In November, it was announced that Gabrielle Union (Bring It On, Being Mary Jane) would be leaving her role as a judge on America’s Got Talent (AGT) due to alleged racial discrimination on set. The reasoning behind her leave from the show was only reported recently when news of the lawsuit broke.
Union appeared on The Daily Social Distancing Show With Trevor Noah on Tuesday to speak out about her ensuing lawsuit against AGT and its network, via The Hollywood Reporter. Union initially reflected on her first day as a judge at AGT, noting that she saw head judge Simon Cowell (American Idol) smoking cigarettes inside, an act that she’d never experienced in the workplace before. She stated, “When your boss, the person who has ability to determine who gets opportunities, believes law doesn’t apply to him…and he does it in full view of NBC and Fremantle and Syco. And no one cares about he’s exposing his employees to secondhand smoke – that’s day one, that’s within the first hour – what message do you think this sends anyone that has an issue with the very real racism and lack of accountability?” via The Hollywood Reporter.
Touching on the investigation itself, the Being Mary Jane star exposes the alleged unprofessionalism coming from the NBC chairman Paul Telegdy himself when she states that he allegedly used “those things that he thinks are smoking guns to shoot down my claims. He then threatens my agent. ‘Gabrielle better watch who she calls a racist’ in the middle of an investigation about racism and discrimination,” via The Hollywood Reporter. She also noted that the investigation would obviously not remain independent because “when NBC and Fremantle and Syco pay for that investigation, they control it.”
When Noah questioned how the industry itself can improve in order to create equality for Black people, Union explained that the solution was to “try and figure out how you work around the bad apples as opposed to addressing and making those bad apples accountable,” via The Hollywood Reporter. A portion of Union’s complaint against the producers of the show had to do with their alleged lack of accountability towards the racist incidents they knowingly approved on set. She also goes into how a shortage of representation in the TV industry has halted any change from occurring. She states, “In front of and behind the camera, there has to be an increase in representation from across the board, from the top to the bottom – who gets to make the decisions of which projects to green light, who is a part of the development process, who gets to determine budgets,” via The Hollywood Reporter.
In the end, Union’s goal is for all employees to be treated fairly regardless of race. She remarks, “Nobody is asking for anything special, nobody is asking for somebody to separate their Skittles or M&Ms…just treat people fairly. Have mechanisms in place for when things happen, there are consequences,” via The Hollywood Reporter.
The full interview can be watched below.