Viola Davis joins a long list of women who have spoken out in support of Gabrielle Union

By Jodi Guglielmi and Katie Intner
December 05, 2019 03:59 PM

Viola Davis wants Gabrielle Union to know that she’s in her corner.

Davis tweeted her support for Union amid her controversial America’s Got Talent firing. And at the L’Oreal Women of Worth Awards on Wednesday, she said she posted the message so her peer didn’t “feel alone.”

“I always say that I never want my legacy to be one where I did not support,” she explained. “Because I know that when you step out and say something that is out of the norm, there is a lot of shame involved and there’s vitriol involved, and we have the cancel culture. I didn’t want Gabrielle Union to feel alone.”

Davis and Union have known each other for nearly a decade after meeting on the set of 2000 television show City of Angels.

“She has supported me in the past. We did City of Angels together,” added Davis, 54. “That was one of my first television shows. She is an awesome young woman. I didn’t want her to feel alone in a world where people are feeling increasingly alone when they speak out. I don’t want my legacy to be one of tearing another woman down.”

Jamie McCarthy/Getty; Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty

News broke on Nov. 22 that Hough and Union — who joined the season 14 AGT judging panel in February, replacing spots vacated by Mel B and Heidi Klumwould not be returning for the show’s 15th season. It has yet to be announced who will replace them.

On Nov. 26, a report by Variety claimed that while working on the show, Union expressed concerns over a joke allegedly made by guest judge Jay Leno that was later edited out of the episode.

Along with Union’s reported allegations of racial insensitivities, both she and Hough, 31, were also subjected to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance, sources alleged in Variety‘s report. In one instance, Union was reportedly told her ever-changing hairstyles were “too black” for AGT‘s audience, while Hough reportedly received constant criticism on her hair, makeup and wardrobe.

On Wednesday, Union, 47, tweeted Wednesday that she had met with NBC and expressed her “hope for real change.”

“We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday. I was able to again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change,” Union wrote.

After the meeting, NBC announced that it will further investigate America’s Got Talent’s production company.

“The initial conversation was candid and productive,” an NBC spokesperson said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Trae Patton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty

“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,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, in a statement to Variety at the time, Hough — who is set to star in two upcoming NBC Christmas specials — denied that she had a negative experience on the show and said she was “happy to continue my working relationship with NBC.”

Hough told People Now this week that she believes “everybody has a voice and should be heard,” adding, “I believe that the paradigm of the workplace and how you do business and work with people now, it’s shifting, and I think that the people that really want to see change happen are going to authentically and positively do that.”

Since Union has spoken out, she’s received a wave of support from fellow women in the industry, including Tamron Hall, Elizabeth Banks, Sharon Osbourne and more.

Trae Patton/NBC

A spokesperson for NBC and production company Fremantle responded to the allegations in Variety‘s report in a Nov. 26 statement to PEOPLE: “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.”

On Dec. 1, NBC, Fremantle and Syco Entertainmentreleased the following joint statement: “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. 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.”

Union has not yet issued an official statement directly addressing the allegations.