Gabrielle Union is continuing her crusade against NBC Universal, Simon Cowell, and the powers-that-be at “America’s Got Talent.” The actress spoke with “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah about why she feels it’s imperative to begin holding everyone accountable in professional settings “from the top to the bottom.”
The former AGT judge was fired from her position toward the end of 2019 after just one season on the show, and shortly thereafter claims of discrimination and racist remarks were brought to light. Union and her colleague Julianne Hough were allegedly let go for complaining about the toxic work culture they observed.
During an interview with “The Daily Show” host, the “Being Mary Jane” actress detailed her reasoning behind taking action against Simon Cowell, NBC Universal, Fremantle Productions, and Syco Entertainment. She also spoke of why it’s imperative to “dismantle the whole thing” in order to enact true change in the entertainment industry.
Union opened up to Noah about how she initially thought the gig would be fun and easy, but quickly learned that she wasn’t fully aware of all that she signed up for by joining the show. “With ‘AGT’ trying to work within a system of ‘I thought it was the easier show how hard is it to, you know, watch jugglers?’ That’s what I thought I signed up for,” she said. “Day one, Simon Cowell is smoking cigarettes inside. I’ve worked a long time. I’ve worked with all kinds of people. I never experienced that.”
She continued, “So when your boss, the person who has the ability to determine who gets opportunities and who doesn’t, doesn’t believe that the law applies to him or the rules apply to him. And he does it in full view of NBC and Fremantle and Syco and no one cares about Simon Cowell exposing all of these employees to second-hand smoke, that’s day one, that’s within the first hour, what message do you think that sends to anyone that has an issue with the very real racism and lack of accountability?”
Union explained that she agreed to go along with NBC Universal’s private investigation, not realizing that because they paid for the investigation they’d have the control. She said she wants employees to be treated equally and those who break the rules to be held accountable, no matter their rank. “I’m about labor, treating employees fairly,” she told the host. “Nobody’s asking for anything special, nobody’s asking for somebody to separate their Skittles or M&Ms or whatever. Just treat people fairly. Have mechanisms in place for when things happen.”
Fans agreed with Union’s sentiments, leaving comments applauding her for having the courage to speak up.
“You are the change this industry needs. Thank you for always standing in your Queen power. 💚”
“Yes! This is creating a space for soooo many other black girls and women that have continuously been silenced or afraid to speak out in fear of push back or being silenced. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾💪🏾💪🏾💪🏾 @gabunion I support you!”
After detailing an interaction that NBC Universal Chairman Paul Telegdy had with her agent, in which she claims that he threatened them, saying “Gabrielle better watch who she calls a racist” she closed the interview with her thoughts about what it would take to correct the injustices she’s seen within the entertainment industry. “As we’re all wanting to be part of the solution, as we’re all wanting change, we have to hold the people at the very top accountable.”
“We have been so committed as an industry, and every industry’s facing the same thing, with going along to get along,” continued Union. “Trying to figure out how you work around the bad apples, as opposed to addressing and making those bad apples accountable and there being real consequences, in front of and behind the camera. There has to be an increase in representation across the board, from the top to the bottom. Who gets to make the decisions of which projects to greenlight? Who is a part of those development processes? Who gets to determine budgets? Who gets to determine who gets opportunities and why? How have you actually empowered HR?”
She added, “We have to be able to be okay with change that doesn’t always benefit us,” said the actress and author. “Some people believe that the only way to lead is to center yourself in every argument, but what I’m learning throughout this whole process is sometimes the best way to lead is to get out of the way and make room for someone else. You have to dismantle the whole thing. You can’t put a band-aid on a gunshot. You can’t.”