Gabrielle Union Files Suit Against 'America's Got Talent' Producers and NBC

Published on June 4, 2020

Gabrielle Union is wonderful. What’s not to love? She’s pure charisma, uses her platform for good, and wrote a memoir that means a lot to a whole lot of people. Recently, she had a gig as a host of America’s Got Talent. Union’s time on the show only lasted a season before she revealed some unacceptable behind-the-scenes behavior. Now, she’s suing NBC and America’s Got Talent producers and host, Simon Cowell.

What Went Down

During Union’s time on the show, the powers behind the series would constantly make racist comments on Union’s appearance. They told Union her hairstyles were “too black,” for example. There were other racially insensitive incidents, such as Jay Leno cracking a tasteless joke not appropriate for the show. On top of that, Simon Cowell was smoking up a storm on set against health rules. Union is allergic to cigarette smoke, making her feel unwell on the set. From the sound of it, that’s just scratching the surface of Union’s negative experience on the show. 

The Investigation

NBC did an outside review of the show and what went down. After over 30 interviews, the probe didn’t find anyone to back up Union’s claims about racial insensitivity. Of course, that doesn’t mean the incidents didn’t happen. Here’s what a rep from NBC had to say after the investigation: 

“Through the investigation process, it has been revealed that no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union’s appearance, and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time.”

Union tried to create a productive dialogue with NBC many times. She had a five-hour conversation with higher-ups at the company, expressing her concerns and sharing her experience. From the sound of it, Mr. NBC didn’t listen too well. 

Union Wants Change

After all of Union’s experiences in film and television, she absolutely knows what an unprofessional set looks like. At a certain point in her career, she wanted to do her part to make a positive creative space. As she told Variety, she doesn’t want to work in a negative space like America’s Got Talent’s: 

“There were so many spaces in this industry where I had to compartmentalize myself to feel like I was worthy of work. In my 40s, I embraced myself exactly as I am. I wanted to create projects and be a part of things, to have personal and professional relationships that brought me peace, joy, grace and allowed for compassion.”

Union added:

“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. My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace.”

Actors in Union’s position should take a stand. She’s using her power for good right now, trying to make the entertainment industry a better place. Now, she’s taking an extra step to ensure more people don’t have to go through what she did on America’s Got Talent or, hopefully, other major programs.

Discrimation Suit

Union has now filed a discrimination suit against NBC and the producers of America’s Got Talent, including lead host Simon Cowell. The story is even worse than what was previously reported: NBC Chief, Paul Telegdy, allegedly tried to silence Union by threatening her career. Union filed the complaint today in California. 

Here’s what Union’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, had to say:

“When Gabrielle Union informed NBC of racially offensive conduct during the taping of ‘America’s Got Talent,’ NBC did not ‘stand’ with her in ‘outrage at acts of racism,’. Instead, NBC did not care enough to either promptly investigate Ms. Union’s complaints or even ask HR to get involved. Rather, NBC stood against her and directed its ‘outrage’ at Ms. Union for whistleblowing about the racially offensive conduct she experienced while working for NBC on ‘America’s Got Talent’.”

We’re team Union. 

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Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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