ABC Boss Addresses 'The Rookie' Star's Racial Discrimination and Sexual Assault Allegations
By Philiana Ng
ABC was put on the hot seat about The Rookie scandal.
One day after former star Afton Williamson took to Instagram with a lengthy message explaining why she abruptly left The Rookie -- because of alleged bullying, racial discrimination and a lack of action by the show's production team -- ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke addressed the allegations. But she didn't provide a lot of clarity on how ABC handled (and is handling) the situation.
"I don't have a lot of answers. I wish I had more," Burke said Monday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "I learned alongside my colleagues at the end of June that there were allegations and an investigation had been launched by eOne."
Asked to clarify when she first heard about an investigation into Williamson's claims, Burke confirmed that "as far as I know, yes, end of June" was the first time she became aware of the allegations.
A spokesperson for ABC Studios released a statement to ET on Sunday addressing Williamson's claims and their handling of the situation.
"The allegations involve a production from Entertainment One. In late June, eOne made us aware and informed us that they launched an investigation that is ongoing," the statement read. "The safety of working environments is a top priority for us, and we take this matter very seriously."
"I can trust the investigation because it's being done by a third party. I'm hopeful that those results are independent and trustworthy and anticipate that they will be. Those conclusions will help guide us in future... as far as communications," Burke said Monday. "We have an HR partner that is available to every single one of our shows... I would hope someone on that set would feel comfortable going to the HR partner on that show."
Burke was asked whether she is prepared to act swiftly on The Rookie based on the controversy surrounding the show.
"I wish I could comment on that. I wish I had more answers. I'm frustrated," she said, declining to say more. "As soon as I know more, we will make a determination based on what is found out. So, it would be irresponsible for me to conjecture."
On Sunday, Williamson took to Instagram with a lengthy message explaining why she had left The Rookie. News that Williamson would be departing the show, where she played mentor TO Talia Bishop to Nathan Fillion's rookie John Nolan, first broke in July.
"I will not be returning for Season 2 of The Rookie," the actress confirmed. "I owe it to you my amazing fans to share the Truth. Throughout the filming of the pilot, I experienced Racial Discrimination/Racially Charged inappropriate comments from the hair department and bullying from Executive Producers. During the Season, it continued along with Sexual Harassment from a recurring guest star and the racist commentary & bullying from the Hair Dept. Head escalated into sexual assault at our wrap party."
"The Sexual Harassment though reported directly to the Showrunner/EP [Alexi Hawley] remained undocumented and was not reported to HR as promised. The Hair Dept. Head was fired ONLY after the sexual assault and NOT for an entire year of outward racism/racially charged language and bullying behavior in and out of the Hair and Makeup trailer," Williamson claimed. "HR protocol was never adhered to following the above reports given by me to my Showrunner/EP and an investigation was never issued for any of my claims."
Williamson alleged she was only asked to participate in an investigation following a meeting she called in June after the show had been renewed for a second season. "This meeting included the Showrunner and two other producers as well as my agent and SAG-AFTRA Union Rep. It was clear to all present in the meeting that the Showrunner had not shared my reports with the any of the producers," she claimed.
"After my initial report of sexual harassment, I was assured that the actor would be fired. I was also asked to film with him the very next day as a courtesy to the script, even though we had not begun filming the episode yet," Williamson alleged, further claiming that she was written in scenes with the unnamed actor. "I asked the Showrunner about this and he admitted to me that the actor had not been fired nor had he gotten HR involved."
"I was asked to return this season, and promised that 'everything was handled.' The investigation hadn't even begun and Season 2 had already started filming. I turned it down and I walked. Now is the best time in the world to be a woman and I have a platform so it's time to use my Voice. Strength comes from within. It comes from Above. 'Greater is He that is within Me than he that is in the world' ❤️??," she concluded her message.