The cast of Arrested Development recently sat down for an interview with the New York Times ahead of the premiere of the sitcom’s fifth season premiere on Netflix. Things got understandably heated when the Times’ Sopan Deb brought up what he called “the elephant in the room,” which is the sexual harassment allegations that led to actor Jeffrey Tambor getting fired from the Amazon show Transparent. Tambor has denied the allegations.
Breaking from Amazon, Netflix has been supportive of Tambor, who is appearing along with the rest of the fictional Bluth family in the show’s promotional events. In a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter, Tambor did cop to being verbally abusive to cast and crew of Transparent. He also mentioned a “blowup” he had at Jessica Walter, who plays Arrested Development matriarch Lucille Bluth. Tambor told THR that he “profusely apologized” to Walter for the incident, and when THR reached out to Walter for comment, her rep sent a terse reply: “Jessica does not wish to talk about Jeffrey Tambor.”
Walter was a bit more talkative about the incident when asked by the Times, perhaps because Tambor was in the room with her. But she also had to deal her TV son Jason Bateman speaking for and over her, and making excuses for abhorrent behavior that has been pervasive on film and TV sets for decades. Before she can even address the incident, Bateman falls over himself defending Tambor. From the Times:
If someone approached you and said, “O.K., here’s an actor that admits he routinely yells at directors, at assistant directors, at co-workers, assistants,” would you hire that person?
TAMBOR: I would hire that person if that person said, you know, “I’ve reckoned with this.”
And you feel like you have?
TAMBOR: And I have, and am continuing to do. And I profusely have apologized. Ms. Walter is indeed a walking acting lesson. And on “Transparent,” you know, I had a temper and I yelled at people and I hurt people’s feelings. And that’s unconscionable, and I’m working on it and I’m going to put that behind me, and I love acting.
BATEMAN: 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.” And when you’re in a privileged position to hire people, or have an influence in who does get hired, you make phone calls. And you say, “Hey, so I’ve heard X about person Y, tell me about that.” And what you learn is context. And you learn about character and you learn about work habits, work ethics, and you start to understand. Because it’s a very amorphous process, this sort of [expletive] that we do, you know, making up fake life. It’s a weird thing, and it is a breeding ground for atypical behavior and certain people have certain processes.
At this point Alia Shawkat (Maeby Funke) mercifully cuts in as a voice of reason before an emotional Walter finally has a chance to discuss her own experience. The transcript of the exchange is below, but the Times included an audio excerpt of a sobbing Walter demanding to be heard after her male co-stars talked over her and made allowances for Tambor’s behavior. It’s a difficult and unsettling clip to hear.
SHAWKAT: But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently.
WALTER [THROUGH TEARS]: Let me just say one thing that I just realized in this conversation. I have to let go of being angry at him. He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize. I have to let it go. [Turns to Tambor.] And I have to give you a chance to, you know, for us to be friends again.
Walter also seems to undercut the argument her TV son made about excusing problematic or hostile behavior because “certain people have certain processes.”
WALTER: But it’s hard because honestly — Jason says this happens all the time. In like 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. I just let it go right here, for The New York Times.
David Cross (Tobias Funke) and Tony Hale (Buster Bluth) joined Bateman in propping up Tambor.
HALE: But I will say, to Jason’s point, we can be honest about the fact that — and not to build a thing — we’ve all had moments.
WALTER: But not like that, not like that. That was bad.
HALE: Not like that. But I’m saying we’ve worked together 15 years, there has been other points of anger coming out.
BATEMAN: Exactly. Again, there is context. What we do for a living is not normal, and therefore the process is not normal sometimes, and to expect it to be normal is to not understand what happens on set. Again, not to excuse it, Alia, but to be surprised by people having a wobbly route to their goal, their process — it’s very rarely predictable. All I can say, personally, is I have never learned more from an actor that I’ve worked with than Jeffrey Tambor. And I consider him one of my favorite, most valued people in my life.
CROSS: I agree with everybody. And I think it’s important to note — and it hasn’t been noted — that this kind of behavior that’s being described, it didn’t just come out of the blue. It wasn’t zero to 60. There is a cumulative effect sometimes.
The most useless input on the Tambor misconduct allegations, however, came from Cross, who recently took heat from fellow comedian Charlene Yi after she accused him of making racist comments to her upon their first meeting ten years ago.
CROSS: You know, 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.
Really? Is it important to remember that an alleged harasser is “learning and growing?” It’s hard not to wonder if Cross is talking about Tambor or if he is talking about himself.
The new season of Arrested Development premieres May 29.