Elizabeth Banks and TIME'S UP Call for Change at NBC Following Gabrielle Union's AGT Firing
"It’s time for NBC to take these allegations seriously," Charlie's Angels director Elizabeth Banks tweeted
On Tuesday, the Charlie’s Angels star and director, 45, tweeted out a message of support for Union, 47, following her recent and controversial departure from America’s Got Talent after only one season.
“Thank you @itsgabrielleu for speaking up about a toxic culture at @NBC‘s #AmericasGotTalent. It’s time for NBC to take these allegations seriously. Join me & @TIMESUPNOW in calling for accountability & concrete action,” Banks wrote.
The actress and director included a link in her tweet to an online TIME’S UP petition that people can sign called “Stand with Gabrielle Union and Demand Accountability from NBC.”
The petition also makes note of former Today show anchor Matt Lauer‘s firing for allegations of sexual misconduct, saying, “For too long, NBCUniversal enabled toxic workplaces by protecting the careers of powerful men like Matt Lauer at the expense of women who speak out and are silenced through non-disclosure agreements.”
News broke on Nov. 22 that Union and Julianne Hough — who joined the season 14 AGT judging panel in February, replacing Mel B and Heidi Klum — would not be returning for the show’s 15th season. (It has yet to be announced who will replace Hough and Union for the upcoming season.)
A day later, a report by Variety claimed that while working on the show, Union had expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time as a judge, including a joke guest judge Jay Leno allegedly made that was later edited out of the episode.
Union and Hough, 31, were also both subject to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance, sources alleged in Variety‘s report.
A spokesperson for NBC and Fremantle responded to those claims in a statement to PEOPLE on Nov. 26, saying, “America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”
Representatives for Hough, Union and Leno have not responded to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
Blog Love B Scott was first to report about complaints Union had allegedly made prior to her departure, with an NBC source saying that she had spoken out about “problematic” situations on set.
According to Variety, during a taping of AGT over the summer, guest judge Leno allegedly made a joke about a painting on the wall that featured judge and executive producer Cowell, 60, surrounded by his dogs.
Sources on the series told the outlet that Leno allegedly joked the dogs looked like something one would find “on the menu at a Korean restaurant,” alluding to the stereotype that all Asian people eat dog meat.
Multiple people who were on set during the joke, Variety reported, including one Asian staffer, were offended and made uncomfortable by it.
Union also soon learned of the joke and allegedly urged producers to report the joke to NBC’s human resources department in an effort to bring awareness to the problematic issue, three sources told Variety. Despite her push, several insiders told the outlet that it was never addressed by HR. It was eventually cut by producers from the Aug. 6 episode.
In another instance, sources told Variety that Union found herself again speaking up against racial insensitivity when a white male contestant auditioned with an act where he portrayed people of color and impersonated singers through multiple quick costume changes.
Variety‘s report described claims that Union and Hough often received “excessive notes” on their appearance — noting that Union was allegedly told that her ever-changing hairstyles were “too black” for AGT‘s audience, while Hough reportedly received constant criticism on her hair, makeup and wardrobe.
However, in a statement to Variety, Hough denied that she had a negative experience working on the show. “I had a wonderful time on America’s Got Talent, I loved working with the cast, crew, and producers. I am happy to continue my working relationship with NBC,” said Hough, who is set to star in two upcoming NBC Christmas specials. “I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”
Union broke her silence on her controversial departure Wednesday, thanking her followers for their support during this difficult time. “So many tears, so much gratitude,” she tweeted. “THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone… you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever.”