s Heartbreaking for everyone on that set; Past and Present. And for every Actor out there who Stands in the Face Of Harassment and Discrimination, Assault and Injustice. As a Black Woman, an Artist, an Actor, in 2019. My Speaking the Truth, Standing up for myself, and Leaving an Unsafe Work Environment, Changed things for a lot of people: Black Women, Artists, Actors, Victims, and Survivors of Injustice and Discrimination; Gave Hope and a Promise that things Will Change; that things ARE CHANGING. And that is Not in Vain. My prayer is that we get to a point in this Industry where we don’t just Talk about it in 2 hour Mandatory Meetings. But we adhere to Keeping the Promises Made to Everyone on every set, Tirelessly Fulfilling their Dreams with Passion and Dedication. In order to Be the Change, I want to see, I will Continue to Work so that Casts & Crews alike finally See Words Align With Action. We’ve got to Do Better as an Industry. It’s just Talk until you actually Do Something.
A post shared by Afton Williamson (@therealaftonw) on
Andrew Brettler, the attorney for actor Grosse, said in a statement, “Demetrius Grosse was wrongfully accused and has been exonerated of the alleged misconduct regarding his work on The Rookie. After a lengthy and thorough investigation, independent counsel concluded, unequivocally, that the allegations leveled against him where completely meritless. My client was libeled all over the media before any of the claims could even be verified. No one should publish serious allegations like these in such a reckless manner. Demetrius lost multiple jobs as a result of being falsely accused. We’re glad that the investigation has been completed and are grateful to eOne for its unwavering support. Onward.”
ABC deferred to eOne on the investigation, with a spokesperson saying in August, “In late June, eOne made us aware and informed us that they launched an investigation that is ongoing. The safety of working environments is a top priority for us, and we take this matter very seriously.”
The Rookie is scheduled to begin its second season Sunday, Sept. 29, on ABC.
Entertainment One’s full statement is below.
We are today addressing the findings of the investigation initiated as a result of the claims made by actor Afton Williamson regarding our series The Rookie. The investigation was commissioned via law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP who engaged third-party firm EXTTI, recognized for their extensive expertise in investigating allegations of harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.
We take all allegations of inappropriate conduct very seriously, particularly when the allegations involve discrimination or sexual harassment of any nature. We appreciate the cooperation of all those who were interviewed, including Ms. Williamson, the individuals she identified by name, and several other relevant production and staff members.
The investigation encompassed nearly 400 hours of interviews and review of evidence, involving a significant amount of material, including video, that was provided to and examined by the investigator. As a result of the independent investigation, we have concluded that those identified in Ms. Williamson’s allegations did not conduct themselves in an unlawful manner or demonstrate behavior inappropriate for the workplace. It was also concluded that the executive producers, including showrunner Alexi Hawley, addressed matters of which they were made aware promptly and in a fair and reasonable manner.
We recognize and respect that as individuals, the lens through which we view situations, interactions and comments, can differ based on our experiences and perspectives. As such, we regret that Ms. Williamson’s time on the series was not a positive one for her, and we respect her decision to move on to other projects.
We continue to focus on fostering a safe and respectful work environment for all our corporate and production employees and further reinforce our policies and procedures. To protect the privacy of all those interviewed, the investigator’s report will not be available publicly.
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