An interview with the cast of TV show Arrested Development has been described as “raw” and “awful” after cast member Jessica Walter emotionally claimed she endured “verbal harassment” from her co-star Jeffrey Tambor, with Tambor in the room.
Tambor’s behaviour was defended by three male co-stars during the interview, prompting many fans to claim it exemplified the poor treatment of women in the workplace.
In a sit-down with The New York Times ahead of the Netflix comedy’s fifth season, Walter, 77, cried as she spoke about finally forgiving her on-screen husband Tambor, 73, for yelling at her on the show’s set.
Tambor has already been accused of sexual misconduct on the set of his award-winning Amazon drama Transparent, allegations he’s denied but which nevertheless led to his sacking from the show.
While the Arrested Development cast and Netflix have been publicly supportive of Tambor, Walter revealed she has struggled to “let go” of her past encounter with him.
The tension started when NYT culture writer Sopan Deb raised the allegations against Tambor, describing them as “the elephant in the room”, and asked Walter about her own experiences with Tambor.
“He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologise. I have to let it go,” Water told Deb while Tambor sat only centimetres from her.
“[In] almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set and it’s hard to deal with, but I’m over it now.
“And I have to give you a chance to, you know, for us to be friends again,” she added to Tambor.
This is the Jessica Walter quote on Tambor that stuck with me. Both when it happened yesterday and today.
"In like almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set."
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) May 23, 2018
Many on social media have taken issue with the way Walter’s male co-stars Jason Bateman, David Cross and Tony Hale responded to her emotional revelations.
Cross, who plays Tobias Funke, defended Tambor.
“One thing that Jeffrey has said a number of times that I think is important, that you don’t often hear from somebody in his position, is that he learned from the experience and he’s listening and learning and growing. That’s important to remember,” he said.
Bateman, meanwhile, said Walter’s experience was “incredibly common” in Hollywood.
“[N]ot to belittle it, but a lot of stuff happens in 15 years,” Bateman said.
“I can say that no matter what anybody in this room has ever done – and we’ve all done a lot, with each other, for each other, against each other – I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I have zero complaints.
Bateman qualified again: “Not to belittle it or excuse it or anything, but in the entertainment industry it is incredibly common to have people who are, in quotes, ‘difficult’.”
Alia Shawkat, the only other woman in the room, then interjected: “But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently.”
Tony Hale, who plays Buster Buth, also shot down Walter’s concerns, telling her, “we’ve all had moments”.
“But not like that, not like that,” Walter retorted. “That was bad.”
Women on social media were enraged by the actors’ treatment of Walter, claiming it qualified as ‘gaslighting’, a form of manipulation involving one person making another doubt their own memory, sanity or legitimacy.
“Awful interview with Arrested Development cast. Jessica Walter (Lucille) says repeatedly how hurtful Tambor’s behaviour was. And all the men gaslight her, tell her it’s an industry norm while she tearily insists otherwise,” writer Elizabeth Picciuto tweeted.
“Jessica Walter’s poised resignation is really remarkable and heartbreaking,” Vanity Fair Hollywood editor Hillary Busis tweeted.
I can’t stop thinking about that NYT interview with the Arrested Development cast. It’s such a perfect distillation of men’s reflexive instinct to protect other men at the expense of women. And then men wonder why harassment — in all its forms — is still such a pervasive issue.
— Sarah Lerner (@SarahLerner) May 23, 2018
During the lengthy conversation, Deb also asked Tambor whether he expected to be included on future seasons of Arrested Development.
“I surely hope so,” Tambor responded, while Bateman interjected, “Well, I won’t do it without you. I can tell you that.”
In a telling quote at the very start of the interview, Walter told Deb: “I want you to say in the article, there’s so much testosterone in this room.”