In November of 2019, it was announced that America’s Got Talent (AGT) judge Gabrielle Union (Being Mary Jane, Bring It On) was leaving the show after appearing for just one season. At the time, reasons were unknown, however according to Variety, Union filed a harassment complaint on Thursday against the producers of AGT and even further, accused NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy (The Thick of it) of allegedly threatening her job over speaking out against racism on the show’s set.
In an interview with Variety, Union addressed her leave from the show for the first time, claiming that obvious racism was prevalent on set and production parties lacked responsibility. Union and her attorney, Bryan Freedman, filed a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, directly calling out FremantleMedia and NBCUniversal.
A spokesperson for NBCUniversal gave a statement to Variety, claiming that “The said allegation that anyone involved in the process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue. We took Ms. Union’s concerns seriously, and engaged an outside investigator who found an overarching culture of diversity on the show. NBCUniversal remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive work environment where people of all backgrounds are treated with respect.”
As a response, Freedman gave a statement on behalf of Union, stating, “It’s very telling that NBC fails to substantively address the complaint that Ms. Union based on racial discrimination. Instead, NBC wants to try and play word games by saying that their Chairman Paul Telegdy did not directly threaten Gabrielle Union…Should Mr. Telegdy wish to see phone records or call sheets from the date of this threat, we can make those available for the world to see,” via Variety.
When it was first reported in 2019 that judges Union and Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars) were asked to leave the series despite their contractual obligations, assumptions arose of an alleged “culture of toxicity” and racist incidents including those from contestants which were allegedly approved by producers, as well as complaints about Union’s hairstyles, via Variety.
In yet another statement from Union, she reports “At the end of all this, my goal is real change, and not just on this show but for the larger parent company. It starts from the top down.” Since the accusations were made, it is said that changes were produced within AGT in order to ensure inclusivity and diversity on its set. According to Variety, an inside source has reported the implementation of sensitivity training as well as methods to handle these racially charged issues through HR.