An alleged incident last Wednesday sent HBO’s Watergate limited series, The White House Plumbers, into an indeterminant hiatus on Friday, about halfway through its production in New York. Deadline broke the story on Friday, citing HBO’s official statement on the matter: “we take very seriously our responsibility to ensure a respectful work environment on all our productions, and we are investigating the matter fully.”
— Screen Rant (@screenrant) August 6, 2021
Though HBO provided no further comment, Deadline included more details on the alleged incident. Deadline describes the alleged inciting moment as “an on-set altercation on Wednesday, Aug. 4, involving series director/executive producer David Mandel [Veep] and a member of the prop department.”
Deadline disclosed that an audio recording of the alleged altercation was captured and reviewed by the outlet. “In it, Mandel is heard using the F-word and threatening the prop master that he will never work again,” Deadline described the audio recording from the set of The White House Plumbers.
Deadline additionally reported that The White House Plumbers’ Friday call sheet, which announced the production halt, “included a note with contacts for anyone to report bullying on set.” While Deadline indicated that this may be a sign that Wednesday’s alleged incident was not isolated, IndieWire likewise disputed this claim.
Details on The White House Plumbers’ production hiatus remain as vague as the details on last Wednesday’s incident, with HBO providing no official timeline for production to resume. Screen Rant expects further details on the alleged incident to come to light after the network completes its investigation and production gets back on track.
View this post on Instagram
An alleged behind-the-scenes scandal seems a strange twist of fate for The White House Plumbers, a five-part limited series covering one of the most notorious scandals in American political history. The series “tells the true story of how Nixon’s own political saboteurs and Watergate masterminds, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, accidentally toppled the presidency they zealously were trying to protect” (Deadline). The White House Plumbers features Woody Harrelson (True Detective, Zombieland) as Hunt and Justin Theroux (Mullholland Drive, American Psycho) as Liddy with Lena Heady (Game of Thrones), Judy Greer (13 Going on 30, Ant-Man), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project, Suicide Squad) and Corbin Bernsen (Psych, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) included in the series’ powerhouse ensemble.
Screen Rant describes HBO’s decision to halt production as a positive step toward networks putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to taking reported incidents of workplace abuse and harassment seriously. “In the not-so-distant past, an incident like this one involving a showrunner and a member of the prop department may have just been swept under the rug in the interest of keeping production on schedule” (Screen Rant).
Across the pond, British network heads recently assembled to renew their stance on workplace harassment and unprofessional behavior. Their decision even led to retroactive action on behalf of BBC, who removed John Barrowman (Arrow, Torchwood) from upcoming Doctor Who projects due to past allegations of unprofessional behavior on the series’ set.
Deadline pointed to COVID-19’s continued strain on the entertainment industry as a possible added stressor on current productions, though not attempting to excuse or contextualize the alleged behavior on the set of The White House Plumbers, as details remain largely under wraps. Another Watergate series, Starz’ Gaslit, recently felt the impacts of COVID-19, when star Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk) threatened to excuse himself from production until the entire cast and crew received vaccinations.