NBC Boss Says 'America's Got Talent' May Put 'New Practices in Place' Amid Gabrielle Union Investigation
By Philiana Ng
NBC is addressing the allegations of a "toxic culture" on America's Got Talent.
Paul Telegdy, NBC Entertainment Chairman, confirmed on Saturday at the winter Television Critics Association press tour that NBC is in the middle of an investigation into AGT, following allegations made by former judge Gabrielle Union after she and fellow judge Julianne Hough were let go after one season. Union alleged that there was a "toxic culture" on set, among other accusations.
"The duration long-term of a brand comes with the ebbs and flows of who comes, who goes and we proudly embrace making shows better. What we also proudly embrace at NBC Entertainment is the notion that we can always be a better workplace. So, what we are is in the middle of an investigation. That's really serious, I can't deny it. I've never had one before so... that will be handled by lawyers," Telegdy told reporters Saturday when asked about the status of the AGT allegations.
"We're very confident that if we learn something... we'll put new practices in place if that's what's necessary and take anyone's critique of what it means to come to work here incredibly seriously," Telegdy added.
Soon after Union and Hough were let go, it was reported that Modern Family star Sofia Vergara was in talks to replace one of their spots. Telegdy avoided any mention of Vergara's name, instead musing that AGT was not about the judges -- which will return Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel -- but the contestants.
"Inclusion is about celebrating," Telegdy said. "Diversity is occasionally a numbers game. We take both incredibly seriously who sits where."
Asked if AGT was open to having Union back on as a judge and vice versa, Telegdy played coy: "What I would say authentically is I can't say anything that would impact an investigation. People are talking to each other."
Telegdy confirmed that he anticipates NBC's investigation to be conclude by the end of month, after which they'll determine if any changes need to be made internally at AGT.
"I've been told by the end of January... We want to always go after the truth. That's our culture. I promise you this has been taken very seriously," Telegdy said, emphasizing once more, "I've been told the next couple of weeks, by the end of January."
After the news broke that Union and Hough would not return for the 2020 season Variety detailed Union's allegations against the show, including a "toxic culture" on set, an allegedly racially insensitive joke made by guest judge Jay Leno, a contestant whose quick-changing act reportedly included the use of dark makeup on his hands to portray Beyonce, and allegedly numerous comments from network executives about Union's hairstyles being "too black."
Union and NBC have since had a meeting together, with Union tweeting, "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."
"The initial conversation was candid and productive. 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," a NBC spokesperson told ET.
Following Union's meeting with NBC, Hough, who also left AGT, praised her former fellow judge's efforts.
"That's awesome. Oh, good. That's amazing," she told ET's Rachel Smithof Union's meeting with the network. "Honestly, we've been here doing so many rehearsals I haven't really looked at my phone, but that makes me really happy. That's such an amazing step in shifting the paradigm of the workplace and it's great."
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