The actress, who joined the popular soap opera in 1990 and played Drucilla Winters (and hasn’t been on the series since 2007), claims CBS, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and others conspired to keep her off the air in retaliation for her public criticisms of the show’s alleged lack of diversity, according to a lawsuit filed in New York on Wednesday and later posted to Deadline.
In court documents, Rowell’s attorney asserts the actress was “impoverished and blackballed because she had chosen to speak out against the discrimination and injustice that she had endured and witnessed happen to other African Americans.”
The actress, 55, has long been a vocal advocate for racial equality. Last year, Rowell blasted her former show on Twitter: “Young & Restless on air for 40 years, loyally watched by their absolute competitive-edge audience (blacks) & not ONE black Exec PRODUCER? She spoke out on social media again on Feb. 5, writing, “#BlackHistoryMonth NOT BlkMysteryMonth. NO blk exec producers hired in soap opera industry though advertisers/producers depend on AAspending.”
CBS responded to the lawsuit with a statement on Wednesday, saying We were disappointed to learn that, after leaving the cast of The Young and the Restless on her own initiative, Ms. Rowell has attempted to rewrite that history through lawyers’ letters and a lawsuit that has no merit. We harbor no ill will toward Ms. Rowell, but we will vigorously defend this case.”
Rowell claims she has made repeated attempts to reprise her role on the show since 2010, including a direct plea to Moonves – who claimed he was no longer involved in programming or casting decisions for the show. However, according to Rowell’s attorney, “The suggestion that CBS was not involved in decision-making was not true.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters appealed to Moonves on Rowell’s behalf, but “Mr. Moonves responded that if Ms. Waters contacted him again on behalf of Ms. Rowell, he would report her to the House Ethics Committee,” according to the lawsuit. The actress’s lawyer claims the response “certainly showed Mr. Moonves hostility.”
In addition to Congresswoman Waters’ efforts, National Urban League President Marc Morial spent “many months” advocating with CBS and Sony for Rowell’s return, but came to the conclusion that her rehire was unlikely “because of her advocacy for increased African American employment in front of and behind the camera, the suit alleges.
Rowell is now asking a judge to order CBS and Sony to “consider her seriously for re-employment” on The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful without regard for her complaints of racial discrimination. She’s also seeking an unspecified amount of compensation for back pay, front pay, benefits and punitive damages.