Earlier this summer, actress Afton Williamson shocked fans of the ABC series by announcing she would not be returning for the second season, having chosen to exit and alleging “racial discrimination” and “bullying” on set. Now, Entertainment One, the show’s production company, has concluded its independent investigation of the allegations.
Williamson claimed in an August Instagram post that she experienced “Racial Discrimination/Racially Charged inappropriate comments from the hair department and bullying from Executive Producers. During the Season, it continued along with Sexual Harassment from a recurring guest star and the racist commentary & bullying from the Hair Dept. escalated into sexual assault at our wrap party.” She also claimed that she had reported these issues to showrunner Alexi Hawley, but that sufficient HR protocol was not followed in reporting the incidents.
On Tuesday, eOne released a statement describing its findings into the allegations after an investigation that included nearly 400 hours of interviews and review of evidence, which included video. “As a result of the independent investigation, we have concluded that those identified in Ms. Williamson’s allegations did not conduct themselves in an unlawful manner or demonstrate behavior inappropriate for the workplace,” the statement reads. “It was also concluded that the executive producers, including showrunner Alexi Hawley, addressed matters of which they were made aware promptly and in a fair and reasonable manner.”
eOne’s statement also acknowledged the inherent issue of perception in the findings. “We recognize and respect that as individuals, the lens through which we view situations, interactions and comments, can differ based on our experiences and perspectives,” a company spokesperson wrote. “As such, we regret that Ms. Williamson’s time on the series was not a positive one for her, and we respect her decision to move on to other projects.”
The statement concluded by pledging a commitment to a safe and respectful work environment and stressing that the investigator’s report will not be released publicly due to privacy concerns.
Williamson called the findings of the investigation “heartbreaking for everyone on that set” in an Instagram post on Tuesday night. “What saddens me the most is that the lengths that were taken to deceive, lie, and cover up the truth, were far greater than those made to protect and maintain a safe working environment for employees,” the actress wrote. “It’s heartbreaking for everyone on that set; past and present. And for every actor out there who stands in the face of harassment and discrimination, assault and injustice.”
She continued: “As a black woman, an artist, an actor, in 2019. My speaking the truth, standing up for myself, and leaving an unsafe work environment, changed things for a lot of people: black women, artists, actors, victims, and survivors of injustice and discrimination; gave hope and a promise that things will change; that things are changing. And that is not in vain. My prayer is that we get to a point in this industry where we don’t just talk about it in 2-hour mandatory meetings. But we adhere to keeping the promises made to everyone on every set, tirelessly fulfilling their dreams with passion and dedication. In order to be the change, I want to see, I will continue to work so that casts & crews alike finally see words align with action. We’ve got to do better as an industry. It’s just talk until you actually do something.”