Will Smith Supports Bad Boys Costar Gabrielle Union's Decision to 'Speak Out' After AGT Firing
"Any time there's an issue, it's better out than in," Will Smith said
After Union, 47, announced that she had a “lengthy 5-hour” meeting with NBC on Tuesday about her experience as a judge on the reality talent competition series, Smith vocalized his support for his Bad Boys II costar’s decision to speak out.
“Well, I mean, we have to speak out. When people have issues, you have to, you know, let it be known, you have to bring it to the light,” Smith, 51, told Extra during the Wednesday night premiere of his new animated film, Spies in Disguise.
“I haven’t spoken to Gabrielle, so I don’t know the specifics, but, you know, any time there’s an issue, it’s better out than in,” Smith said.
“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 tweeted.
Following the sit-down discussion, NBC confirmed that it is launching an investigation into the show.
“The initial conversation was candid and productive,” an NBC spokesperson said in a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday about their meeting with Union.
“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,” said the spokesperson.
The meeting came amid growing public outrage that Union and her fellow judge Julianne Hough‘s exits from the show were reportedly the result of a toxic workplace culture at the network’s talent competition series, which is produced by Fremantle and Syco Entertainment, show creator and judge Simon Cowell‘s company.
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 Klum — would 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 had expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time as a judge, including a joke allegedly made by guest judge Jay Leno that was later edited out of the episode.
Hough, 31, and Union were also both subject to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance, sources alleged in Variety‘s report, noting that Union was allegedly told that her ever-changing hairstyles were “too black” for the show’s audience, while Hough reportedly received constant criticism on her hair, makeup and wardrobe.
RELATED VIDEO: Gabrielle Union’s Hairstylist Claps Back to Reports That Her Hair Looks Were ‘Too Black’ for AGT
In a statement to the publication 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.”
A spokesperson for NBC and production company Fremantle responded to the allegations in Variety‘s report in a Nov. 26 statement to PEOPLE, 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.”
Also, according to multiple reports, Union allegedly complained that Cowell was smoking indoors, which is illegal in California where AGT films. She is allergic to cigarette smoke.
“California became the first state in the country to ban smoking in nearly every workplace and in indoor public spaces. California’s workplace smoking prohibition was enacted by AB 13 and became law in 1995,” the California Air Resources Board states on its website.
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, but has received an outpouring of support.