“The Rookie”: eOne Afton Williamson Harassment Investigation Clears Accused [OPINION]

The company that produces ABC‘s The Rookie has released the highly-anticipated results of their investigation into the racial and sexual harassment claims of former star Afton Williamson. On Tuesday, Entertainment One (eOne) released a statement claiming that an “independent investigation” has cleared the individuals accused by Williamson, as well as the Executive Producers, of any wrongdoing.

In the twenty-four hours after eOne’s announcement, ABC Studios, Williamson, and her accused harasser Demetrius Grosse all released response statements. While it appears eOne and ABC consider the matter closed, Grosse and Williamson make it clear that things are far from resolved.

the rookie

On August 4th, Williamson released a statement via Instagram claiming racial and sexual harassment on the set of The Rookie led her to leave the show. At the time, both eOne and ABC claimed that an investigation into the claims was ongoing. We now know that eOne hired law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP to look into the matter. The firm subsequently hired “third-party firm EXTTI” to conduct the actual investigation. According to eOne’s statement, EXTTI “is recognized for their extensive expertise in investigating allegations of harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.”

Here is eOne’s full statement:

“We are today addressing the findings of the investigation initiated as a result of the claims made by actor Afton Williamson regarding our series The Rookie. The investigation was commissioned via law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP who engaged third-party firm EXTTI, recognized for their extensive expertise in investigating allegations of harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.

We take all allegations of inappropriate conduct very seriously, particularly when the allegations involve discrimination or sexual harassment of any nature. We appreciate the cooperation of all those who were interviewed, including Ms. Williamson, the individuals she identified by name, and several other relevant production and staff members.

The investigation encompassed nearly 400 hours of interviews and review of evidence, involving a significant amount of material, including video, that was provided to and examined by the investigator. 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. 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.

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. 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.

We continue to focus on fostering a safe and respectful work environment for all our corporate and production employees and further reinforce our policies and procedures. To protect the privacy of all those interviewed, the investigator’s report will not be available publicly.”

"The Rookie" Season 2 Tweet - ABC Acts Like They Are New At This

Now I’m not a lawyer – I write about television. But at first glance, it seems that the investigation has completely cleared everyone Williamson accused of harassment. It also seems to absolve showrunner Alexi Hawley of wrong-doing. However, there is a tricky bit of language in the following section I want to call your attention to:

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. 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 above passage at least partially gives credence Williamson’s experiences. If the investigation did, in fact, absolve everyone on set of any misconduct, why include this portion? One would think that the production company would want to come out with a statement that definitively refuted Williamson’s claims.

But in the end, the statement does the opposite. It seems to say, “we don’t think they did anything wrong, but other’s might disagree.” I wonder if it was eOne who suggested the inclusion of this passage, or EXTTI’s team? The sentence almost seems to introduce the caveat “we didn’t find any racial or sexual harassment, but we might have missed it.”

Credit: ABC

Grosse views the results from a different perspective. Through his lawyer Andrew Brettler, the actor released a statement that appears to come dangerously close to accusing Williamson of libel. Curiously, Brettler’s statement thanks eOne for their “unwavering support.”

How does an actor get unwavering support from a production company that is investigating harassment claims against him?

“Demetrius Grosse was wrongfully accused and has been exonerated of the alleged misconduct regarding his work on The Rookie. After a lengthy and thorough investigation, independent counsel concluded, unequivocally, that the allegations leveled against him where completely meritless. My client was libeled all over the media before any of the claims could even be verified. No one should publish serious allegations like these in such a reckless manner. Demetrius lost multiple jobs as a result of being falsely accused. We’re glad that the investigation has been completed and are grateful to eOne for its unwavering support. Onward.”

– Andrew Brettler (on behalf of Demetrius Grosse)

THE ROOKIE – ABC Television Network. (ABC/Eric McCandless) DEMETRIUS GROSSE

Interestingly, ABC’s statement is incredibly general. In fact, the statement neither addresses the results of the investigation nor the veracity of Williamson’s claims. In full, the statement could almost be read as an entreaty to eOne to better handle these matters in the future:

“We are glad that eOne has completed an investigation into allegations on the set of ‘The Rookie.’ We are confident that eOne takes these matters seriously and that they will continue to look for the best ways to surface concerns and address complaints.”

In the end, despite the company’s own investigation whose final report found no legal claims of harassment, the matter still remains murky. Like many allegations in the #MeToo era, Williamson’s claims of racial and sexual harassment have been dismissed as “he said, she said” – or, more specifically, “his lens, her lens.”

Despite the findings, Williamson remains undaunted. In a statement responding to the investigation, she expresses profound disappointment at the way the harassment and the investigation were handled. Rather than anger – which would be more than understandable given the circumstances – she writes of hope.

Williamson says she hopes for a day when as much energy is spent preventing harassment as is spent investigating and responding to it. Seems like a valid lens to view the matter through:

View this post on Instagram

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. 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. 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. ❤️

A post shared by Afton Williamson (@therealaftonw) on

the rookie
THE ROOKIE – ABC’s “The Rookie” stars Richard T. Jones as Sergeant Wade Grey, Alyssa Diaz as Angela Lopez, Nathan Fillion as John Nolan, Eric Winter as Tim Bradford, Melissa O’Neil as Lucy Chen, and Titus Makin Jr. as Jackson West. (ABC/Andrew Eccles)

Season 2 of The Rookie premiers Sunday September 29 at 10PM on ABC.

About Erin Wilhelm

Erin is a lifelong geek who is a part-time writer for Bleeding Cool. Between her day job and her mom job, Erin reads and watches all the fantasy and sci-fi she can get her hands on. She is a Trekkie, Warsie, Potterhead, recreational WoW nerd, and Whovian. Find her on twitter @pearlsandchucks.

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