NBC opening formal investigation into 'America's Got Talent'

An investigation has been launched into claims of a “toxic culture” on the set of 'America’s Got Talent' following Gabrielle Union’s exit from the show.

Gabrielle Union and NBC both said Wednesday that they have had a “productive” first conversation on her firing from America’s Got Talent (AGT) and her allegations that she was removed over her complaints about racism and other troubling on-set behaviour.

“We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday. I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth,” Union tweeted.

“I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.”

READ MORE: Howard Stern says Simon Cowell is to blame for Gabrielle Union’s ‘America’s Got Talent’ exit

NBC said in a statement that the “initial conversation was candid and productive. While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution.”

Union’s lawyer Bryan Freedman said Tuesday’s meeting, which included representatives from Fremantle, the show’s production company, was a good start.

“We’re waiting to see the next steps on whether NBC is going to make sure that there are real changes made to protect both the contestants and the talent,” Freedman said.

READ MORE: Gabrielle Union’s ‘America’s Got Talent’ exit now under investigation by SAG-AFTRA

In late November, it was announced that Union and Julianne Hough would not be returning to AGT next season. Days later, Variety published a report claiming there was a “toxic culture” on the set of  AGT.

According to Variety’s report, Union had concerns over offensive incidents that happened on set.

The report alleged that both judges were subject to “excessive notes” about physical appearance and claimed that AGT had a culture of toxic, racist jokes.

Variety also quoted multiple unnamed sources saying Union was told several times that her hairstyles were “too black” for the competition show.

The article also claimed that Union had expressed concerns over an incident during auditions in which she believed a white male performer crossed a line in portraying people of colour.

The report also claimed that Union had expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time on the show, including a joke made by guest judge Jay Leno in April that was later edited out of the show.

According to Variety, Leno made a joke about a painting on the wall that featured Simon Cowell surrounded by his dogs.

Sources told the outlet that Leno allegedly made a joke that the dogs looked like something one would find “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.”

Multiple people on set were upset by the joke, Variety reports, and Union reportedly urged producers to report the joke to the human resources department.

READ MORE: Celebrities rally around Gabrielle Union following ‘America’s Got Talent’ exit

The meeting between Union and NBC comes after the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) launched an investigation into the claims of a “toxic culture” on the set of the talent show.

“We take issues of workplace health and safety very seriously. We immediately reached out to Ms. Union’s representatives when these reports came to light,” a spokesperson for the performers’ union said in a statement to Variety Sunday night.

“It is our practice to work closely with members who reach out to us and their representatives in instances like this, as that usually affords the best protection and best resolution for the affected member.

“For certain matters, our investigation and enforcement needs to happen independently and we are prepared to handle this issue accordingly, as warranted. Our enforcement action is usually handled confidentially to protect the member involved, and we typically do not publicize these matters unless the member requests that we do so.

“While we have taken steps to investigate this matter, we have nothing to report now.”

READ MORE: Simon Cowell’s smoking caused clash with Gabrielle Union on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ report says

On Dec. 1, 2019, a joint statement was released by NBC, FremantleMedia, which produces the show, and Cowell’s entertainment company Syco regarding Union.

“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” the groups’ statement read.

“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.

—With files from the Associated Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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